Saturday, July 13, 2013

Living the Pantry Lifestyle

I keep some well used recipes on the inside of kitchen cabinets.

I've been reading quite a bit about cooking, eating well, and frugality in the past few years (just in case you have not noticed all the cookbooks and food memoirs in my stacks of books).  ;)

One truth that is evident in all of the books is this... the more you know how to cook, the healthier you can eat on a budget.   I shouldn't be surprised at how many people today do not know how to cook "from scratch" for my own generation was encouraged to get out of the kitchen and into the Boardrooms of America.

Of course, if one didn't make it in a career which paid enough money for a cook... then they were left with takeout, fast food, and microwave warm ups!  We are now seeing a second and even a third generation of people who do not know how to assemble, cook, and serve a meal.

For a matter of fact, there is a chapter in The Feast Nearby, where the author interviews the owner of her favorite store for purchasing meat in which he tells her when he retires, the shop will probably close for good.  At one time families would purchase a quarter or half of a cow at one time for their deep freeze and that income supplemented the over the counter sales in the store.

He said the problem these days is most younger cooks only know what to do with ground beef and steaks and have no idea how to cook any other parts of the cow (as in those wonderful slow roast cuts that cost less and feed more people).

It has helped to have a few quick, frugal, and creative recipes like Jewel's quiche to use often.

Another author talked about the irony of less people knowing how to cook in an age when The Food Network is one of the top rated TV networks on cable.   Her realization was that most of these shows were more chef-y entertainment than offering the "how to" of cooking.

It seems watching other people cook is a fairly new spectator sport for modern generations when our grandmothers actually... cooked.  They may have started out knowing only basic skills but as time passed, they developed tried and true ways of feeding others with both skill and thrift.

For you see, the longer you cook the more you learn not only how to cook but important skills about using leftovers, cooking for more than one meal at a time, and self taught wisdom such how how much cumin you can add for flavor without your husband complaining!  :)

I'm also learning something new about cooking such as when Hubby brings veggies from the organic farm where he exchanges work for food.  Would you believe I've never cooked Swiss chard before last week when he brought it home?  I have learned that one who does not like beets will devour them when roasted in the oven.

The more I've read, the more I realize how much our culture has changed in just a couple generations in the way we cook and eat.   Our grandmothers probably (and great grandmothers definitely) knew how to cook and many of them... while putting simple meals on the table most of the time... would find great creativity and pride in those foods for which they made very well.

Perhaps that is part of the fascination with books about the Amish as many such novels go into great detail about the housewives cooking wonderful meals with simple ingredients for their families (I always seem to become hungry while reading these novels).

It is time to stop watching and reading and start... doing.   I will continue to enjoy certain cooking shows because I do learn a lot, especially from those shows which emphasize teaching.  But one must actually get in the kitchen!

I'm preaching to myself here for as much as I've enjoyed cooking and baking, I still need to learn more about preserving food and utilizing healthy seasonal veggies in my diet.  I'm continuing my quest for using new herbs and spices as sumac is perhaps the next spice I will purchase.

One should never see cooking from scratch as boring and it is not difficult after basic skills have been learned.  Perhaps that is part of the problem in watching some cooking shows... while some do teach, many of them make cooking more complicated than the average home cook needs.

Hmmm... what other skills could help me save money as well as deepen my pantry?  I need to dust off the canner for certain! 

Note:  Speaking of learning something new, many thanks to Amanda for the recipe in last week's Comments.  She said she combines Target's mango salsa with brown sugar and Dijon mustard and pours it over deboned chicken breasts. 

All I had was deboned chicken thighs so I defrosted them and made the recipe, baking for 40 min. at 375 instead of the 30 min. at 400 Amanda uses for the chicken breasts (since the dark meat takes a little longer to cook).  It was delicious with brown rice!

It is a good use of a fairly nutritious "convenience" food helping put an easy meal on the dinner table.


Anonymous said...

My husband and I just attended a canning class last night, taught by a sweet "Grandma" in her 70's who raised six children, and canned almost Everything, from fruit and fruit juices to veggies and dried beans, meat and fish! Talk about impressive! She still loves to can and says her family "shops" from her pantry now! I was only thinking of canning homemade apple sauce and berry jam! LOL! I was one of those who cooked mostly quick dinners with ground beef when I was first married and working full time on my feet all day. Now that we're retired, I'm finally rethinking my cooking habits! Guess it's about time!
Thanks for sharing. I learn so much from your blog!
Laura C. from WA

Vee said...

Yes, thanks to Amanda. I get so lazy with cooking in the summertime when it's hot and humid. I think that I would do well to haul out the crockpot and the bread machine and have them at the ready. My mother was a marvelous cook. Everyone in 14 counties misses her cooking. Wish that she had been more of a "sharer" as none of her recipes taste the same to me when I make them. My sister says to toss in more butter and sugar. Ha! I used to watch the Saturday morning PBS cooking shows ( how much am I dating myself with that admission? ) and learned a lot...Julia, Jacques, and others were good teachers.

Anonymous said...

Here's a great swiss chard recipe:

Saute chard with onions in olive oil. Put in corn tortillas ( I have to use organic--GMO corn really bothers my insides!) with salsa and queso fresco (or we use Feta)!


Mrs.Rabe said...

I've also been so interested in the fact that in a country where most people don't really cook anymore, gourmet kitchens and are all the rage! Do people really spent that kind of money on a kitchen they are just going to do prefabbed food in?

Thanks for the recipe! That sounds easy and delicious!


Anonymous said...

A lot of cookbooks from TV chefs feature complicated recipes which would probably discourage a beginner. Someone should write an up-to-date basic cookbook with Realistic recipes.

You can cook swiss chard like spinach-just let it simmer a few minutes longer.

Anonymous said...

After canning and freezing anything and everything for our family for more than 30 years I slowly got away from canning other than a few jams and jellies each season. With our daughters grown and smaller garden to match our smaller retirement home we felt it wasn't necessary. But... it turned out it was. We really missed the quality of home canned fruits and veggies, and to be honest, I missed the canning. So I am back to pressure canning and freezing and really enjoy it!

I've always cooked from scratch so other than watching Julia I've never cared for cooking shows. And I too have wondered if anyone actually cooks in those fancy kitchens you see in magazines.

For anyone looking for a good basic cookbook look for a copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950's. Though I should warn you that if you do find one it can be pricey. I have one that belonged to my aunt, my oldest daughter got my mother-in-laws and I bought my younger daughter one as a wedding shower gift. Found it online. My Mom had one too..but my brother got it!!! In this family we fight over who gets cookbooks.

Thank you Brenda for the encouragement you give me with your posts. I really look forward to them. God bless, Marsha

Angela said...

When my stove died and I was shopping for a new one, the saleslady asked me if I cooked. I looked at her a little puzzled (I was there to buy a STOVE, wasn't I?) and told her, yes, I use my stove several times a day! It wasn't until later that it dawned on me why she asked: so many people (and I suspect, many of the people with magazine-worthy kitchens) spend big money on appliances they don't actually use. My mom used to work with a woman whose family ate out every single meal -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- every single day.

Senkyoushi said...

I have to confess that I knew nothing about cooking from scratch until we moved to Japan. Then I had to learn by necessity. So glad for that now. We eat much healthier.

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

I just had The Feast Nearby out from the library. Enjoyable read.

As is your posting today!