You know, for the longest time, I’ve been an advocate of cooking seasonally, using ingredients that appear only when they’re available at farmers’ markets — because a tomato that’s in season tastes better than one that’s available in the middle of February. Most of us, when we cook, don’t give more than a second thought about when our food is available. We just give in to convenience, and then wonder why our food doesn’t live up to our expectations.
Cooking and eating what’s in season isn’t new. We have, until fairly recently in the history of the world, always eaten like this. Eat what’s in season; buy food from your farmer; cook directly from farm or garden to table. You can say that modernity is a good and necessary thing to improve one’s quality of life. That may be so, but I disagree. In terms of finding time to spend with one’s family and friends, especially with respect to cooking, eating and sharing experiences around the dinner table — I daresay that this aspect of life is in danger not just here in the U.S., but in other places around the world.
That’s why I decided to embark on The Year: to better examine the changes wrought by time; to revel in the beauty of food; and to reflect on what it means to live in the now. From a culinary point of view, I wanted to learn how to cook better, how to fully appreciate all that a season has to offer, and maybe teach myself a thing or two along the way. While I’ve never met a carbohydrate I didn’t like, I also wanted to expand my repertoire sufficiently, such that I could cook something other than rice, pasta and potatoes for dinner.
I was curious to see where my experiment would take me. I wanted to be able to see if my limits would lead me to learn new ways of cooking and thinking about food. When you’re faced with an abundance of say, corn or zucchini, the prospect of making the same old recipes quickly becomes old hat. Variety is, indeed, a spice that should exist in any kitchen cabinet.
One side effect of living this way is that I’ve become an “almost vegetarian”. While I can be a real carnivore when I want to be, most of the time I am content to go meatless. That’s a pretty interesting dichotomy, if you ask me.
I’ve put together a slideshow of meals I’ve cooked during the past year, as well as random pictures from my farmers’ market, which you can view below or by clicking here. Pasta probably makes an appearance about 40% of the time, along with innumerable salads and vegetable preparations.
In 2012, along the way, I’ve started to teach myself how to bake bread from scratch, and how to make jam and jelly (although I have yet to really dive into the basics of canning). For 2013, I want to learn how to make butter from scratch, how to make my own sea salt, ketchup and mustard. Maybe (although it’s not likely), this food blog thingy might feature more desserts. If that’s the case, I want to let it be known that I’m in the market for a fellow hobbit, elf, dwarf or Man to help consume them.
The Year of Cooking Seasonally will continue, but not just for one year or two. More likely, it will be my mantra for the remainder of my life.
There is hope that cooking shall not die a slow and lingering death; that the tradition of shared mealtimes shall not wither and dissipate; that the “new” old way of cooking re-enters our lives and continues until the end of time. I don’t know if this “new” way of cooking or thinking about food will take hold in mainstream America. Nevertheless, it’s a living dream I will continue to keep alive, for the future. It’s a shining beacon that I turn towards, in the city atop the hill.