Current mood: Loquacious
Listening to: The Office
Back when I had mono, my freshman year of college, I sort of had a revelation about my relationship with food. I missed it immensely when I couldn’t have it. I lived on strawberry yogurt, chicken broth, and Gatorade for weeks. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was digging through my mother’s shabby, ancient, completely disorganized recipe book. I spent a month in bed, watching the Food Network and episodes of Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” on the New York Times website or Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” on Youtube…Looking up recipes, researching techniques and ingredients…It was at this time that I became totally addicted to food blogs. I couldn’t get out of bed to cook. I wouldn’t have been able to swallow anything that I had cooked, due to the intense swelling in my throat. Before that…I took food for granted. And I think that a lot of people do.
More specifically, I took good food for granted. One thing that is a resounding theme of Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist’ column…Most people don’t realize how close at hand good food really is. How easily accessible. How simple to make. How much healthier they’ll feel if they eat better. How much more delicious real macaroni and cheese is than Easy Mac.
There’s something that I sort of criticize my mother for fairly often which is the lack of fresh ingredients. I think that my stance on using fresh ingredients can come off kind of…snobbish. At least to my mother, lol. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some things that are just flat out better store-bought and already prepared. Mayonnaisse, for example. Canned tomatoes. It’s not wrong to use store-bought ingredients, and it’s often a simple shortcut to a perfectly tasty meal, but sometimes it hurts more than it helps. However, there are some things that just must be fresh. For instance…my mother has had the same little containers of dried herbs and spices in her kitchen since…as far back as I can remember. You may as well throw bits of paper into your dishes, for all the flavor left in those things. Various sources have confirmed my belief that dried herbs and spices certainly lose their potency after a while and are best used within six months of purchase. So, what’s that say about the dusty, fossilized remainsf of plants stuck in those little red tins with white letters on them that have been in my mother’s kitchen cabinet since as far back as my memory goes? The woman buys canned mushrooms for goodness sake. Disgusting, slimy, waterlogged canned mushrooms. Mushrooms, which fine cooks say should not even be rinsed in water, but rather wiped clean, lest they sponge up the moisture! As far as I can tell, the jury is still out on how much damage rinsing actually does. Maybe I just have a deep, borderline spiritual love of mushrooms and mushrooms in a can, to me, is pure blasphemy…Either way.
My generation was raised mostly by a whole mess of working moms. Moms who needed dinner on the table, miraculously, once they got home from work. Shortcuts are the very essence of working mother cooking. My mother’s recipe book contains more recipes peeled from the backs of cans of soup and snipped from cardboard boxes than real, heartfelt, family recipes. But these recipes are the stuff of my childhood memories of food. Is it wrong? No…It’s just not my way of doing things.
The point here is…Fine cooking, good food, is something that many people don’t even think about anymore. Break the cycle, people. Make something from scratch. Get your hands (and your pans) dirty. What with more aisles full of frozen, microwaveable dinners and meals in a bag and things like that than there are aisles of fresh fruit and vegetables…We need to start doing something different. Real food, good food, is often, if not always, just as easy to make and is comparably priced…with infinite rewards. Taste, health, a sense of accomplishment and doing something better for yourself and your family.
Speaking of family…sit down and eat with them! Clear off the kitchen table, set out plates and forks and knives, turn off the TV, sit down and have a family dinner. Food is a social thing. A binding agent. It brings people together. Family meals, like letter writing or Christmas caroling, are becoming a dying tradition. A cultural relic.
Also, I’ve noticed many local supermarkets even have entire aisles dedicated to bottled water now-…Actually. Wait. Don’t even get me started on that.
That’s another topic for another day.