Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mixed Plate: Just Keep Cooking

I think back on why I started blogging. It's no different from most folks -- it was an escape from the general malaise of daily life, the endless cubicle grind that was threatening to suck the soul-marrow from my very soul-bones, if that's possible. It wasn't even about wanting to write about food, I just wanted to have A Blog About (Fill in the Blank). I chose food for two reasons -- a thoroughly enjoyable reading of Julie and Julia was still fresh in my mind, and it's something we interact with every day. Be you sinewy-thin Angelina Jolie's now-famous spindly leg or a competitive eater that downs two hundred hot dogs in under ten minutes -- we gotta eat. We deal with food on a daily basis, so why not focus on a topic with endless source material? I was reminded of this while I was standing over the stove for yet another quick-fix midweek meal. It wasn't a special occasion. It wasn't something I slaved over with hard-won rare ingredients. It was just... well, dinner. But maybe that's the point of this blog, to Just Keep Cooking.

Sometimes you just want noodles - Photo by Wasabi Prime
 It's all about the food, I have to remind myself. Not fancy, not drive-thru, not trendy restaurants or celeb chefs, just food, in the what-have-you contextual wrapper it comes in. Whatever shows up on the plate can be such an indication of what kind of a day it was. It's like an edible journal, or maybe an unhealthy emotional relationship with food. Whatevah. Blogs reflect so much of where we are in our lives and for myself, it's a lot of at-home meals. It's practical, cost-effective, and given the price of gas these days (when the price goes over $5 a gallon, watchout, it's apocalypse time), it's easier than schlepping around from city to city, tracking down something new to try. As homebody as it sounds, I like having dinner under my own roof. Cooking helps me disengage from the workday, which is a must. We've been sticking with our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box of vegetables that arrive every other week, and that's really been driving our meals. It's a kitchen adventure because with the opening of every box, I feel the rusty cogs and wheels of my noggin starting to turn, planning ways to use everything up and hopefully attempt something new.

Just try something new, you might like it - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I've figured out my own ramen broth. I roast squash semi-regularly and keep it handy for pureeing into soups. I actually like beets. And I've made more pies in the last year or two than my whole life combined. That's what the CSA delivery has provided. Results will vary of course, I don't know what other people get from their Magical Mystery Box of Veggies/Fruit, but I'm guessing it's a similar challenge of figuring out ways to integrate the household meals around -- as Brad Pitt in Seven would say: What's in the boooooooox?! Having the blog as a repository to put all these random dishes is a nice compendium of ideas to remind myself that Tim Gunn was spot-on: make it work

Giving the wok a weekly workout (say that three times fast) - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Making it work can also mean a mofo f-ton of stir frys. Drag out the wok, see what's left of the vegetables, make sure there's some tofu or some sort of meat in the fridge (or not) and throw everything together. Depending on my mood, peanuts, coconut milk and/or peanut butter is added. It's a crapshoot every time. I feel a little guilty I make it so often and continue to post it, but then I think -- well, why the hell not? I'm not Martha Freaking Stewart. Most people have a half hour, maybe an hour, to prepare a meal during the week. Despite a self-regulated schedule, I'm no different than anyone else, and the point of celebrating food is the ability to enjoy it, both cooking and the eating. The biggest enemy is always time. Or to the point, not having enough of it. I've spent enough nights hovering over the stove and oven, preparing multiple courses, making a pile of dirty dishes, and when I can sit to enjoy this feast, the impending cleanup is the only thing nagging my mind. Food becomes drudgery, a chore. You start resenting what's on the plate, and it starts a backslide that convinces you that something in a styrofoam container is easier and therefore better. The Zen of fast food: if no one sees you get takeout greasy burgers and fries more than three times a week, it doesn't exist, right? I get tempted by this, the lure of pizza is a cruel siren, but somehow a little angel that looks like a nagging Asian Tiger Mom sits on my shoulder and says it's no more work to just cook up something fast in a wok, don't be so lazy. And remember to practice your math and play the violin for at least three hours after dinner. So "yay" to Stir Fry -- food guilt, absolved.
Carb cravings addressed regularly, in the comfort of home - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Most meals just aren't worth blogging about. They're not bad, it's just something everyone's already seen. More times than not, I'm making breakfast for dinner, putting eggs on everything and I've got a skillet staring back at me that looks like Wall-E or possibly Gollum as he's melting away in Mount Doom. Creepy. But browsing through random photos from my camera or phone made me realize that it's okay, as long as something's always cooking. Whether you realize it or not, you probably learn a little something new with everything you make -- a way of using a new ingredient or just getting better with something you already know. Cooking for yourself is a means of independence. So, just keep cooking, kids. And when in doubt, put an egg on it.

Wall-E agrees, eggs for every meal! - Photos by Wasabi Prime (Wall-E by Disney of course)


  1. Cracking up because the wok has become my best friend since returning from Thailand. So easy, so healthy and sooo good! (Although I did give in to pizza earlier this week.)

    P.S. Your photos are making me hungry again - stop that already!

    1. Loved your Thailand post -- gotta keep it real when you travel! Our CSA delivery came in today - stir fry city this whole weekend.

    2. Why is it pizza is the one meal that is always the best to cheat with?

    3. Yes! Just keep cooking. I agree. I was out of white flour last night and made a roux with whole wheat. It was surprising to me that a bechamel made with whole wheat could be as good - these small discoveries keep cooking interesting to me.


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