Food Geekery: Back in the swing of things.

It is all your fault, Marilyn.

If you hadn’t invited us over to your lovely home (complete with dream kitchen) and made a splendid meal, simple yet elegant, I wouldn’t be doing this now.

Graduate school was good for me in many ways, but the time it greedily consumed kept me out of the kitchen for a couple of years at least (all told), and got me out of the habit I’d cultivated, especially while living in Germany, of thoroughly enjoying both the process and the results of cooking a meal.

Now, in Stuttgart, I had company. Six of us international students got together and made meals, every Saturday night, and we took turns collectively providing each other enjoyment and, well, nourishment. One week I and the other two women did the food, the next week the three men did; whoever didn’t do food brought wine.

The problem coming back to the U.S. from this relative Eden was living alone. It’s much more difficult to arrange these things for a table of one, when you’re quite used to serving and seating six. Joel soon joined the party, however, so that number expanded to two, and I generally got back into what I call survival cooking, and only truly relishing all sides of the culinary experience when I made meals for special occasions.

I’m not sure if pregnancy hormones are playing a role here, or if recent changes in Joel’s employment status are completely responsible for me re-adopting the food frugality I learned from my grandmothers (both children during the Depression), or if awareness of the food shortages plaguing so many areas of the world aren’t simply making me more mindful of, grateful of, and conscientious with the bounty we can truly enjoy here, especially at the beginning of the local producing season. No matter the reason, cooking virtually every meal at home has become one of my top priorities.

The effort I put into enjoying that process is, however, as I detailed above, entirely Marilyn’s fault. Sharing a leisurely meal with her and her family reminded me just how much I delight in culinary undertakings, from start to finish, and that it was worth investing time and mental energy into preparing and enjoying good food.

I’m also, very occasionally, taking pictures of what I make. A post is coming up (probably) on tonight’s experimental dessert: banana pecan bread pudding.

My creativity is coming back in the kitchen, and a heap of joy is following.

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8 thoughts on “Food Geekery: Back in the swing of things.

  1. Jinx! I just posted about taking joy in the kitchen today also.
    I still live alone and am still a grad student, so I usually only make a real meal once or twice a week and feed off leftovers or easy-to-assemble meals the rest of the time. But I love cooking for a group. It gives me an excuse to try new things, and it’s so enjoyable to chop veggies and mix spices and invent things. Domestic alchemy.

  2. Ha! Excellent.

    One of the challenges I’ve found is cooking for a limited number — less than four, say — is keeping myself to a smaller number of dishes. I love cooking for a large group, because I can go wild, and I don’t have to remind myself to keep it simple. I’ve gotten into a routine with our dinners at home, which is cooking one protein dish (meat, fish or tofu), one starch or whole grain, and two vegetables, at least one of which is green. Tonight was a bit simpler: I stuck with just asparagus for the vegetable, because I had a half-ton of bell peppers and onions in the meatloaf.

    For a larger group, however, I make that many reliable dishes, and at least two experimental ones; one for the main course and one for dessert. If I’m doing appetizers first, there’s at least one more creative project. I, of course, wear myself doing all this too, but it’s just So Much Fun!

    The most time consuming part of cooking, for me, is the planning. Today’s meal wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t figured out last night what we wanted for dinner tonight.

    I’m working on being flexible, though, and just taking whatever is in the fridge and going with it. Last Sunday, I made a ‘clean out the fridge’ frittata, using the remainders of peppers, onions, cheeses, and whatever else was in there to good effect.

    Heh, I can talk about food. I ❤ it, muchly.

  3. Oh, my! Such kind words, and probably the most inspiring thing I’ve ever unwittingly done. I’m glad to have played any role in this rediscovery; you can put all that kitchen love to use creating things that warm you both. Believe me when I say it was our pleasure to have you two (you three) in the kitchen and around the table.

    Besides, I think you may have a natural second career in food styling!

  4. Besides, I think you may have a natural second career in food styling!

    If I can make a strawberry fan, I’m good to go, eh?

    As far as careers, I’ve been getting ready to get back to the German stuff soon. As fun as the Merc is, and as much as I’m learning about food from working in produce, it’s not quite the brain-stretcher that I’d like.

    But since food is fun again (very very fun, not just a little bit!) I imagine I’ll be practicing a little garnishing, just in case I need that second career.

    And in the meantime, if you want an extra hand with a big project, let me know! I’m more than happy to come learn more neat tricks at your elbow. *grin*

  5. I’m not a planner… but I am fortunate enough to live near two giant fresh produce open markets, so it’s usually a matter of improvising on a riff.
    Riffs such as, “Asparagus is a dollar a bunch. I better get two and freeze one. Tomatoes are also really cheap. I have pasta and wine. Maybe I’ll get a green squash and a baby eggplant and have ratatouille.”
    Or, “WTF mirlitons. They’re three for a dollar, perhaps I shall learn how to cook such a strange looking squash.”

    I highly recommend this approach, but as I indicated, I only do that about once a week – market wandering is a time-consuming if revitalizing venture.

  6. I love that leisurely approach to cooking, tanglethis. Love. It. I spent so much time not having leisure time in grad school though that it’s been necessary to train myself back to a slower pace (which I certainly enjoyed while I was a student in Germany — I didn’t have to work that year). Because I work in the produce department of an organic foods co-op, I get that experience with a slightly different twist: it’s more like “Wow, that’s a lot of tomatoes we’re throwing out. Maybe I can make sauce? Oh, and there’s an avocado hiding down there. Guacamole! I should probably make taco stuff to go with it” and so on.

    Sometimes the “too bad to sell but still good to eat” stuff (called ‘shrink’) is really plentiful, and sometimes it’s not. It just depends. But it makes for a market-like grocery shopping experience all year ’round (even if it’s not out in the sunshine and no one’s playing bluegrass nearby).

  7. I got busy working this week, Marilyn, and forgot I had a blog (again).

    I’ll see what I can get posted tomorrow. *grin*

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