After completing the year-long fun with a limited 100-ingredients, I found myself caring more and more about all things sustainable, organic, local and humane. There’s something about being connected every day to four hens that makes it impossible to ignore the sad reality of factory farms and the corporate concerns that are heating up the planet while controlling what ends up on our tables.
So instead of attempting to simplify and stick to the same 100 ingredients, I’ve decided that it’s time to stir things up. As a new member of Johnson’s Backyard Garden’s CSA, I’m now getting a box of fruits and vegetables every week from an organic farm that’s about seven miles from our house.
As a result, what’s in season and what grows around here — versus say, Australia and China — will dominate our diets. The fun part is never knowing for sure what’s in store for the next week, and sometimes, coming to terms with a leaf or a root that’s never before entered our home.
Farmtotablecook.com will cover the delicious dishes that we create every week, while providing a forum for the occasional rant about things that matter a lot.
Whatever lies ahead this year, one thing is for certain: there will be 365 dinners. And I’m cooking most of them. Counting in breakfast and lunch, we’re talking 1,095 meals. Cooking isn’t the problem. I like to cook and I love food. I like to read about food, watch cooking shows, talk about food, and cook for family and friends. Superfoods gained a foothold in our kitchen as soon as the girls decided to became vegetarian, and at this point, there’s no question in any of our minds that a Kale Smoothie is far superior to a Vanilla Malt. Here’s the problem: The planning. The shopping. The coordination. The time. Night after night. Many dinners around here arrive to the table as some form of Plan B or C on account of the fact that we’re out of a key ingredient of what was in my head when I was thinking about dinner around four or five. Of course, I could plan better, and sometimes I actually do, but usually not. More often, I find myself winging it and even though I’ve gotten good at coming up with some tasty combinations on the fly, this year, we are talking big picture. Here’s the plan: Decide on a fixed number of ingredients—a total of 100, including staples, spices and lots of superfoods—and keep the kitchen stocked with them. Before grocery shopping, just review The List against what’s on the shelves and in the frig, and replenish as needed. And then, only cook with ingredients that are on The List. This list allows for endless variations, and somehow, knowledge that the framework is fixed is sparking a lot of ideas. This is the year for thinking inside
the box and it’s actually very liberating. No more guilt about the three Japanese eggplant that seemed like a good idea at the time and were later unearthed squishy and slimy from the back of the crisper. No more discoveries that we actually have three blocks of cream cheese or four bags of carrots, and no more pre-heating the oven and unrolling a pie crust for a quiche only to discover that there’s only one egg in the house. This is the year for getting a grip and getting real about dinner as a night-after-night kind of deal. It’s the year for knowing what to shop for, knowing what’s on hand, and eliminating anxiety about what to cook for dinner. And it’s also the year for sparing land animals from ending up on our plates and enjoying as a result, much better — and tastier — options.