09.02.14

On cooking

Posted in books, food at 1:36 am by wingerz

A couple of recent things have inspired me to cook more:

Over the past few years, there have been a lot of food-related services that have popped up, many of which we tried last summer when Max was born. But for some reason for now I’ve continued to insist on weekly visits to the market and, much to Jen’s chagrin, a never-ending cycle of dirtying and cleaning all of our pots and dishes. With two kids I definitely found myself wondering whether I was being irrational, whether I should be focusing my efforts elsewhere on things that couldn’t be streamlined out of my life.

And then I read Cooked. The book is structured in four parts, one part for each fundamental element (fire, water, air, earth). In each part he dives deep into a particular method of cooking (barbecuing, braising, breadmaking, and fermenting) – I was completely hooked even before I got to the chapter that talked about Tartine bread. I share the same reasons for enjoying cooking:

  • It’s so different from what I do all day: sit in front of a computer.
  • There’s an immense amount of satisfaction that comes from constructing something from raw materials, even if you could have acquired the end product for less time and less money. If nothing else, it creates a deeper appreciation for those who have mastered their craft.
  • It’s a way to show your love for others. I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than to cook a meal and share with loved ones.
  • One more that I’ll add to the list – I’m not sure why this is but I really enjoy using stuff up, whether it’s sticks of butter, bags of flour, meat in the freezer, vegetables that comes in our CSA box.

This weekend I baked my first loaf of bread in several years.

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My experience with Blue Apron has been interesting. I got a free week from JR, and I didn’t realize I had to cancel six days in advance so we ended up with two weeks (six meals). Overall I think it’s a good service, though not for me.

You get a large insulated box full of ice packs and everything you need (except for salt and olive oil) to make six meals. The packaging gets the job done but is borderline comical, there’s just so much of it. The recipes were tasty and well-balanced (not many leafy vegetables – not sure if it’s always like that or if it’s because transporting them would be hard). The portions were a good size (probably wouldn’t have been big enough for me 10 years ago, but I’ve slowed down).

On a weeknight I have about 20-25 minutes to cook dinner so that we have enough time to eat and then get the kids into bath and bed. Of the six, I cooked two on weeknights (patty melt, spiced pork), the rest I saved for the weekend.

In any case, I’m already going grocery shopping multiple times a week. It is really nice to have the peace of mind of knowing that you have the exact right amount of all the ingredients you need. If we cooked less often and didn’t go to the market and grocery store so often I could see this being more compelling.

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I definitely have my favorite recipes these days; the things I cook the most frequently are ones that I can whip up pretty quickly with minimal fuss. I’m probably getting into a bit of a rut with my salads and desserts and things (still tasty, but probably boring).

Getting a pressure cooker has helped with that – tonight I was able to make a pot roast in less than 2 hours (instead of 4). I affectionately refer to my pressure cooker as a ‘pot full of science’ – it really is a time saver. Beans in 10 minutes, stews in 25, roasts in 90 (times under pressure). Still trying to master it; I overcook things more often than not, but it’s been a lot of fun.

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Anyways, it’s obvious that I’ve been blogging a lot less about recipes (and blogging here a lot less in general), but cooking continues to be a big part of our lives. It seems strange that something so fundamental has become something that I’ve started to question – modern day life has let us optimize away a lot of our daily routines. But I don’t think there’s a replacement for picking and handling raw ingredients, filling the house with wonderful aromas, and sitting down together to share a meal.