Thursday, February 12, 2009

Alice's Fundamental Guidelines for Eating Wonderfully...

"The fact is that it takes more than ingredients and techniques to cook a good meal. A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation-- he cooks with enjoyment, anticipation, spontaneity, and he is willing to experiment." ~ Pearl Bailey

I was browsing through some of my cookbooks yesterday evening, looking for ideas and just enjoying myself, when I ran across something written by the almost-legendary American food revolutionary, Alice Waters, in her good cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. It's her list of fundamental guidelines for eating wonderfully. I always enjoy this kind of thing, so here's Alice's list and a few quickly written comments by me on each point:

1. Eat locally and sustainably.

I really do work at this. I'm on the Oregon coast right now, as anyone who has read my blog in recent weeks knows, and, thanks to relatives who love to catch and grow their own food, I've recently enjoyed fresh-caught fish, crab, and clams. I also sometimes stop by a fish shop in a little fishing village for salmon or some kind of white fish (I like snapper). I've gotten the best smoked (in house) tuna there-- oh, yum! But I don't eat loads of meat, so I mostly shop for food at the local natural foods co-op. I buy lots of organic produce! Also, I enjoy berries and peaches from my mom's freezer-- all from not-too-far-away in Oregon (the northwest is something of a fruit and berry heaven), picked ripe, organic, and in season. The Berry Bible was written by a someone from Portland (Oregon). Need I say more? :-)

2. Eat seasonally.

Oh, yes. I'm eating lots of oranges and citrus and consuming what should be, before long, a waning supply of root vegetables and winter squash. I do try to eat mostly seasonally. I certainly don't buy fresh strawberries or peaches in early February. I wait until spring to consume asparagus. I prefer not to touch anything larger than a cherry tomato in the winter. It's worth waiting for those wonderful heirloom tomatoes to show up in farmers' markets in August. Seasonal foods taste better, they're more nutritious, and they cost less. It just makes sense to eat this way, doesn't it?

3. Shop at farmers' markets.

As soon as they open, I'm there! I love farmers' markets. And I love the CSA program I've taken part every year it's been available in my home town. We don't live in an area with year-round farmers' markets, so I buy my produce in local natural foods co-ops. Sometimes I'll buy something in a larger grocery store, but I do like to support local, small businesses, and, since I'm able, I'm willing to pay more for what I buy at the co-op. The quality is much, much better anyway.

4. Plant a garden.

I haven't had a vegetable garden in a while (that's always been my husband's thing), but I've been growing herbs for a lot of years, and I do love snipping fresh herbs to use in my cooking. My herb garden is plain and simple-- a small fenced garden with three raised beds-- but I really enjoy it.

5. Conserve, compost, and recycle.

At home, I do all three. I try to be frugal in my food spending, but I also spend enough money to eat in a way that I think is healthy. I have no doubt that my way of eating has significantly improved my health, so I consider the food I buy to be something of an investment. At the same time, I'm currently trying to conserve in every way, including my food spending. I'm trying to eat less and to eat more frugally, yet to eat very well. I'm also trying not to waste a single thing, an area where I am improving but have not yet completely succeeded. I used to almost make a game of seeing how little I could put into my garbage cans each week. I do what I can here at Mom's house, and when I return home, I'll resume my own particular focus on this.

6. Cook simply.

I do. I love to cook. I love good, fresh, vibrant-tasting foods, and I don't want the preparation to be complicated or time-consuming.

"In cooking, as in all arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." ~Curnonsky

7. Cook together.

Nothing is more fun than sharing the kitchen with others who love to cook, especially when their food philosophy is the same as mine. So, when I'm at my sisters' homes, I always enjoy cooking with them. We talk all about food and eating as we cook. We split tasks-- "Here, you make the salad, and mix some kind of vinaigrette while I chop these vegetables for roasting." "What shall we put in the salad?" "Shall we do something with this winter squash?" "What else shall we make?"

My girls are really fun to share the kitchen with, too. They eat like me, and they are all excellent cooks who inspire me. Aaron is quite a good cook, too, but he tends to go solo. We all talk about food, cookbooks, cooking supplies, health and nutrition, restaurants, ingredients, and good eating over the phone.

8. Eat together.

Yes! At home we always, always do, even if there are just two of us. We sit and eat and talk and talk. In winter, I usually put candles on the table, no matter how casual our meal. Food is nourishment, but it is also a very communal thing, so I believe in lingering round the table. People open up around food. An old Bible study group of mine had a potluck every week before our study, and, without a doubt, it improved the dynamics of the group and made the study better.

9. Remember food is precious.

I do remember this, and every single day I send up thanks to the Lord for His blessings. I realize how very rich I am not only to have food on my table, but to be able to eat essentially whatever I want. It is a gift. And wherever we live, there is something special that grows there. And the closer to the source you purchase your food, the better it usually tastes, so enjoy!. It's very good to appreciate and those particular gifts. Are you well acquainted with your local and regional foods?

10. Alice didn't have a number 10 on her list.

She stopped at nine. Doesn't Alice realize that all lists must have ten points or they don't count?! What should number ten be...?