17 January 2008

In the Kitchen

"[I]t was evident once again that, as a nation, our amnesia regarding how to cook is wasting food and costing us - and the environment - dear."

This is a line I swiped from a post I read a week ago on Hedgewizard's Diary. The post has to do with free-range chickens (which we obviously support), but I was really intrigued with this statement. Everything that we do in our gardens comes to fruition in the kitchen. I don't think Meg and I have really given the power of cooking enough attention when considering what we plan to harvest from our garden. Maybe because it's something we take for granted. I don't know. Shortly after I read Hedgewizard's post and went to the Pollan reading, we started talking about our cooking interests and habits.

Quite honestly, we don't use cooking books all that much. A lot of what I learned came from hanging out with family while meals were being prepared and working in restaurants while I waited for academia to produce something. We do love food. Food in our house is just as much for the experience as it is for the fuel, but we just have no desire to spend all evening cooking (unless it's slow cooking in the oven). The keys for us are simple recipes with fresh ingredients. Two books that I reference on occasion are The Professional Chef, 7th Ed. and the Food Lover's Companion. I mainly use the FLC when I run across ingredients that I'm not familiar with in TPC. The most helpful attribute of TPC is that the recipes for sauces and stocks are designed to be made in bulk. When we get into livestock and start to prepare our own meat, there are also some great tips for butchering and preparing these meats in large amounts. Putting Food By is a book we picked up last year in anticipation of doing a whole lot of canning and freezing this year.

I'm beginning to have a great deal of interest in food blogs lately and Meg and I plan to start adding them to our blog roll. I received a great recipe for rabbit from Steven at Dirt Sun Rain; I have been blown away with his knowledge in the kitchen, thanks Steven. The more we read, the more we learn about what we can do with food. So often I'm concerned with watching that I'm using less and not being wasteful, and I realize that a good deal can also be done if we pay attention not just to what we eat, but how we eat it. Meg and I are hoping to grow some amazing things this year and I can't wait to see how they turn out in the kitchen.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly (and Meg too): that PFB book is great, but it might scare the hell out of you. It IS my go-to book regarding processing times, but to dig deeper there're a couple others I would recommend: The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving goes further than simple canning, and to go even deeper, you can look to Terra Vivante's Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, which relies on other methods (drying, salting, oils and lactic fermentation) to preserve the harvest.

Pollan's new book really tries to emphasize that food shouldn't just be about the fuel, it should be about the experience. It sounds like you guys are more than half there. Being the sole gardener and chef in my house, the process of foodmaking is fairly seamless, and very gratifying, for me; that it takes a long time to grow and preserve and cook everything is (frankly) really rewarding. I am glad you started blogging. Maybe more people will start to go down this path.


sugarcreekfarm said...

Glad you swiped that line - it's a fantastic quote. It wasn't so many generations ago that people really didn't waste anything, as my grandmother's cookbooks can attest with their recipes for blood sausage and breaded & sauteed brains. I haven't gone quite that far in reducing waste. But I was quite proud of myself for freezing broccoli stems - something I would have previously thrown to the pigs - and pulling them out this winter to make broccoli soup. It's a start, anyway.

Kelly said...

Good afternoon El, Thank you for the added resources. Meg and I are excited about utilizing canning and freezing so we can eat from our garden all year round. My family did a great deal of canning when I was a kid and I do remember it being quite labor intensive. However, even then I felt a great deal of pride in knowing that everything on our dinner table came from our own hard work.

I do agree with the reference you made to Pollan and how food should be about the experience. I suppose that I'm the cook in the house, and I would fancy myself rather handy in the kitchen, but for some reason I've created this image in my head that great meals had to come from intense kitchens (I blame the Food Channel for that one). I realize that's hogwash and I am starting to flex my culinary mussels. As I said in the post, Meg and I are going to explore the blogosphere for our main source of cooking information, because it's real people in real kitchens making real food.

I'm glad you enjoy our blog because it is a privilege to have you all read and comment on it. Thanks again for the resources and please tell your chickens that we say hi.

Hey Kelli, I'm glad you like that quote too. When I read it, I was like, "Wow, that's some good shit." Saving veggie scraps for soups is something Meg and I have been meaning to start doing for a little while now. As part of putting food by its always rewarding to gather a bunch of things that are usually cast aside to serve a larger purpose. I don't think we'll be serving brain anytime soon either, but as your comment attests, every little bit counts.

Anonymous said...

Will be interested in your thoughts on PFB. We canned more than ever this year after we bought a pressure cooker, but are in a similar boat as you with expaning the gardens 10x.

One of our favorite cookbooks for the garden is from our favorite Farmers Market. What I like best about it is that it groups the recipes by veggie, and rarely combines things out of season in the same recipe (no squash with fresh tomatoes...)

Ali said...

There are a gazillion and one cookbooks out there, and the books El mentioned for canning are great. I'll add 2 suggestions. 1) I highly recommend taking a class in home preserving from the Cooperative Extension Service. I did earlier this summer and found it pretty helpful, even though I'd been canning for years. So far, we've eaten 2 jars of our home canned tomato sauce and no botulism!
2) I like Michele Urvater's book Monday to Friday Cookbook. It has some good, quick recipes, and I found the chapters on organizing your pantry and kitchen really useful.

I've never used Hamburger Helper, or even Rice A Roni, but this book helped me figure out what to keep on hand for those nights when the best option used to be pizza. Now it's pasta with tuna sauce -- way better!

Kelly said...

Rob, We're wondering if a pressure cooker will be in our future. All of my experience with canning is with a big open pot. The more I reacquaint myself with the process, the more I hear about the benefits of a pressure cooker. You can be sure that we'll blog about which ever decision we make.

I also like the idea of a cookbook with recipes involving ingredients that grow together. Call me crazy, but it just makes good sense.

Ali, Thanks for the suggestions. I'll definitely check out that book. I love great tasting food, but it has to practical as well. Too often the cook books with speedy meals are too damn boring and the ones with good food take too long to cook. So again, many thanks for the suggestion.

I'm also looking into taking classes, but for welding, plumbing and residential electric. By the time we buy land, I want to be well on the to self sufficiency.