Saturday, January 24, 2015
Living the Pantry Life - Why gaining experience is essential to pantry living!
I used to tell people I have the spiritual gift of... cookies. I do make a good cookie. Soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies, crisp and buttery shortbread, thumbprint cookies with a tiny spoonful of jam in the middle, all kinds of cookies.
Over the Holidays, I realized a new talent. That of... cookie whisperer. You have heard of the horse whisperer (or at least admired an aging Robert Redford in the movie based on the book?). Some of us are cookie whisperers. We know how to bring out the best in flour, sugar, and butter.
But reaching such an esteemed status took baking hundreds upon hundreds... perhaps thousands of cookies. Experienced cooks develop a way of knowing when something is done by the aroma, or the color, or the touch. Those skills are sometimes learned by reading but most often by doing... and sometimes by accident.
For instance, when I was young I thought I couldn't bake a good layer cake. They just never turned out correctly. Then by chance I bought two new heavy duty 9" round cake pans and they changed my life. At least they changed my desserts. It was after using them for the first time I realized my problem with layer cake baking had been the 8" pans I was using. Who knew?
Which is why experience can be even more important in a pantry lifestyle than stocking up. For if one knows their way around a kitchen, they spend less and are more knowledgeable than if they just bought stuff and put them on shelves. They also learn (as I have through the years) what kind of kitchen equipment is essential, what is good to have, and what one can easily live without.
Twice in the last week I was able to put together a good dinner with odds and ends I had on hand. For instance, last night I wanted to use two butternut squash that have been sitting behind the Lazy Boy since around November. (Ummm... one creates pantry space where they can.)
I vaguely remembered a recipe that threw together roasted butternut squash (so I did, roast them that is), chicken broth (I had a box in the pantry), onions, spices, and a dollop of cream just before serving (optional). It turned out to be delicious and just exactly what we needed for a healthy meal on a cold-ish winter day. Not to mention almost free since the butternut squash had been given to us last autumn.
[As an aside... I think it quite amazing how God provides certain veggies and such we need at the time we need them. Such as squashes and potatoes and carrots and other root veggies which are easy to store through the winter.]
In a perfect world, we would grow up with someone teaching us to cook. It may have been mom, or grandmother, or an aunt. I believe it was Rachel Ray's grandfather who taught her a lot about their Italian recipes. I didn't spend time cooking with my mother-in-law but she sent me recipes for years and years. I still use a lot of those recipes she sent.
I taught my daughter to cook and she has taught her daughter. I believe each generation is better (in one area or another) than the previous. Probably as they each have a foundation to build upon.
I learned from cookbooks, cooking shows, and a few very good classes that taught the foundational kitchen skills. As with any art form (and I believe cooking can be such), once you learn the basics you can become very creative. Like thinking of ways to use the butternut squash behind the Lazy Boy.
So my point is??? You never stop learning when it comes to cooking and using what is in your pantry. That is the difference between storing food and living a pantry lifestyle! If you are a new cook, as the budget allows, invest in cooking classes. All of us need really good cookbooks. The kind that actually teach you something as well as provide recipes.
My son is now cooking their dinners when he can, before his teacher-wife arrives home. He has Allrecipes.com bookmarked. But I have also shared old fashioned hold-in-your-hands cookbooks with him. I gave him my copy of Jerusalem to inspire the cooking of his favorite dishes. And his Christmas gift this year was a good cutting board. It is good to see the male branch of the family continue culinary traditions. ;)
I'll be back next week with some cookbook ideas. :)