New Year Resolutions, Part I: Cook More!
Okay, I am finally going to tackle my thoughts, especially after reading this article in the New York Times, The Dark (and Often Dubious) Art of Forecasting Food Trends. Seriously? You are worried about food trends? Have you ever heard the old quote, "Everything old is new again?"
Some of the hot food trends for 2017 listed are Sorghum, fermented vegetables, and "ugly produce." Since when is sorghum new? My grandfather used to buy sorghum syrup from some mail-order catalog when I was a youngster. This dark somewhat bitter, but sweet syrup was a treat for him on his Saturday morning pancakes. For my grandfather, who was born in the late 1800s, sorghum was a staple when he was growing up in the "fly-over" states (and before some of the areas was even states). What is sorghum? A grass - a grain crop. When boiled down, like sugar cane, it becomes a dark sweet syrup that is similar to molasses, but not molasses.
Apparently fermenting vegetables was a new trend in 2016. Who knew? I grew up when fermenting cabbage for sauerkraut was an event in the fall. My father and grandmother would take a walk to the grandparent's garden and cut several large heads of cabbage. The large heads of greenish-white tough leaves would be washed and brought back into the kitchen where my father would start shredding the "slaw" on the old kraut cutter. Grandma would place the slaw in the old crock, sprinkle it generously with salt, and us kids got to pound the cabbage down with an old wooden rolling pin with no handles until it made some "juice." Sometimes we would sneak a bite of that salty, and rather bruised shreds of cabbage. Today I am the sentimental owner of the old slaw cutter and crock. It sits in my kitchen, a trophy of memories from my youth during those fall evenings with my dad and grandma.
|My crock and kraut cutter
And to continue about my ranting of this new-fangled thing called "fermentation," my mother and grandmother pickled a lot of produce fresh from the garden. Everything from crab-apples (served on the pickle plate at Thanksgiving) to asparagus to green beans to peppers, and of course an assortment of cucumber pickles - from dill to sweet to spicy that was loaded with garlic and chilies.
"Ugly produce?" Guess one hasn't grown or gleaned from a backyard garden if they think "Ugly Produce" is trend-worthy. A trend? No! It should be a staple and has been a natural staple for years. Sorry, but not all apples are perfectly round, and I am happy to steer clear of the perfect-shaped apple.
Chef, author, and television host, Anthony Bourdain is my personal "living" food hero, next to Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. In fact, last year I saw Bourdain live and in lecture. He had many great rants about how we should stop overthinking food, and the importance of respecting Grandma's table and eat her lumpy gravy made with love - and eat it without criticism. Bourdain is against food trends and "listicles" - meaning lists that are created by the media to predict the coming year’s food trends. As he pointed out, are hungry nations really concerned about gluten in their diet?
|My poor attempt of taking a photo of Bourdain from my seat.
Get creative with your cooking. Experiment. Last night I prepared a fresh spinach salad. It was of the old 1950's version with the traditional hot bacon dressing. A fairly simple salad with sliced fresh mushrooms, sliced red onion, hard-boiled eggs quartered among the spinach, and dressed with a mixture of warm bacon fat, red wine vinegar, sugar, and Dijon mustard. However, I did one thing differently this time. Instead of raw red onion, I lightly caramelized it in the bacon fat. Oh my - - I will never use raw onion in that salad recipe again. The onions took on a sweetness that added to the fresh spinach and the sweet and sour dressing.
My motto, and especially when raising a family, is fewer meals in the back seat and more time in the kitchen and around the dining table. Get to cooking!