Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Joyless Cooking... That Can't Be Good.

On the food theme, i read an interesting article over on one of my favourite blogs Root Simple last week, do click the link and have a read. It was discussing narrowing down the range of food we cook to make shopping, store cupboards and home grown crops more harmonious. This way ingredients would work together better and leftovers can easily become something new. It also talks about planning meals for the week, but with some degree of flexibility within that structure.

I really need to take some of this on board. I can't even begin to tell you how bored i am with the whole notion of family cooking these days. I dread figuring out "what's for dinner?" I used to love cooking, but once the kids were added to the mix, the joy soon got sucked away. From hating the double meal shift when they were babies and dreaming of when we all could just eat the one meal. well, they're 6 and 7 now and i still dream of that! I have the added benefit of Jakki having lost her sense of smell/taste since having the kids/moving into the house (we can't tell which was the factor?!). Anyway, i try the one meal fits all, but all i get is the kids complaining as i cook and worse once it hits the table, along with Jakki telling me "well, it looks nice", but can't actually taste anything (bless her). So, what's the point? Add to this the daily standing in the kitchen wondering what to make and then heading to the shops and standing in the aisle still wondering what to make. Seriously i lose the will to live some days!! : ) ...i think i'm kidding.

I'm going to try fixing meals to days. I think Jakki thinks it will be boring to just keep having the same meals on rotation, but i think it's just good sense. We'd waste far less food, i wouldn't need store cupboards covering so many possibilities (Indian, Thai, Italian, Greek Mexican etc) and i'd save myself the painful kitchen 360's i constantly turn as my brain wanders aimlessly over what will cause me the least grief. Who would guess food could have got so complicated? I can't actually remember the last thing i cooked that i actually really, really wanted to eat.
I'd love any comments/ideas too. I can't buy a comment these days... well, apart from a very small few (thanks you few!)


  1. I went through sort of the same thing last year. My daughter is a strict vegetarian and added to that an intolerance for dairy. Gerry developed stomach issues and could basically eat applesauce, and there is me, I will eat most anything. So cooking became drudgery for me. Then I started just preparing whole foods with good seasoning. I go to the farmers market or the grocery and only shop the fruits and veggies. We have a rice, pasta or a bean with veggies and fruit every night. Same veggies but presented on a bed of rice, added to pasta, wrapped in a tortilla or eaten with naan. life is much simpler this way. I used to try these elaborate recipes and then no one would like them or they would upset someone's tummy. Now we eat healthy and everyone is happy. Even if Jacki can't smell or taste she needs good nutrition, poor girl.
    My favorite way to cook now is to just pull out the veggies from the frig, chop them up and throw them into some olive oil with a little siracha or curry, cilantro or other herbs, easy as pie! Get the kids to help chop the veggies. Wes and I started preparing meals together after I stopped trying to follow mind boggling recipes and it is so pleasant to have her beside me, talking and chopping and she is proud of the meal she helped prepare....
    off to check out the blog now

  2. That sounds good Tracey. It's how i used to cook when i was watching the pennies more as a student and for years after. Same veggies as soups, or as a chilli, sweet & sour, pasta etc, simple and everything got used. Not a fridge full of use by dates (which i'm flexible on, but not the rest of the house!) I think the notion of soup as a meal sends a chill through my family... I love a good hearty soup, or a nice light summer one. I just need to assert my will i think. Thanks Tracey.

  3. when you posed this idea to me the other day, i said it sounded like a good one and we should try it! i'm game honey… bring it on. x

  4. You might like these

  5. Thanks Tracey. I'll look that over.

  6. One thing is clear, you absolutely HAVE to keep it simple, as otherwise you'll resent all the time spent sourcing foods and worrying about recipes.

    The veg route is great, especially when good things are in season. A big bowl of new potatoes… they're still about… tossed with a simple olive oil/vinegar/mustard/runny-honey vinaigrette (Chuck the vinaigrette ingredients in a clean jam-jar, screw on the lid and shake furiously until amalgamated) is a delicious by itself. Good French-stick brushed with olive oil, rubbed with a garlic clove and then topped with seasoned smashed tomatoes and a pinch of whatever herbs are available, takes minutes and is fantastically tasty.

    I make pasta with frozen peas, dressed with vinaigrette and my secret, non-dairy savoury stand-by, great for cutting back on the usual cheese. (OK, I'll tell you the secret, but if you share it I'll have to hunt you down and kill you!)

    Take a couple of handfuls of walnut pieces and whatever other mixed seeds you have to hand. (You can use any nuts, but I like walnuts best.) Pop the nut/seed mix in an extremely lightly oiled frying-pan… three drops of olive oil rubbed around with the fingers to thinly coat… and put over a high heat. Keep stirring until everything begins to brown slightly, giving off a lovely smell. Take off the heat. Pour over soy sauce while stirring furiously with a wooden spoon. The soy will sizzle and steam on the hot pan and nuts, and you need to work fast to get the nut mix coated. The result will feel slightly sticky. Dump in a bowl to cool. If the nuts and seeds have clumped together, you can crumble them up with your fingers when cool. I use this mix sprinkled over everything from simple vinaigrette-dressed pasta with peas, to steaming bowls of broccoli and cauliflower florets and roasted tomatoes. Tip: even the cheapest and most boring supermarket cherry tomatoes are rendered delicious if slow roasted at a low heat in the oven. Great trick.

    Many rural Spanish, French and Italian dishes are simple and yet wonderful tasty. Fresh herbs torn up and added to salads enliven things in season. I slow roast onions in their skins. When scorched on the outside, they're yielding to the touch. I open them up, scoop out the sweet, caramelising flesh, and mix it with salad leaves and slow roast tomatoes. You can have this as it is, or eat with crusty French-stick or any good bread for a heartier meal.

    I could go on, but I'd be here for hours. Good, fresh veg are the basis of our cookery here, summer and winter according to what's in season. The more more you work with them, the more ideas will come to you. Try colcannon, a 'cake' of cooked potato and steamed greens… usually shredded cabbage or kale… fried on both sides in an oiled non-stick pan. Butter enriches the mix, but you could use olive oil or even purchased or home-made mayonnaise to add a little more punch. Serve with piccalilli or any good relish.

    I'm getting hungry.

    1. Hey, Clive--fun to hear a description of your approach! I know the results are tasty... As a mother of three, one of whom would eat absolutely anything, cooked or raw, and two of whom were unbearably picky, I do have one thing to add for Scott. (My husband is the dinner cook at my house, too.) Cook what you enjoy for you and your wife (I hope her sense of taste comes back--I have a friend whose sense of taste left and then began to return about four years later), and make the boring part for your children. Keep trying to introduce them to new things, but don't worry about it. We went through periods where the freezer was full of already-cooked food for the picky ones--pancakes, simple taco filling, hamburgers, etc. Mine were picky enough that only certain veggies and fruits were acceptable, and so that became routine as well. We would microwave the pre-cooked part of the meal and usually any addition to it was easy to slap together. It would have been lovely if all five of us could have eaten the same meal, but pre-cooking was good--we weren't always organized on this front, but when we were, it worked well. Three of us had marvelous meals, and the other two had the boring ones they desired... without anybody getting upset about what was for dinner.

      Enjoyed tumbling into your blog and looking around!

  7. Hi Clive, thank you for taking the time for such a thoughtful and generous comment. I knew there was a reason why i blindly keep this blog going. You just can't get this kind of connected interaction elsewhere on the web. Everything you mentioned made sense and sounded absolutely delicious, i shall be trying them out... especially that 'secret' recipe tonight! shhhhh.
    You always take time to offer advice and kind words and i always seem to be in a dash when i drop by your wonderful blog. I need to readdress that balance. Thanks again Clive.

    Marly, it's lovely to have you drop by the blog. I think that's a good starting plan, so at least i get to make what i want for myself... and hope along the way that the kids show some interest! They can hopefully see these things i'm making and over the weeks think "actually, i'd rather try some of that than eat these burgers again". I can hope!
    Appreciate your words and you taking the time to share them. thanks.