This does not bode well for the bureaucratic aspect of my unschooling future. That is something that has also been weighing heavily on my mind, and will be vented in its own post...when I get around to it. (Or a round tuit. Which I do actually have, and hasn't helped thus far.)
Anyway, one of the things that has been taking up a lot of my thoughts lately is food. The general themes seem to be:
- Eating more responsibly (locally, organically, with a view to preserving and maximizing the health of the environment, food, and consumers).
- New experiences in cooking/eating.
- Enjoying our family garden. Which kind of falls under both previous points, come to think of it.
First, the short version of Eating More Responsibly. Two of my recent reads were The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. If you haven't read these yet, I highly recommend both...and in that order. Each book touches on many of the same themes, but while Pollan's book reads like a scientific inquiry into the problem of industrially-produced food, Kingsolver's reads more like poetry, describing how one family set about seeking a solution. (Yes, I do know and respect that she is also a scientist...but damn it, the woman just writes beautifully.) Both books will lead you to think very differently about your food choices. We've been moving down the friendly/sustainable road for a while, with readings about the Slow Food movement, a long-standing policy of reading labels, and a fun foray into beginner gardening. These books have strengthened my resolve. Pick these up when you're ready to move beyond the gross-out stories of Fast Food Nation or SuperSize Me. It's not just convenience food that should be concerning us. And it's not as difficult as you might think to make changes.
We're foodies. I credit my husband with my love of cooking. I really didn't do much other than bake when I met him. But he was comfortable in the kitchen, and happy there, too. Our first "date" was homemade pizza at his place, and I fell in love both with him and his creations. His enthusiasm for cooking was contagious. I started experimenting and learning and enjoying myself. I started trying new ingredients. I developed a major crush on Alton Brown. (Good food and scientific explanations so I can actually understand the principles behind what makes a recipe work, or not? Genius!)
On the other hand, I am a mother raising four kids. Who are sometimes insatiable, sometimes finicky, and never predictable. I often feel like I spend all day preparing or cleaning up from meals. We have challenges both in budget and in ingredients: the oldest has digestive allergies and sensitivities and has spent the past three years on restricted diets. Oh, I learned how to cook gluten/dairy/egg/nut-free. But after a while, the excitement of "challenge" wears off and it just becomes "hassle". I often get tired of slogging through the few, repeated meals that meet all requirements (allergen-free, appealing to all family members, easy to prepare, and inexpensive). It's really easy to get burned out.
So I've been making an effort lately to try new recipes. It's something I used to do when I had that lovely commodity: time. It's hard to do when you're in the trenches of parenthood, but I'm finding that the occasional experiment is restoring my joy for being in the kitchen. Initially, I planned to commit to one new recipe per week, and blog it. I may still reach that goal...but for now, I'm so far behind that I might as well just present a few Greatest Hits. Many of these feature food grown in our own garden, which is an extra bonus for environmentalism and domestic bragging.
I love beets, but had no idea that the greens were edible. Here are some sauteed with fresh garlic. Yum!
My bare-bones version of Chicken Giardino.
Fresh tomatoes, sugar peas, zucchini, and again--garlic. OMG, garlic is so easy to grow. Chuck some sprouted cloves into the ground in October; harvest in July.
And of course, like any good gardeners, we are overrun with zucchini. So I've been continuing my canning education and learned to make a childhood favorite: bread-and-butter pickles.
I've also overcome my fear of yeast and ditched the bread machine in favor of doing bread the old-fashioned way. (Although I do enjoy doing it completely by hand, I admit that I often let the KitchenAid do the kneading if life is hectic. Alas.) Most of the time I make basic white loaves, but sometimes I get brave and try something fancier. Somewhere around here I have a recipe for a fabulous caraway bread. I'm also proud to announce that I tried my first souffle, and it was a terrific success. Yay me!