Yesterday’s post on hospitality actually started out as a foodie post. On Tuesday, as we have done so often since the week my husband brought me home as a blushing bride, we gamed. And as we have since that August of 2000, I made dinner for the gamers.
When I first got married, I couldn’t cook. I was both proud and defensive of this fact. I recall joking at our nuptials that I picked my husband so he could cook for me. This was entirely untrue. I really picked him so that I’d have someone else to get up with the kids in the morning. Anyway, suffice it to say, I had very little practical experience in the kitchen. My first job out of college was as a telecommuting programmer. Ah, 2000! What a time you were! This left me home alone a lot, with practically no responsibilities. Out of boredom and cheapness, I started cooking. The weekly arrival of other people at a game provided a motive and opportunity for me.
Looking back on those early meals, I flinch. I recall one attempt at alfredo where a guest pithily asked if I had just poured a jar of mayonnaise over some noodles. I couldn’t blame him for wondering. But gradually, I got better.
I now have an extensive collection of well-thumbed cookbooks and collected favorite recipes. I have fallen head-over-heels for America’s Test Kitchen and everything they’ve ever written. Their Best 30 Minute Recipes was an exceptional find for my lifestyle. (Note: Just plan on buying fresh thyme every time you go grocery shopping.)
I’ve branched out from those early days. I specialized then in, er, mostly cheap meat slowcooked for long enough that you didn’t notice it was cheap since non-cheap meat can’t stand up to that sort of treatment. I still almost never serve dishes where a cut of meat stands alone. I’ve come to revel in the breadth and depth of casseroles — the housewife’s delight. I also make a lot of soups, that go delightfully with the chewy no-knead bread my husband makes once or twice a week.
Tuesday night was a culinary masterpiece (in addition to a role-playing gem). I made this Pork and Prune dish from the 30 minute recipe book. It sounds… unlikely. I would not have eaten it 10 years ago. I would not have made it 5 years ago. It was gobsmackingly good. Even Grey offered a hesitant compliment. (It was so good I have every intention of making it again tonight. Yum!)
A while ago I served a meal to my family and looked at what was on the table:
Main dish: home made from scratch
Bread: Adam’s no-knead whole wheat bread
Butter: produced from Grey’s whipping cream experiment
Jam: the plum I put down this summer
Veggie: from the farmshare
Stepping back to look at it, I marveled. How did I end up being this and doing this? I survived entirely on pizza pockets my senior year of high school. When did I decide that food was so important? I don’t have time to read books for fun, but I produce 3 – 4 meals a week that would’ve been past my ten-years-ago best effort. I make my own jam. We almost always have home made bread on hand. I have a jar of homemade pomegranate molasses in the fridge, and recipes to use it in. My slowcooker gets more use than my Wii.
I’ve started to wonder what role this all plays in my identification of myself. For example, I don’t consider myself a foodie. This could be because I don’t know what a foodie is, but I do know that I still enjoy Arby’s and Pizza Hut on rare occasions, and therefore I can’t be one. I seek novelty in the dishes I eat and serve, but I am by nature a novelty-seeker. (It took my FOREVER to realize that not everyone was.) I take pride in what I serve guests, and am glad to see my sons eating what I cook. On the other hand, once every week or two I look with despair at my recalcitrant 4 year old and food-tossing baby and wonder, “Why the heck did I put this much energy into feeding THEM this tasty stuff?” Or worse, I get knocked back significantly when a recipe doesn’t work out, especially when I’ve invested heavily in making it. And obviously, not all recipes work out.
What do you think makes a “foodie”? How do you feed yourself or your family? Do you eat out? Have prepackaged meals? Do you cook simple things? How often do you cook complex things? Is it the same stuff regularly, or do you love branching out? What’s your favorite source for new recipes? I’m not sure I know what “normal” is for feeding a family!