Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Artful Cook
I learned tmany things about cooking from my father. It was a double whammy—he was a cook when he was in the Army, stationed in Okinawa AND he grew up during the Depression. So, he never wasted anything, knew how to make something out of nothing, and whatever he made, he made a LOT of it! Combine those two lessons with my career as an artist and teacher—this is how I cook!
My kitchen has to be well-stocked, like my art classroom. I don't plan so much for specific recipes as I do for general cooking because I never know what creative thing I'll feel inspired to do next. And heaven help anyone who helps themselves and uses something up without replacing it or writing it down on the grocery list!
I don't particularly enjoy grocery shopping. The aisles are crowded, unhappy children are screaming, and confused customers stand in the middle of the aisle, blocking it, while they read labels! I brave Trader Joe's every six weeks or so and stock up on all my basics—and I have one rule: always try something new! Here I lay in my supplies of organic potatoes and onions, olive and canola oil, balsamic vinegar, nuts, bread, eggs, etc. In the warm months, I go to the Farmer's Market every week, if I can. I base my meals around whatever fresh vegetables I can find, and sometimes I get carried away, because I LOVE the Farmer's Market, and buy too much! Then I not only have to make regular meals, but I also have to deal with the extra veggies that might be close to spoiling. That's when I make things for the freezer.
To me, cooking is like creating art. All of the elements—the color, texture, taste, and combination of ingredients come together to make an attractive and appetizing dish—whether it's a casserole, salad, cake, etc. The other component, especially these days, is thrift. Take this summer, for example—Hurricane Irene pelted my tomato patch and so many of the fruits were pockmarked and damaged and knocked off the vines. I collected the least ruined fruit in a brown grocery bag. Every few days, I check the tomatoes and take out the ripest ones or any that have begun to spoil. Some just developed brown speckles, and I knew I should use them right away, but in what?
So, since cooking is also a kind of art for me, I will share a few of my recipes here from time to time, so stay tuned!