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 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.  :)


Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

How are you my kind friend? I am so enjoying catching up on your lovely writing. You are an inspiration as always!
Love, Tracey

P.S. I know what you mean about being a "cookie whisperer"! I am a pie whisperer but sadly I can no longer eat them due to the wheat content!😢

Anonymous said...

I really look forward to your "Living the Pantry Life" posts on the weekend. I always feel a sense of calm after reading regardless of what is going on in the outside world.
Thanks for your inspiration,

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Experience is so important for having confidence in throwing a meal together. I have taught my girls to cook, a few are still working on their skills, but they all do well. With Lindsay married, she is always sending me text messages with photos of what she's cooking. She's very good at using spices and unique flavor pairings, to make even simple foods taste great! She's taught me to branch out and try new things.

Your squash sounds so good. I may have to buy one on my next shopping trip. This last one was a stocking up trip.

I love your pantry posts! They always inspire me!


Scrappy quilter said...

Lovely post as always. I never knew how to boil water never mind make a cookie when I got married. Thankfully my dh was very patient with me. It all came with experimenting and continual learning.

Scrappy quilter said...

Lovely post as always. I never knew how to boil water never mind make a cookie when I got married. Thankfully my dh was very patient with me. It all came with experimenting and continual learning.

Nana said...

Hi Brenda;
I look forward to Saturdays and your stocking the pantry post. I can usually smell when something is done, I have no idea how I do this. I also do not make a good cookie, perhaps because I would much prefer a piece of cake than a cookie. Have a great week end! Love and Hugs, Nana

sherry said...

In my teen years I had no interest in learning how to cook. That said, my job was to clean up and do dishes after my sister cooked dinner. She took over the main cook position at 15. I didn't grow up with my father past the age of eight but remember his amazing meals prepared with such skill. My mother was a baker .. a very gifted baker. But cooking? Oh dear me no. I learned to cook in my 20s, on my own, later owning a small catering business. I read cookbooks like novels, rarely measure, and relish (pun intended)in whole foods and fresh ingredients. I taught my daughter the basics though she showed as much interest in cooking that I did at her age. I cook for two now which I find to be easy .. and I clean up. Still. Wink.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

And now, for those who had no one to teach them, and even for those who already know how to cook, we have youtube with thousands of food videos to watch. I love watching Jacques Pepin, Food Wishes, and cooking with dog, though that last is more for entertainment since it usually involves ingredients not all that easy to find. My mother was a wonderful cook, but she didn't like to teach. However, she did share recipes and I have many of hers. And for 40 years I usually cooked three times a day for five people! That helps.....But I love finding new ideas! I also use Kalyn's Kitchen for low carb menu ideas. Another great pantry post, Brenda!

A Woman that Fears the Lord said...

Your posts are not good for my pocket book! LOL!! I've already purchased several of the books you've recommended (loving the one I'm currently reading) and here you go recommending another cookbook! :-) My question is this: would a husband who likes down home cooking enjoy the recipes in Jerusalem?
I look forward to your posts.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments on learning. I could cook very few things when I married 43 years ago but have learned over the years and am still learning. Just recently I learned to lower the over rack one notch to prevent pie crust from getting over brown. You experienced cooks probably already knew that but I was so glad to learn a new tip. Thanks for your blog. Blessings, Sharon D.

Heather said...

I love your Saturday posts Brenda! :-) I am a cookie whisperer too! :-) My daughter is the pie whisperer! :-)
One of the great things about the Internet and finding kindred spirits is that I no longer feel like a weirdo for reading cookbooks like novels! :-) :-) :-)