The kitchen is not just a place for cooking everyday food for my family. I am a cook by profession. Despite and perhaps because of my profession I believe that food is not only essential to life, but equal to happiness among friends and family. My mother taught me the love of cooking and I am intent upon extending love and good memories to my children from the kitchen table.
I realize that we are a bit out of the ordinary as a family. My oldest child sat next to me while I cooked at nine months old, playing with tea cups and measuring spoons. As a toddler he stood happily on a wooden chair leaning against the countertop. His preferred toys were wooden spoons, mixing bowls and flour. My youngest came to work with me as a baby and often slept in a vegetable crate filled up with blankets while I cooked and chopped my way through a professional kitchen. Later she pushed around her own wooden cart through my work space, pretending to shop for groceries and prepare for dinner by filling up her miniature grocery cart with tomatoes and eggplant and any other ingredients within her reach. At preschool she decided she wanted to open a restaurant when she grew up. She even had a name for it. Her restaurant fantasy was called “Mmmmmmm”.
Food is important at our house and food stories are like daily bread. It wasn’t until I became a culinary instructor that I recognized that not everyone feels comfortable in the kitchen. While teaching, I discovered that cooking is not the center of everyone’s home life. As a teacher I have listened to many a kitchen narrative. Though the rhyme and reason for choosing to cook or not cook vary from person to person, I have seen that the emotion related to food is universal. Everyone has an important memory connected to a meal or a special recipe. Deeply grounded memories have a color, taste and smell. Recipes are not a simple sum of ingredients. They tell the stories of our lives. Special family recipes carry a unique history along with their cooking instructions. This and not the simple function of food as fuel is the reason cooking together is so important.
Most people who do not cook, no matter what their age, are unfamiliar with the basics of kitchen ingredients and are insecure about expanding their collection of cooking skills. As a teacher, a cook and a mother, I hope to inspire even the most reluctant cook to create their own food from scratch. Running a kitchen is an enterprise that engages all the senses. I have learned that a well-stocked pantry is essential to making good cooking simple. In the following special edition I am sharing a list of my favorite flavor combinations made with herbs, sea salts, infused vinegar, olive oil and spices. These recipes are what I call my cupboard essentials. Many of my suggestions involve stirring a few ingredients in a jar, yet all of them can be made in advance, making a busy week or an unexpected dinner just that much easier. This short list of flavor combinations form my dictionary for creating countless homemade dishes with fresh and seasonal ingredients. This is what makes cooking a game of mixing and matching, leaving space for lifelong good memories.
Note to the Beautiful Food Series
This series is my contribution to Jennifer Tyler Lee’s publication entitled “The 52 New Foods Challenge” – an admirable book and an inspiring method for cooking together at home. In her book, Jennifer has written the blueprint to a family cooking adventure by charting cooking activities to be shared week by week according to the seasons. As Jennifer so aptly describes, cooking healthy and well sometimes requires a change in perspective, a discovery at the farmers market or a new cooking technique.
I have been chosen along with 51 other blog food writers to create recipes inspired by Jennifer’s food philosophy. My contribution is divided into four parts. The first three parts are freshly made pantry ingredients that can be made in advance, when there is time. Each part of my series has suggestions based upon the vegetables chosen by Jennifer in Part 2 and Part 3 of her book.
All of the recipes I am posting are versatile. Each is meant is a spark to creativity an enjoyment in the kitchen. My contribution to the “The 52 New Foods Challenge is divided into four parts:
P.S. A conversion chart is in the right margin of my blog for the readers using U.S. or imperial measurements. Just click on the recipe and type in the quantities to be converted.