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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Comfort Food - The Cornerstone of Civilization

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Mom's garlic and cream cheese 
mashed potatoes - mmmemories!
You forget just how important it is to cook to suit yourself until you share a kitchen and have to cook to suit the tastes of another.  Since my wife and I moved to the carriage house, we've been enjoying a change in our diet that happened without us really thinking about it.  When you shop for your own groceries and cook for yourself, you soon revert to your old habits and old favorite dishes.

We've gone almost completely vegetarian again.  We've had some tuna, but other than that, we've gone back to the old SDA vegetarian dishes I grew up on.  I've made cottage cheese loaf, oatmeal patties, barbecued Tender Bits (bought a case of that stuff), all kinds of spaghetti and pasta dishes seasoned with vegeburger, homemade vegetable pizzas, Chinese vegetables.

We've started stocking frozen veggies by the giant economy bag, fresh produce, fruit and vegetables.  Avocados are cheap up here in the Pacific Northwest for some reason and tomatoes and peppers aren't too terribly expensive either.  Haven't had anything made of hamburger or chicken since October except on the road when traveling.  My veins feel degreased. I've been making homemade whole wheat bread again and homemade cookies, pies and even did a German Chocolate cake for Sheila's birthday.

We celebrated her birthday by going to Goodwill and buying cooking utensils, pots and pans and kitchen stuff for our new kitchen. It was fun.  I highly recommend spending money to properly equip your kitchen. There's nothing quite like cooking with the proper tools.  It's faster, things come out better and taste better and it's more fun.  I bought a set of Eversharp knives that are so sharp you have to be careful not to pitch them in the dishwater.  You can cut yourself badly groping around for them when you do the dishes. 

I have begun to believe that the real problem with the next generation of young people is that they haven't learned how to cook properly. Young people don't cook anymore.  They're always going out to eat at restaurants and they eat a lot of takeout.  What happens when you don't cook for yourself, you have your taste in food determined by someone else - some chef or short order cook or, worse, a gaggle of teenaged fry cook operating out of fast food joints.

You don't develop your own signature dishes if you eat out all the time.  You miss the routine of making a pan of rolls on Friday for Sabbath dinner.  You don't learn about homemade cinnamon rolls, Dad's breakfast burritos or pancakes every Sunday morning.  It's those sorts of things that anchor your life so you're life is not drifting around consuming whatever somebody offers you on a menu.  You chart your own course, Create your own family traditions so that your own kids remember things like family taco night or inviting folks over for homemade pizzas like we used to do when the kids were little. I remember back at Valley Grande Academy, Mrs. LeBard, the principal's wife, used to make a whole pile of pies on Friday nights once a month or so and feed all the kids in the school pie after Friday night vespers.  It was a lovely tradition.

God gave us food for other reasons than to keep us alive. He could have made food utterly tasteless, but he did not.  He gave us flavors in infinite variety and endowed us with an innate creativity that we might enjoy the fruits of the Earth in all the shapes, colors, textures and tastes imaginable. No two families eat precisely the same meals and snacks and yet we are able to meet all our nutritional needs just the same.

If your refrigerator is full of soft drinks and frozen pizzas, I invite you to create yourself a menu for one week and determine to not go out to a restaurant for the full week.  Then, take a trip down to your grocery store.  Buy a week's worth of ingredients.  Splurge on a few things like olive oil and favorite spices. Get some produce for goodness sake.

If your kitchen tools are woefully inadequate, you don't have to spend much.  Run down to Goodwill or the Salvation Army thrift store and do like we did.  Create yourself an eclectic collection of dishes and pick out some good kitchen tools, pots and pans to cook with.  Cook with flair. Experiment.  Make stuff from scratch. It's actually fun if you have the right equipment and a properly set up kitchen.

Make yourselves some lovely meals during your week off from eating out.  Set the table and sit down at it. Fix a pitcher of iced tea.  Eat slowly and talk about your day. Let civilization creep up on you and transform your mealtimes.  If you've got kids, you'll be making memories they will never forget. The best and strongest memories of childhood are almost inevitably tied to smells and flavors as well as sights and sounds.  You owe it to your little ones to fortify them with those memories. When they go off on their own, they'll want to come home and have you recreate those memories for them.  They'll steal the big yellow bowl you used to make banana pudding in because they'll want a piece of home to carry with them out into the big, bad old world.  They'll want your recipes, but they'll always make them their own and they'll never be quite what they remember from Mom's kitchen.

You'll also be surprised how much your food costs drop every month too. You can use the savings to buy yourself some toy trains and start a hobby.  But then that's another blog and I don't have time for trains now anyway.  I need to finish putting together the telescope I'm building.

Sometime life is just so very, very good.

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King

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