Often when I’m cooking I think about something my friend, chef Adam Browne, said in passing a couple of years ago when we were walking around the campus at work. We were talking about barbecue and he said, “you should be adding flavor at every step.”
Hear, hear. I think that applies to more than just barbecue.
Anyway, I was just making dinner and that popped into my head.
Well, my overnight oats and cold brew coffee are working their light’s-out-in-the-fridge magic in preparation for Monday morning, and I have a few minutes to reflect on my first week of culinary self-reliance.
I’ve been thrilled by the simple but deep satisfaction that comes from making my own food. I used to hate grocery shopping, but I find myself wandering the aisles now, endlessly inspired by the colors, smells, and flavors; the possible interplay of ingredients; the timeless alchemy of salt, fat, acid, and heat. Only one week in, I can already say: if you’re searching for something real, something human–if you spend so much time in front of a computer that you want to disconnect the electricity and go live in a cabin–go to the market. Buy a good loaf of French bread and some butter (these are essentials) and think about what to make for dinner. It’s working for me.
I’m not good, of course. I’m still making very simple dishes and relying heavily on other people’s recipes. I don’t want to post a lot of food here until my own skills are worth writing home about. I do want to highlight some of those recipes that may not be readily available on the web, though, or that I just think are unique. So here’s one: “Favorite Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins” from the back of a box of Quick Oats you can find at Family Dollar.
Favorite Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
1 cup Quick Oats
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 400 deg. F. Combine dry ingredients in bowl. Mix egg, milk, and oil into dry ingredients. Stir blueberries into batter. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups with batter. Bake 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 muffins.
It really makes 9 muffins, not 12, if you scoop them into your muffin pan with an ice cream scoop. If you make them, they’ll come out looking something like this.
I love back-of-the-box recipes. They’re like this little gift attached to the box–just about as exciting as the toy in a box of cereal, now that I’m grown–but we just throw them away most of the time. That’s a shame, because a lot of them are really good. I took these to work for a birthday party last week and they were all gone by the end of the morning, so I thought I’d share them here. Try some of your own. They just might surprise you.
This week I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Like many Americans, I’ve spent my entire life on a weight loss “journey,” but the only times I’ve ever had any success have been those times when I truly take ownership of everything I eat and drink. This means planning meals and cooking for myself.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about what it means to live in a world being “eaten by software”—a world in which computer technology replaces our other technologies one by one, changing our lives forever in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. As food delivery and, soon, on-demand food “printing” and manufacturing powered by the web begin to take the place of home cookery, what are we losing?
With those things in mind, I decided this week to try something new: I don’t want to eat or drink anything that I haven’t made myself. No ordering out, no vending machines, no packaged “convenience” food. Just fresh, simple ingredients and food that I can feel good about.
Here’s my example from last night: Teriyaki Grilled Salmon with sautéed Asparagus and Roasted Sweet Potatoes. It’s not fancy, but it was healthy and delicious. Just as importantly, it allowed me to step away from the keyboard for awhile.
It’s more important than ever to make things by hand. We may not be able to go back to the analog world, but the planning, focus, and skill needed to make things for ourselves offer a powerful antidote to the digital doldrums. More to come.