angels, unawares (Part 2)
When I wrote about Virginia six months ago, I implied at the end that there was more of the story to be told. There is. Stuart (whose family I wrote about meeting) and I are FINALLY kicking off a blog about cooking and eating, and whatever else takes our fancy. It'll be different content than I post here, although a few of the things I write here may be cross-posted.
Don't worry. This column isn't going anywhere unless I run out of opinions or Josh fires me.
So, you know.
That post was as much about the food as it was the festival we were at. I don't know why food memories stick out to me so - it's not even the eating, it's the smells and sounds, the people you eat with. It's why I named these posts this way. Hospitality is sacrifice. If you're wondering whether I identify with Martha or Mary, please stop wondering. If there's an event, and I'm at it, I will be in the kitchen, and probably washing dishes. It's a wonderful way to avoid socializing AND get something done!!
For me, cooking for and feeding people is one of the most important things I can do.
And it's why I get so outraged when people are coy about their food.
I've complained about it before. I will keep complaining.
No one cares about your Nutella latte that is "Oh Mylanta.... SOOOOOOOOO good", nor yet your pumpkin bars that "you TOTALLY cannot taste the bourbon" in.... DAMMIT. STOP PUTTING YOUR HUSBANDS' GOOD BOURBON IN PUMPKIN BARS, LADIES. And yet... have you seen the comments on this kind of stuff? It's all "that looks SOOOOOOOOOO good", and "you're right, I put tequila instead of the bourbon and couldn't taste it either!".
Then there's the innocent recipes for, say, chicken lo mein.
And the comments. "I put beef instead of chicken, and red wine instead of chicken broth, and egg noodles instead of lo mein noodles and.... so on and so forth, and it came out kind of weird. Would not make this again." Well, NO CRAP, YOU MADE BEEF STROGANOFF.
This is not about locally sourcing fair-trade organic gluten-free free trade virgin cashews and gently milking them over a 4-year period until they're ready to make raw, vegan cheesecake with. NO ONE HAS TIME FOR THIS. I assume if you have time for this, you're under house arrest, and you're bored.
Most nights, we eat 1. some kind of protein, 2. some kind of starch, 3. a cooked vegetable or some kind of salad. I do my darnedest to pre-cook whatever I can, so that it's easier to put dinner on the table when I get home from work and I'm insanely tired and there's fourteen projects to tackle. We don't have the money to go out or buy convenience foods, and thank God, we live too far from civilization for me to succumb to takeout.
This is all I want to do for you: write about real food. That you can make in your house, without too much trouble, that you can feed to your family and friends. Nothing that requires strange pieces of kitchen equipment. (Investing in spices is a little bit of a different story - better spices mean better food, and I'll explain why as time goes on.) You don't have to be a scientist or a nutritionist to feed people well, although understanding a bit of how and why food behaves the way it does in the pan and in your body can be helpful.
So, that's that. I'll leave you with just a couple of tips, to encourage you to give our blog a follow (follow if you're on Tumblr, paste the URL into your feed reader to subscribe, or follow on Twitter, which we'll update periodically).
The two most important things you have in your kitchen are salt & pepper (that's one) and a cast iron pan.
The salt: sea salt is fine. It doesn't have to be expensive. Keep it in something you can grab pinches out of. Don't bother with spoons, nothing is going to grow in a dish of salt.
Shakers are stupid and you can't gauge how much comes out, or the top might come off.
Sea salt tastes saltier than table salt, so you'll use less. This is how our taste buds work, in the same way fatty foods are more satiating than non-fat ones, so you eat less of them, at least in theory.
The pepper: buy peppercorns. Grind as you need it, or crush them if you want to be fancy. Fresh pepper is a different world than the stuff that sits in little containers for 5 years in your cabinet, exposed to heat. Fresh pepper is NOT JUST FOR RESTAURANTS ON YOUR SALAD, and also, mediocre food tastes better if you put enough salt & pepper on it.
The cast iron pan: it does need to be vintage. Modern cast iron is a waste of money. I'll tell you why, in a separate post about cast iron in the near future.
You're looking for a skillet, 3" sides, any size from 8" to 14" across is fine. They're heavy, so you want to make sure you can work comfortably with it. Any antique store worth its salt (hah! haaaaaaa) should have one in good condition for around $30-50, in pretty much any part of the country.
Now go fry an egg in bacon grease in your skillet. I'll probably write about bacon grease next time, because talk about your two birds, one stone scenarios! It'll gross people out AND it's delicious!