Friday, October 30, 2009

Improbable Pantry: Aspiration

I can't draw a straight line.  And I can't make music.  But I can cook, and that's how I make art.  In cooking, the pantry and farmers market are the palette from which I compose and create meals that improbably emerge from their humble beginnings of seeds, grains, legumes, roots, stems, and leaves.  I also make art by taking photographs.  With this blog, I plan to combine these two passions, and share my culinary adventures, from the mundane to the exotic.  And I hope that you will share your adventures with me, in comments, links to your own blogs or your own discoveries.

By the time Michael Pollan declared, "Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants," in his In Defense of Food, it didn't take much to convince me. I had always eaten what my grandmother would recognize as food.  Mostly.  I did have a thing for Oreos, but still.  And then Mark Bittman followed with practical eating advice along the same philosophical lines in his book/cookbook Food Matters.  If you're unfamiliar with these books, go get them.  You will never look at food the same way again.  And that'll be a good thing.

I'm not a fancy cook.  I don't spend a lot of time with fussy preparations or elegant presentation.  I make basic home cooking that tends toward the aggressively flavored.  I go for ethnic cuisines that don't hold back on taste.  Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American foods and the flavorings they use show up often in my cooking. I am not averse to mixing and matching, and trying a bit of home-grown "fusion".  Umami is my friend.  Which is not to say I won't try a long-simmered batch of stew or simple plate of roasted vegetables with nothing more than salt and pepper, letting the natural flavor of the ingredients come through.  But Ido tend to like flavors that hit you over the head.

I don't eat much meat anymore.  Mostly a little, for a treat.  For some extra flavor.  I don't miss it, but I enjoy it when I use it. You will be surprised how far a little meat will go.  I'm increasingly seeking out sustainably and humanely grown meats.  Since I eat so little of it, the extra cost is not a barrier.

Organic.  Plants and meat.  When I can.  There are a lot of farmers using integrated pest management, and I applaud their efforts and am happy to buy their produce.  There are a lot of tradeoffs out there, and I'm happy to support the shift to more sustainable agriculture.

I've always been concerned that a mostly vegetable diet would leave me hungry all the time.  But it hasn't.  A variety of whole grains and hearty vegetables is enough to fill anyone up.  And as Mark Bittman says in his book, if you eat this way, you can pretty much eat as much as you want.  I've found that to be the case, but I really do not find that I overeat.

The Internet has changed the way I cook.  Whereas I used to go to a few shelves full of cookbooks, now I search the web.  I have a few go-to bloggers I like to check out, but am often surprised by new sources of great ideas.  I'll usually scan a few ideas on a particular theme -- like "eggplant" -- and then synthesize something from the cooking techniques and flavorings that I've read about.  Sometimes I'll use a recipe directly, but more often, it's a little of this and a little of that.  Since I know what's in my pantry and my fridge, particular food inspirations usually come from a day or two of simmering in my brain, so by the time I'm in the kitchen, I have a pretty good idea about what I'm about to do.

So when I post a recipe here, it will rarely suffer from putting your own spin on it.  And I'm eager to hear about how you have worked with the same themes.

The premise of this blog is this:

  • Explore how to use whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables when in season, well raised meat as much as I can.

  • Explore new tastes and new ideas.

  • Participate in and inspire a community of people that share a passion for simply prepared, tasty, healthy food.

  • Keep it simple.  And fun.
So, the journey begins  Your comments, suggestions and opinions are welcome, and we'll see what new food frontiers we can explore together.

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