Tag Archives: Cooking

At My Sister’s House

For some reason my subconscious is full of dragons, and that’s all that seems to end up on my blog. But make no mistake, I love my life. I guess the following is closest to a journal entry.

 

8/14

At My Sister’s House

“Sarah’s here!” Three little voices sound off. “Sarah’s here, Sarah’s here!”

The dog comes bounding over with a smile. The kids run up to hug me, their enthusiasm just as pure.

The house is warm and comfortable. Sean keeps it clean; Jessica keeps it colorful. There is always something fragrant sauteing on the stove. On the counter are homemade pumpkin muffins, chocolate covered espresso beans, a bottle of wine.

As we cook, we make fun of her old and busted food processor. We laugh, giving it a hazing that a sentient being could not endure. She has little interest in technology; her kitchenaid mixer is the only food gadget that gets any respect. I ask her to taste my pie filling. She swipes a finger through and licks it. “More sugar,” she says. Of course she’s right.

The children pop by occasionally for hugs and samples. They’re young but these kids already know their way around a spice rack.

Friends file in. Every person brings a dish, and a story about their day. Each familiar face gives fresh warmth to my heart.

Two rules in this house: everyone gets a hug regardless of their comfort level, and they must taste everything at least once, regardless of their comfort level.

The people distract Jessica. She starts talking, gesturing, telling stories. She focuses her whole self on this, usually waving a spatula or fork instead of using it to stir. This is my time to shine: I prompt her for directions and finish up what she has started.

The craft beer and wine make everyone’s faces bright. Neighborhood kids wander through: “Did you get permission to be here? Use my phone, call your parents.” We shoo the dog out of the kitchen repeatedly, the children’s fingers must be extracted from the chocolate batter, the cat lays on the floor in the center of the chaos, unconcerned. And what a beautiful chaos it is.  We laugh until we cry. “Anybody want tea?” “Is something burning?” “Come see what we drew today!”

Usually the food gets prepared and consumed at different times, but this time, every dish is ready at once. Dishes pack the table: chocolate pie, angel food cake, roast vegetables, tacos, olive cheese toast, dip, salad, bread, cajun shrimp, cheese biscuits. We stare at the spread, impressed, unsure how to begin. “Anybody religious?” Jessica quips, hoping to give this gorgeous meal a proper sendoff. I propose a toast after our family tradition: “Good health and happiness, for the rest of our lives!” People circle the kitchen island, grab random beverages so they can join in, until everyone’s glass (bottle, cup) has tapped everyone else’s.

We eat until we can’t eat anymore. We laugh until we can eat again.

We finish our food on the porch in the evening summer air. There is a cage with two hairless rats out here; they are the subject of some snuggling and much ridicule. Careful not to pet the ball python after you pet the rats.

Things are quieting down. Guests leave. Everyone gets some leftovers to take home.

Sean and the kids put on YouTube. Jessica and I linger in the kitchen, clean up a bit, talk some more, mull over the events of the day. What were the best dishes, did that thing you cooked turn out like you expected, how is homeschooling coming along? We eventually join the TV crowd and work our way underneath the warm heap of animals and children, where we comfortably enjoy the company and let the kids show us what they’re most excited about.

At some point I must reluctantly extract myself from the couch, say my goodbyes, and drive home. But the warmth lingers in my bones. Deeper, even, than that.

Eating healthy isn’t so expensive

“Eating healthy is so expensive!”

Says the person who doesn’t cook? I don’t get it. I did a poll once of my friends and determined that some people think eating healthy means you have to do everything everyone says lately. If you can’t eat fats, starches, sugars, meats… what is there left to eat but members of the squash family, boiled? That’s not living. I think they want to live on a diet of nothing but superfoods, but man cannot afford to live on avocados alone.

I love food, so my healthy eating agenda is fairly open. Of course, I’m lucky because I have no food sensitivities except for a little psoriasis breakout when I drink too much milk. And red dye got me good once when I was a kid, so I generally avoid dyes.

These are my rules:

  • If you make it from scratch, it’s healthier
  • I mean really, make it from scratch. Tortillas, pasta, pizza, etc, are all better from scratch.
  • Try to eat less sugar
  • Try to eat less meat
  • A handful of almonds every day (I’ve noticed this makes my weak nails tear less)
  • Everything varied and in moderation
  • Lots of water, some tea or coffee

Sometimes I’m not so great with the sugar rule. Who am I kidding, I break a lot of these rules all the time. But that’s a part of moderation too, isn’t it?

My best meal for today is home-fermented kimchi (it’s not fishy and horrible at all, it’s spicy-sour and amazing), sour cream, mozzarella cheese, fresh spinach and olive oil on a baked potato. I’d take a picture but it’s ugly. I gotta start being better about taking food pictures before I eat them, but it’s so hard to remember when eating gets to happen.

This meal is pretty cheap. I love potatoes as a cheap carb/vegetable/meal. My sister Jessica decided that I’m obsessed with potatoes and even though this isn’t entirely true, I didn’t argue very hard with her, because I do like potatoes a lot.

Let me add up the price:

Kimchi sauerkraut (recipe adapted from here https://www.makesauerkraut.com/kimchi/)

  • 1 cabbage = $1
  • 1 bunch of green onions = $1
  • 1 bunch of radishes = $1
  • 2 carrots = $0.20
  • 2 inches of ginger = $0.50
  • 2 cloves garlic = $0.05
  • Pickling salt = $0.50
  • Red pepper flakes, spices = nominal
  • A week or two of waiting
  • Total: $4.25
  • One unlisted cost is that of a smelly house. I actually ruined an old nonstick pot of mine fermenting kimchi in it, the kimchi smell has permanently permeated it. I need a real fermenting crock.

Now that I figured out what the kimchi cost, let’s see what my lunch cost:

  • 1/16 of the kimchi (about ½ cup) = 0.13
  • 1/2 massive potato = $0.25
  • 3 T sour cream = $0.20
  • Handful of spinach = $0.10
  • ½ oz cheese = 0.13
  • 1 T Olive oil = $0.18
  • Total: $0.99

Okay, so it’s not Mr. Money Mustache levels of frugality but it’s about a million times yummier and more nutritious than a box dinner, which would cost three times as much, not fill you up, and make your day WORSE with its flaccid flavors. Or if you went to a restaurant, it would taste good, but you don’t really know what happened to the food back there in the kitchen while it was at the mercy of all those underpaid cooks, and you would be paying eight times as much for a damn potato.

Here’s something else to think about when moaning about the time it takes to prepare food. Thoreau explored this concept in Walden. He said in the end, everything costs close to the same. For example (and this is clearly not the example Thoreau used), you can spend $4 and 60 active minutes making a big jar of amazing kimchi tailored to your own unique tastes. Or you can work for 60 minutes at your job, gain an extra $8, and use that to purchase a really nice $12 tub of artisan kimchi of equal quality at the farmer’s market.

Humans are supposed to spend a great majority of their time collecting, preparing, storing, and eating food anyway. It’s the natural order of things.

Maybe kimchi isn’t the best example. If you really hate kimchi or cooking, you can spend $1 on a meal at Taco Bell, then you can use the other $3 to buy a gallon of gasoline and a lighter, and set yourself on fire. But you’ll have used up all your time doing a different stupid thing. One of the joys of modern civilization is that we have the luxury of wasting our time doing whatever stupid things we wish.

IMG_20180718_130836049 (1)

Ham.

Okay, smoking food is the best thing ever. You play with fire, then you sit in the shade and drink lemonade and read a book for hours, with occasional breaks to play with the fire again. When you’re done, you have a beautiful meal.

I did not know this. I’ve only ever smoked a few things before, all of them small. But today I am smoking a ham.

Ham. This usually doesn’t sound good but one I’ve wet cured and smoked myself? Oh mama, it’s gonna be good. It takes hours.

My lemonade is all gone. The flies are landing on me. I’ve forgotten how to blink.

Haaaaam.

 

IMG_20180708_153446363.jpg