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Here’s How It Began

For me, November begins the season of cooking and the celebration of comfort foods. The smell of warm, freshly baked bread, or a pot of chili simmering on the stove, bring back strong childhood memories of comfort for me. I learned to cook from my Mom, who sent me off to college with a hand-written notebook filled with all the recipes I enjoyed at our family table. I still have the notebook, and some thirty plus years later, I’m still cooking some of the same recipes – many of them now with my own twist on flavor.

Because I grew up in a household that loved to cook (and no surprise – loved to eat), I’m caught off guard when I talk to people who can’t identify with my experience. They either don’t know how to cook, don’t want to learn to cook, or are just happy with their frozen dinners, canned soup, or carry-out foods of convenience. Heck, I understand being a victim of convenience with my own hours of work and personal schedule. But to not want to cook or know how to cook, what’s that all about?

This summer while on vacation, I picked up the book “Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell, a story about a New York City woman who decided to cook her way through the 524 recipes of Julia Child’s first cookbook, “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” over the span of one year. I thought about watching Julia Child on tv with my Mom back in the 1970’s, and sampling the many recipes she tried to cook from that book. I thought about what a challenge that would be to commit to cooking every recipe and writing about the experience. Now I know I have no interest whatsoever in the regiment of going through any cookbook recipe by recipe for any reason. But I must say I was intrigued by the concept of what one might learn by doing so.

Michael Pollan, in his August 2009 editorial piece titled “Out Of The Kitchen, Onto The Couch” said, “The path to a diet of fresher, unprocessed food, not to mention a revitalized local food economy, passes straight through the home kitchen.” That concept resonated with me, at so many different levels – especially at the point in the article that it was noted that today, 80% of the cost of food eaten at home goes to someone other than a farmer.

So between reading “Julie and Julia” and Michael Pollan (who also used examples of that book), I got this crazy notion this past summer (while floating peacefully on a pontoon boat mind you), that I might do a little experiment of my own. I wondered what would it look like if I didn’t shop for the convenience in the center aisles of Outpost. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (please don’t stop shopping), but what might my life be like without the convenience of ready-made foods like bulk granola, canned beans, and frozen peas? What if, I wondered, I had to make the foods I love completely from scratch, shopping for single ingredients in order to create the end product?

To get to the heart of the matter, I made my commitment to the great food experience and starting on April 17, 2010 –  Outpost’s 40th Anniversary – I will transform myself into a different type of foodie. For one year I will make every effort to eat only what I can purchase as a primary ingredient in it’s freshest form (vs. processed foods), and I will write about it as both a diary for myself, and something perhaps others can gain from if they’re interested. I will need some rules, naturally, and perhaps a few small exceptions like chocolate and the occasional dining out. But I really want to believe that by changing my diet I can take part in revitalizing our local economy, and lessening my dependence on processed foods.

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About outpostcoop

I also live in another world of creativity. Visit my art blog here: http://paczkisplayground.blogspot.com

14 responses

  1. You are brave woman! I have tried this with no long term success. Convenience always beckons… I will be watching your path and rooting for you to acheive what I could not!

  2. Thanks Sam. I’m hoping it’s bravery and not just a game of chicken. Thanks for your support. Watch for recipes and other “experiments” along the way.

  3. Wow. It will be interesting to follow your journey and see if any effects on your overall wellbeing are felt, and of course to see what new, delicious recipes you find to share! :)

  4. Did you by a grain grinder? I hate to admit I cook very little. You are an inspiration!

  5. Yay, Pam! What an endeavor! I was thinking of all the foods I love that I would miss – Annie’s Mac & Cheese, Connie’s pizza, Amy’s frozens, all the simmer sauces, Rudi’s bread, Dr. Oteker’s (sp?) mixes…. and on and on… I am very thankful for these organic and natural choices for convenience foods available at Outpost. But I think we would all be healthier if we shopped the outer aisles! Go! Go! Go!! Can’t wait to read!

  6. Wow! Talk about ambitious! Rosie and I are glad when we eat Amy’s Burritos at home instead of just eating out! Good luck and I look forward to the trip.

  7. I love to cook, and just found my way back to the bulk section recently. Sounds fun, Pam.

  8. Good luck Pam!

  9. Is wine convenience food? How about Rustic Pizza crust? Good luck!

    • I think beverages are a tough category to classify – am I going to roast my own coffee beans or brew my own beer? Not likely but I might try. Last nights meal was interesting – steak fajitas. The meat, veggies and seasoning were easy to do from scratch. Tortillas didn’t turn out quite like we planned. And salsa? Didn’t think about needing that so we didn’t have any. Thanks for the well wishes Gail!

  10. This is a great post. Going one year without the industrial food system is life-changing. I decided to “check out of the check-out line” in 2008 and was amazed at how many hours I’d previously spent in grocery stores. No more grocery store lists. You’re free. I look forward to following your amazing journey.

  11. Pingback: A Year of Inconvenience | Cooking Up a Story

  12. Congratulations, Pam!

    Our family made all the same changes a few years ago. It was hard at first, but we’ve stuck with it to great effect and wouldn’t dream of going back.

    Hang in there- it gets easier!

  13. Just discovered your blog and started reading about your challenge. I shall enjoy reading about your endeavours and am inspired to try my hand on a lesser scale, maybe a week at a time! I love to cook and have been moving away from convenience foods for a while but the pull is so strong in our consumer led world. Excellent project, well done and good luck!

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