I love food. I love to eat food, but I also love food in a very esoteric way. I love the idea that we can tend to a seed, and from that seed, will grow nutrient rich food that fuels us. That reciprocity completely blows my mind.
In this day and age our food systems are so broken that most of us live completely out of reach of that basic reciprocity. Our grocery store shelves are filled with boxes, bags and cans of food. We see more food packaged than fresh. In fact, the words, fresh and natural are so misused with respect to food that they feel irrelevant. So I am going to work with simple food. I could rant for a very long time about the concepts of healthy and gourmet food as they pertain to privilege and the fetishization of food and culture, in our society. Lets just sum it up with I hate cooking television networks but I revere Julia Child and her passion for teaching people how to cook.
I read cookbooks like I read the dictionary, for reference.
Cookbooks fascinate me the same way grocery shopping at different stores does. I learn new flavors, ingredients, and methodologies. Most of all I am inspired by how everything in a new book, or store, blends together: the colors of the vegetables and spices next to each other. Those details are what inspire me to cook. I have been cooking for a very long time. I have spent many hours of my life in restaurant kitchens, on farms, in markets, and dining rooms. I have come a long way from my cast iron skillet of rice and beans in college. That history is how I take risks in the kitchen, it is how I have learned and am willing to take on challenges.
So I read cook books. Right now I have 4 sitting on my kitchen counter: #whole30, fermenting, moosewood, and ottolenghi along with a few food magazines. I read them to get ideas of how flavors work together. So when I see something in the produce aisle, I know what herb compliments it, and what meat it goes with. That way I am basing what I am eating off what is available in the store, which saves money. Then I apply a multiple meal expectation, and see what else I may need that can do double time. There is also a list of things I always like to have in my kitchen. onions being on the top of that list. Are you beginning to understand how I grocery shop? My basic system is to keep it simple, use what is available to you, and be prepared with staples.
Preparation and organization are vital here. Because they allow you to get into the intuitive part of cooking, the sensual, simple need of cooking. The part of cooking where you got everything simmering, the music is moving you and the food is delicious. So I read the cook books to know what goes with what. when something is in season, and how to best bring flavors up front and center. Preparation is going to look different for different people. Don't get overwhelmed that you need everything now. Buy one thing for your staples every time you are at the store. Read your labels and find the things that speak to you. Most often we have multiple choices of the same thing on a shelf, take a minute to look at what you are putting in your basket, in your body.
Both organization and preparation require a level of awareness. A certain amount of checking in to what you need. Tapping into what does your body need for nourishment? What does your mind crave? What inspires your spirit? These questions can be applied all over the place, cooking, loving, talking, listening, protesting. Organize yourself so you are aware of what you need, in your body, in your kitchen, in your mind and spirit. Then refer back to cookbooks. What piques your curiosity? What colors are you drawn to? In the grocery store what scents are attractive?
The preparation is having staples, onions, olive oil, s&p, a big pan, knives, a stove, these are the staples. Organization is taking all the information you get (about your body, what your hungry for, what your spirit aches for, and what veggie looked dreamy in that cookbook) and translating it onto your plate. I am talking basic. When you learn what you like then you can start adding other ingredients. Experiment with the staples. Figure out your staples. I figured out my staples by reading cookbooks like I read the dictionary, for reference.
I will admit having worked in many professional kitchens, my organization is on point because I use all of my experience as reference. I love a tool for a job. I enjoy sharp knives, and my spice collection is in depth. I am grateful for the privilege of these luxuries and the knowledge to use them. That being said they are not needed you can make delicious food without all of them. Figure out what works for you. olive oil in a jar? on the counter? next to the stove? coconut oil? what utensil do you wish you had when you're standing at the stove? move the utensil drawer to where you naturally reach for it. Simple awareness helps to organize your kitchen. The same can be done with coming up with recipes, or ingredients to buy as staples. Ask yourself which flavor works better for what you are cooking? What herbs are you drawn to? Is it the shape? or the color? Perhaps the way it tastes with a vinegar? or an oil? Use your imagination.
You know I am using these big words like preparation and organization but want I want you to understand is that it is all really loosey goosey. Food is totally intuitive and sensual and a reference point. It is also a basic human need and you can get all of this out of the simplest of food. Start with rice and beans. Onions and greens. The simplest, most nutritious basic food. Everything else is superfluous, except for the feeling of taking care of yourself. So check in with your references, see what you need, how can you break it down into staples? How can you translate what your body needs onto a plate? Prepare yourself, for the feeling of taking care of yourself. Cause it is the best! Organize your actions so they support you. These simple, basic ideas can really change how you feel in your body, in your kitchen, in your mind and spirit.