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.