I’m not very good at using cookbooks.
I love them! I’m addicted to the pictures and the ideas and I have a growing collection. I enjoy the stories and getting to know the person behind the food. I like finding all sorts of recipes that I want to make and usually make myself incredibly hungry looking through them all.
I get frustrated at the recipes though. I’m not a fan of grocery stores. If I end up having to go to one for a single odd ingredient, knowing I’m going to have to buy a large bunch of cilantro or basil for one tablespoon in something (the rest of which will probably go unused or forgotten in my fridge until it smells funny and makes me feel guilty for not using it), I usually end up fudging and changing the recipe to suit my kitchen and desires.
Most of the people I know feel dependent on a recipe or a cookbook only until they feel comfortable. For some of them this means they make something once, following the recipe, and then feel more comfortable changing and diverging from it. For others, it might mean a couple more tries before comfort sets in. Lets face it, we all have different levels of comfort when it comes to diverging. Depending on the recipe and what sort of thing I’m working on I feel pretty comfortable fudging it. Which is ironic because it makes me completely uncomfortable when my sister or mother starts reading a recipe and then totally do what they want. I can’t explain this but something about watching someone break the rules makes me supremely uncomfortable!
Cookbooks are as helpful as we let them be. When we use them to give us ideas and break us out of food ruts and remind us of things we love and enjoy, they can be really useful. When we let them dictate our lives they start getting a little bossy. Add to that the internet which lets us know all we aren’t accomplishing and how beautiful and amazing other people are making their foods and we become more self conscious about our lack of style or know how. I know of several books that encourage life changes such as making and freezing all your meals on one day or living from a crock pot. Some of those ideas can be real helpful and cut the stress from life, some of them can add to our stress and make us feel like we aren’t doing it right.
It seems that the main thing to remember is to do what feels comfortable for you in your kitchen. Be flexible enough to know when to break the rules and know how to cook to your audience. People aren’t really demanding. If there are good flavors- they will be happy. If it’s presented nicely- they will be impressed. Most importantly if there is good conversation with a lively host who isn’t exhausted from figuring out dinner- they will be delighted.
Calm down, feed people.
My mother realized the importance of good food in bringing people together and, from before I can remember, tasty and filling meals were a constant. They were accompanied by a steady rotation of friends and family, strangers and neighbors, and everyone else that she could feed.
Food has always been a way of community coming together. When we think of the best times of our lives they are almost always surrounded by those we love… and meals. From the church picnic to the wedding buffet, dinner parties and drinks with friends, family reunions and first dates, birthdays and milestones are all celebrated with food… and people. When people gather food and drink is necessary but more importantly it’s desirable. It encourages us and relaxes us, it breaks the ice and gives us something to do with our hands in the awkward moments of life.
Living alone as a single person has been a weird transition for me in the department of feeding people. Growing up we had people over after church, the parents hosted dinner parties and it was all prescribed. Figuring out how to invite people over to my own place was more intimidating. Knowing that they were a couple and I was single sometimes really made me uncomfortable, or inviting guys over and fearing they would think it was a date, having groups over… somehow it was all new and different. Even though, really, it was the same. Turns out, finding people to cook for was easier than I thought. People love to be fed. They love to be invited over, to have a fuss made about them, to bring a loaf of bread or a bottle of wine to feel like they are contributing. It isn’t hard to find people to feed. Once you start feeding them- getting rid of them is the real problem you’ll face.
We want to live life communally. I believe we were designed for that, but you can see it’s a desire in all of us when you look at what we spend our time on. Social media is going gangbusters not because we want more ways for the internet to advertise to us. Or because we can’t remember what we ‘like’ without someone tracking it for us. It seems to be more about how it connects us to our community. It lets us share with everyone and anyone the smallest details of our lives as well as the large and life altering decisions we make. While the pros and cons of constant attention to our own struggles and achievements or the mundane matters of others lives can be argued strongly either way I think what it proves is that we desire to share ourselves with others.
It doesn’t have to be fancy to make you feel accomplished. It doesn’t have to be perfect for your guests to be impressed. We’re over whelmed by pintrest ideas when really people just love good flavors with people they want to get to know. That’s not to say things won’t go wrong! The smoke detector will go off at some point, the dessert will be unimpressive and tasteless, or all of your dishes will be done at different times. Still it seems worth the effort. And the disasters all make for good stories and closer friendships.
Find some people you want to get to know. Cook for them. You can’t go wrong.
My goal is to post once a week to this blog but I know that it’s hard to keep your interest and wait for a whole week for a new story. So in the in-between times I’ll be putting up quotes etc.
Today’s quote comes from a character on the TV show Parks and Rec. Ron Swanson says;
“There’s only one thing I hate more than lying. And that’s skim milk. And skim milk is just water lying about being milk.”
Enjoy your Valentines meals together!
This is a food blog. More importantly it’s a blog about community. Food can be beautiful and delicious but it’s always been more enjoyable to me when others enjoy it with me.
Feeding people is one of my favorite things. I do it both for my professional job and as a hobby at home for family and friends. Making food at work is always less exciting and enjoyable than making my mother’s favorite seafood meal, preparing a pie for my father or wrapping my friends’ meals in bacon. At work I know people enjoy the food I create for them. At home when I cook for people I love the effort is an expression of that love and I know my energy will be appreciated.
I won’t be teaching you to cook here. There are many places both on and off the internet to learn to cook and bake beautiful and delicious meals and they are doing a fantastic job. Instead I’m interested in the sensibility behind cooking, the common sense we should have in the kitchen, and the love in food. Why do we crave soups in winter? What meal did we grow up with that feels homey to return to? What ideas have we formed about what we eat?
I also want it to be a place to encourage you to eat and cook mindfully, intentionally, and in community. To make and share food that you enjoy with people that you love. Making friends is as easy as clicking a button these days but real relationships take something more. Mostly they take time and the easiest time to spend with people is around a meal.
We all have such different relationships with the world around us but none of us can avoid the fact that food is a necessity of life. Yet it’s more than that, it’s also the best nourishment in life. Drawing us together as community and warming us as it strengthens and bonds us.
So lets make food, lets make community and taste life.