I try to use this space as a way to menu plan and document recipes, as something to turn to when I’m standing in front of the fridge looking at the Thai takeout menu instead of opening the fridge door. In that vein, though, I don’t think it’s too far outside the mark to stop and reflect on the things I learned from another year of planning, cooking, and eating food – especially since this time, I’m actively documenting it.
So here, in no particular order, 14 observations about the year 2014 (in food).
- On (food) photography: Photographing food and making it look appetizing is no small feat. Natural light is always, always, always best – but who cooks during the day? Things to figure out in 2015.
- On writing a food blog: This blog started as a way to help me figure out dinner chez nous, but thanks to my parents, my parents-in-law (side note: as a friend of mine recently pointed out, the English language needs a better term, like the French, who use “belle” or “beau” mom/dad to describe the people who raised your life partner and now love you like their own child. end side note.) and the friends/family members/unwitting Christmas card recipients to whom they’ve sent this blog, people as far away as Australia and Italy and Germany have tuned in. It’s amazing (and totally humbling/nerve-wracking).
- On saving money: The Husband and I spend a LOT of money on two things: travel and food. We’re not yet ready to cut down travel (weddings are like even more awesome bar mitzvahs, with alcohol!), but planning more (#4) and eating out less (#5) have helped us slash…ok, cut down our food expenses.
- On planning ahead: Every week, I try to plan at least three meals I’ll cook at home. I divide my grocery list down the middle and list the ingredients on one side, the days of the week and the meal plan on the other. That way, I only buy Goldfish and/or candy cane Kisses and/or Cape Cod potato chips half the time. Most of the time.
- On eating out: Sometime this past year, the Husband and I went out to eat at a very ho-hum restaurant. That meal became one of our most memorable: after we paid the check, we vowed we would only go out to dinner if we really, really wanted to go to that restaurant. Like, if we had made a reservation, googled the menu beforehand, and plotted in detail what we would order. It’s counter-intuitive, but by going to better but fewer restaurants, we’re actually saving money (I think).
- On eating vegetarian: I was a de-facto vegetarian for about ten years – ie., I ate nothing but pasta and butter and cheese. But writing this blog has been surprising – without thinking about it, I cook a lot of vegetarian food. Here’s a trend to continue (tricking the Husband into) next year.
- On eating meat: Save for the meat extravaganza that was Christmas, we’re eating less meat at home. This is better for our diets, better for the planet, and better for our wallet. So when we do eat meat, I tend to splurge: organic (even if the term doesn’t mean anything yet), free-range (ditto), grass-fed (yup, ditto again). It might be more expensive (unless you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s!), but (probably?) worth it.
- On kitchen tools: You can make almost anything with one good knife, one good pot, and a wooden spoon. But add a pie crust shield, food processor, garlic press and olive oil dispenser to the mix and (I think) I can channel Ina or Martha. Thanks, wedding guests.
- On dieting: For about three weeks this year, right before the wedding, I committed to my first-ever diet: no dessert, no chips, no alcohol and no pasta. It. Was. Terrible. That is all.
- On dessert: I’ll take salt over sugar almost any day, which is a good thing, because following baking recipes to a T is really, really hard for me. That’s why you should indulge in desserts like candy cane Kisses. And a liiiiittle something sweet, after dinner.
- On trendy foods: If a recipe calls for liquid smoke, flake salt, sorghum or pomegranate molasses, just, no. (I’m looking at you, Lynne Rossetto Kasper). Also, I think this is the appropriate place to double down and say I think parsnips are the new kale.
- On trying new things: The Husband is a bit of a picky eater, but I’m slowly pushing the boundaries – for his taste buds and my pots and pans. This meant eating things we had never tried before, especially during our honeymoon in South Africa. This means making fish at home. Making cabbage for the first time, ever. Trying to riff on falafel, and baking my own crusts, to dubious results. Because that’s how I roll (#badpunsforlife).
- On staples: I think if I created a tag for “crushed red peppers,” it would take over the word cloud (below). Also, everything with avocado is better. And double the amount of garlic in a standard recipe. (Actually, don’t double the amount if you’re using a recipe from Chez Nous; I’ve already doubled it, obvi).
- On leftovers: More leftovers = less cooking = less money spent = more happy hours = cancels out the former.
- (Bonus round) On setting goals: For 2015, I challenge myself to: Make more parsnips. Host more dinner parties. Eat more vegetables. Experiment with making (more) fish at home. Run a 10k (not food-related, but I have always wanted to do this. Please, keep me honest.). And to keep typing away.
A very, very happy 2015!