Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet van Horne
I always say it's good to live in the present but at this moment in time, I am taking lessons from the past and the present and am busy planning the future. The future of the food we eat and how I will incorporate those foods into homecooked, locally grown, and organic recipes.
Lately I find myself on grocery day going up and down the aisles of Trader Joe's filling my cart with packaged foods (many labeled as organic) that will make mealtimes appear almost instantaniously. I've lost the soul of cooking and I realize now what I am missing - "the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring sppons, the paining of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven, and the choreography of many people working one kitchen" (in the words of Barbara Kingsolver). There is nothing more satisfying that sharing in the preparation and consumption of a homecooked meal. But there's one thing missing from this and that happens before dinner, way before actually. And that is the growing and harvesting of your dinner ingredients.
So it's becoming clearer to you now, yes? For me to get my love of cooking back, I have to fall back in love with food. And that for me, is going to be growing my own food and preparing meals that are cooked with seasonal ingredients. Here in Portland we are pretty lucky to have endless options to get locally grown, organic food from our food coops and CSA farms. However, how many times have I bought a banana and ever thought maybe I shouldn't support a fruit that is imported from a country being raped of it's forests all so that I can have a pesticide covered exotic. Instead, I should be seeking out what is in season, what has Oregon organically produced at this particular time of year that I can feast on and more importantly that I can spend money on that will go to support our local grower so he/she can produce more next year for me.
Here's my plans. I will spend April through August researching. Learning about what grows in each season. Next fall, I will get a large plot at one of our many community gardens and begin the process of growing my own food. I will use seeds from a company in Eugene (locally, again) that grows their own food, lets it go to seed naturally and then harvests the seeds. Did you know that most seeds (or most produce for that matter) that you buy are sterile? They've been genetically modified to not reproduce. That is a scary thought if your garden was all you had and you couldn't harvest seeds from your produce each year to plant another garden to sustain yourself on. That been said, while I'm in the pre-gardening phase, I am also going to start ordering produce from a local CSA farm. This way, I will only get seasonals and I will have to start experimenting with recipes. For example, pumpkin pie is not made out of canned pumpkin, it really was meant to be made out of a, well, how do I say this, a real pumpkin? YES! But I know I'm not going to get anywhere unless I start practicing because I have never cooked a pumpin, much less made pumpkin pie with a real pumpkin.
My next plans are to go to two all day classes. One is the art of cooking bread. The other, the art of making cheese. Did you know that cheese is incredibly simple to make and that if you are lactose intolerant you can most likely eat your own homemade cheese?
My final plans are to get chickens and turkeys. However, I'm going to have to come up with a well thought out approach to tell my husband about this plan. I brought it up to him once and he said 'WHAT? CHICKENS? NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!'. Of course, this hasn't discourage me, instead it will make me more creative the next time I ask!
I figure as I begin to delve into the art of cooking with seasonal foods, making my own bread and cheese, and tending to my own organic garden, I will naturally fall back in love with cooking. For me, it will now have meaning because I will be able to share my edible masterpieces with those I love. There is nothing like cooking a meal together. Everyone will have a part in the meal and everyone will take something with them, whether it was the time we spent together gossiping over grinding spices and kneading dough, chasing kids and husbands out of the kitchen, or sitting gathered around the table passing food around, tasting this, tasting that, and telling stories inbetween bites. Food brings people together but homegrown, organic seasonal food, brings the body, mind and soul together and makes us fall in love with the soul of cooking once again.