Sorry folks! I hit publish without proofing everything. Apparently I was missing a 1 in the publish date. Doh! Came back to check the comments and wondered where the heck my post was. Found it way back on January 1. Blushing sheeepishly...
I have been in a bit of an organizing/purging/reevaluating mood lately. Since I seem to be spinning my wheels in the basement - I swear, I work and work and work down there, but it does not get any better! - I thought I would switch my focus to another room for a while. I need some sense of accomplishment! The kitchen. It is fairly organized already, just in need of some minor tweaking. I am contemplating one long shelf for my overflowing cookbook collection. Right now it takes up the top row of these shelves and the bottom row of another. Both are busting at the seams! I really do not enjoy tearing a fingernail off every time I try to pull one out.
While looking through my collection I noticed a progression of sorts. From when I did not have a clue how to cook to being curious about cooking to donning an apron while cooking from scratch, the books portray the evolution of my culinary life.
In the beginning there was "Campbell's 1-2-3 Dinner". A *delightful* little "cookbook" that gets dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less and always contains a can of soup. I lived for soup, quite literally. More often than not my meals consisted of a can of soup nuked for 3 minutes. I was too inept to even make the simple meals of this book that required nothing more than chicken or ground beef, a can of soup, and some pasta. Then Miss "Campbell's 1-2-3 Dinner" met Mr. "A Man, A Can, A Plan" - my husband. Boy were we a match made in Schwan's man heaven. We bought so much processed frozen food that the Schwan's man gave us a freezer! Undoubtedly so we would have room to purchase even more chicken patties and push-ems.
This is how our family lived. From boxes and cans and plastic bags out of the freezer. Quick and easy, without giving much thought to the "food" we were putting in our stomaches. As long as they were full, life was good.
Then I turned 30. I figured it was time to grow up and cook like an adult. I subscribed to Kraft Food's "Food & Family" magazine and collected Gooseberry Patch cookbooks. Collecting cookbooks and looking at food pictures is almost same the same as actually making it, right? Slowly I ventured from Hamburger Helper to semi-homemade versions of it. Around the same time I set out on my green journey. Packaged food turned into bulk goods, I started shopping at the Farmers' Market, and began spouting words like "organic" and "natural". This is when the "The Sneaky Chef" and "Deceptively Delicious" cookbooks entered the ranks. I was looking for ways to get my family to eat more vegetables without them actually knowing it. The plastic bags in the freezer were slowly being replaced with Ziploc bags of pureed zucchini, squash, and cauliflower. Then Michael Pollan entered my life and all hell broke loose.
I joined a Local Foods and Sustainable Agriculture task force, learned about CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), put in a garden, and added GMO, free-range, and bechamel to my vocabulary. My Christmas and birthday lists included items like pressure canner, food processor, cast-iron cookware, bread machine, and so on. Books on root cellaring, preserving the bounty, and composting rubbed elbows with "Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day", "In Season", and "Vegetarian Bible: Fresh from the garden." My food went from being dumped out of a can to local, fresh, in-season, whole, organic, humanely-raised, and cooked from scratch. In only a few years!
It amazes me how one small step can take you in directions you never dreamed of. I am not quite sure how wondering what all those long words on the back of my shampoo bottle were, led to making my own sauces and brown sugar, but it did. This green journey has permeated all aspects of my life. Now our Mondays are Meatless, our recycling and trash bins are lighter, and the vegetables are prominently displayed in unapologetic portions. Makes me wonder where we will be in another three years?
I have yet to get that shelf up in the kitchen for my ever-growing cookbook collection, but looking back at my transformation I do feel the sense of accomplishment I was looking for.
In hopes of encouraging someone else to embark on a sustainable culinary quest, I would like to provide a roadmap of sorts. Who knows where this guide will take you? The destination is completely up to you. It may lead to places you are not even aware of yet, but once you get there you will look back and wonder, "How did I ever live before?".
Tell me one thing you currently make that you never dreamed you would before and one thing that you still wish to master and I will enter you into a drawing for Michael Pollan's new book "Food Rules". It is like crib notes for "In Defense of Food". You have until Sunday, January 17 to enter. I will announce the winner in my post next Monday.
While you are at it, hop on over to my personal blog, Greeen Sheeep, and enter to win a reusable lunch kit to carry all your home-cooked goodness in. Drawing ends January 13!