Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Food for thought

I’m not really into cooking. I’m not a bad cook; I don’t hate it; it just usually feels like cooking requires more planning, attention, and focus than I have at my disposal (or want to give to it) at the moment. But all of a sudden here, I’m cooking nearly every day. What happened?

Gabriel turned one, first of all. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that for the first few months of his life, cooking a meal felt like a task of monumental proportions. Hence, lots of Red Front BBQ chicken before we moved, and lots of pizza after. Earlier this year I looked up instructions for how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, making them for the first time in my life. I tried making pancakes from memory (a miserable failure) – keeping track of more than two or three ingredients seemed like an insurmountable undertaking. However, for Gabriel’s birthday, I really really really wanted to make a carrot cake. The only cake pan we have is for making baklava, but we do have a muffin tin, so I decided to make carrot cake muffins.

They came out awesome.

It felt like a huge, time-consuming project that day, but at the same time I also found myself thinking, “this isn’t, actually, impossible.”

So I started making cornmeal muffins with Valerie on a regular basis. And then I found a recipe for grilled eggplant in a Reader’s Digest, and as I read through it I thought, “I have all the ingredients right here” – all I had to buy were eggplants (of course) and parsley, which were in season and available practically at my front door.

So I tried the recipe, and it was really good! Not only that but it looked and tasted gourmet. And I could make it while the kids played in the living room behind me.

That alone has been a huge factor – that the kids can play behind me in the living room while I chop and stir, and I don’t have to try to do everything with Gabriel in the sling and Valerie wanting constant attention.

Then when my in-laws came to visit in September, I had added incentive to plan and cook interesting meals. One thing they brought for me, at my request, was a copy of Simply In Season, a great produce-based cookbook that emphasizes eating locally-produced fresh fruits and vegetables, which, as I’ve mentioned we have in great bounty and conveniently located here.

One of my favorite recipes from that book is Groundnut Stew, which I’ve adapted made a couple times now with pumpkin. I’ve also made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, and some different kinds of stew. Last week I made purple cabbage stir-fry. I did buy some imported black beans (which we all seem to prefer to the pinto and white beans that are more common here) and garnished them with cilantro I grew from seeds my sister bought – but at least I did throw in local onions, garlic, carrots, and red peppers.

Anyway, it feels like the same impulse to share pictures of my knitting online (hey, everybody, look what I made!) impels me now to share pictures of food online – not as cute as my kids (again, hey! Look what I made!) but fun anyway.


tara said...

yummy- sent you a note but forgot to mention- i have lots of fun pancake recipes (including a banana walnut that is *close* to the little grill one) if you want me to send them. what i do is measure dry stuff for a bunch of batches into zippy bags & then i can just pull them out and make pancakes a bit more easily. miss you

upying is my word verification- no definition needed on that one... but i'm not trying to upying you :)

anita said...

I'm glad the cilantro worked!