Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cooking Joy

Several people I know are skilled at carpentry, metalwork, sewing, and other constructive arts. Just about the only thing I know how to make from raw materials is dinner.

Early evenings, I love to close my laptop, turn on NPR, and cook. Whatever I find outside has first priority; second is what’s fresh from the nearby farmer’s market, or the organic grocery. I choose local to encourage farming infrastructure and local prosperity, and organic to avoid poisoning farm workers. When fresh vegetables are not available I use what we canned or froze last fall, foods untouched by corporate hands.

This week: vegetable soup with green beans and tomatoes from last summer’s garden; Indian chickpeas from garbanzos frozen last fall; vegetarian tamales with last year’s jalapenos and cherry tomatoes, and fresh spinach and spring onions; roasted vegetables including garden asparagus and organic sweet potatoes; salads of garden kale and spinach and new lettuce. At table we say grace over the dishes, their ingredients, and the friends who helped supply them.

Last night, listening to All Things Considered: broccoli-cheese souffle of farmer’s market eggs, last year’s broccoli, and milk, flour, butter, cheddar cheese, all local. And an amazing tomato chipotle soup: saute onions and garlic; add canned tomatoes and almond butter (the recipe said roasted pecans, which would have been exquisite if I had some), and half a chipotle pepper. Hit it with a hand blender. Add last year’s corn. I wish you could taste it. It all took about an hour.

Last summer a friend introduced me to a woman who had turned her corner lot into an edible Eden, outlined in strawberries and sweet potatoes. When I sat down, her two chickens climbed into my lap. She inspired me to mix more foods into our own flowerbeds (see Monday's post on apples, berries, greens, and herbs). I also learned that the daylilies that keep expanding are edible, as are the redbud blooms. Each adventure invites another.

Some call cooking work. I call it creativity. Eating out is fun sometimes, but most restaurant fare is not worth the losses to pocketbook, principles, and diet. Prefab grocery store meals in boxes, cans, and frozen trays are high in price, packaging, salt, corn, and unpronounceable substances. Cooking makes us stronger: healthier, aesthetically richer, calmer, more accomplished. It’s one of our most reliable introductions to our own community, both its people and its plants. Through daily food choices, we vote for the future we desire.

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