Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Meme: Five cooking challenges for 2006

Oh, goody, a meme! Crazy Gaijin of Cooking in Japan (aka Nihon no Ryori) tagged me with this one, which provided a lot of food for thought. In December 2004 (yikes, has it already been that long?!), I blogged some food-related resolutions for 2005 (intermittently kept), but this year I hadn’t really thought about it. Well, now I have.

1. Make every dinner a dish worth savoring. Every dinner, even those workaday weekday dinners: in fact, especially those dinners. It’s understandable to take the path of least resistance, especially when tired or stressed out from work (which seems to be my normal state of mind these days, alas). But opting for routine in those situations leads you down the slippery slope. At those tired or stressful times, one simple way to make yourself feel better is to fix yourself a special meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy-special or time-consuming-special; it just needs to be something that requires a little bit of thought and care, or maybe just some Zen time chopping garlic or onions without thinking. Falling into routine is a way of turning off the things that make you happy by seeking refuge in the overly familiar. Making a special meal is a way of saying yes to the things that make you happy. Saying yes to those things always makes life better, but it’s often surprisingly difficult to do.

2. Eat more vegetarian meals. Asian cuisines are well-adapted to those seeking a vegetarian diet; if you want to make a stir-fry with no meat, it’s pretty easy to do. For a carnivore, I eat vegetarian more than I would expect, without trying too hard. It would be worth it to push that envelope a little further.

3. Away from the general toward the specific: I want to learn how to make Swedish meatballs.

4. Another specific challenge: use my bamboo steamer.

5. Finally, Asian telephone. This idea struck me as I was toying with this meme, and I loved it immediately. Cook an Asian meal, any Asian meal. Then take one ingredient from that meal and cook another Asian meal, from a different country or culture’s cuisine. Continue ad lib and see where you end up. I think the seed for this one may have been planted by Hot Sour Salty Sweet, which is a great book about regional cooking in southeast Asia. The book does an excellent job of showing the similarities and differences in the cooking of the different peoples who call the Mekong River area their home. Sure, I already have recipes for pad Thai and beef pho and Chiang Mai noodles, but Hot Sour Salty Sweet gives a deeper context than many cookbooks.

Oh, gosh, now I need to tag some folks.

Gluten-free Girl


Easily Pleased said...

whoa! that Asian telephone meal is a great idea. i think i kinda do that anyway,you know, with repeat ingredients. maybe there's a way to reverse it and do like, a thing where you have to use a new Asian ingredient in every meal for 7 days or something... :)

love your blog!

Winslow said...

Hi Easily Pleased,

Thanks for stopping by! The reverse of Asian telephone is an interesting idea, too; my problem is I usually cook enough for a meal that I have leftovers the next night or two. I would have to revamp my portion sizes or just take out about half and freeze it for later consumption. I guess you could also expand it into something like "Around the World in 80 Days": 80 meals, 80 different special ingredients from 80 different cusines. Now THAT would be a challenge.

I just stopped by your blog and enjoyed it, too, particularly the biscuity cereal taste test (Perfect Tommy has a thing for Frosted Mini Wheats, so I drew his attention to it). Like you, I'm easily pleased yet often picky. My friend The Dancer is a freestyle cook, too, and I guess I'm going more in that direction as I get more cooking experience under my belt.