Currently Reading: A Passion for Books by Harold Rabinowitz
I love my kitchen.
It's a tiny galley kitchen with barely any counter space but it is one of my favorite rooms in the apartment. Cooking was never my "thing" growing up; it was my sister who helped my mother make pizza dough and chop ingredients. It was never very interesting to me until I moved out and started living on my own in college. Suddenly, cooking became exciting and I looked forward to trying new recipes.
In my kitchen, I am able to express another aspect of my creativity. I savor the act of slipping my apron over my neck and rolling up my sleeves, grabbing mixing bowls and measuring cups. And with the holidays right around the corner and the semester wrapping up, I'm looking forward to all of the days I will have to spend creating in the kitchen. Lately, I have been very interested in creating homemade pantry staples, thanks to my new favorite cookbook, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. (Her blog is linked here; she is a great cook and very helpful. Both times I have emailed her with questions about yogurt firmness or cleaning my Dutch oven, she has responded within days.) Thanks to her cookbook, I blanched my first batch of corn on the cob this summer and I learned a wickedly delicious butternut squash soup recipe. Best of all, we no longer buy cereal, yogurt, canned beans, hamburger buns, or vegetable stock- I now make all of these things from scratch, which is gratifying in so many ways.
Granola cereal and yogurt
Not only do I know that we are saving money on our monthly grocery bill, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that we are putting healthier food into our mouths, without preservatives or an influx of sugars or sodium. It is thrilling and deeply soul-satisfying to cook. I agree with Alana: "the thrill is what keeps me cooking and sharing."
I am far from done with my experimentation. Cheddar crackers, fruit roll-ups, Italian salad dressing, and more are on my list. I have also found another cookbook that I will be reading over Christmas break called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, which will hopefully yield even more ideas and inspire me further to grab my kitchen tools.
While I am far from the perfect cook, it is a hobby that I have come to really love. It is relaxing (as long as I'm not rushing to put dinner on the table) and it is therapeutic. Turns out, cooking itself has a pretty fascinating history as well. Yesterday I finished the book Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson. I will never look at my kitchen gadgets the same way again. Turns out there was much I didn't think about when it came to what was in my kitchen and how the devices I take for granted- forks, fridge, oven- has had a profound impact on what we eat. The history of cooking is the history of humankind and a history of our cultures. Everything from ice cube trays to spatulas have a history, one that affected our ancestors and their survival for centuries. For instance, the invention of pots allowed humans to cook different foods together, instead of hanging individual pieces of meat or vegetables over an open flame. In addition, pots helped move us from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural one, for we finally had the means to cook the food we grew. Wilson includes discussions of how ovens have changed our relationship with fire, how the type of knives we use have contributed to human jaw's overbites, and the fear people had of refrigeration. I feel like I have a better appreciation for and a new awareness of how my tools affect my cooking. Occasionally, while reading late at night, I found myself sneaking into the kitchen just to open the cabinets and study my kitchen tools- what they're made out of, how they're shaped, and think about how much harder it would be without these devices. I truly feel that anyone who has a passion for cooking would learn so much from this book. I know that it has increased my passion and inspired me even further.
Have a great weekend! Here is a little holiday magic to start December off right!