03 May 2011

Cooking from Scratch

The Daily Mail published an article today that says British women can't cook as well as their mothers did.

The article says some women "admit" their husbands cook, making it clear that what's really at stake is the desire for women to adhere to traditional roles. And it's terribly written -- it's not clear what they think counts as "cooking a meal from scratch." Boiling eggs?

Oddly, the author writes disapprovingly of making a meal from whatever is at hand -- which is, in my opinion, an important skill if one wants to eat locally and avoid food waste.

But here you go... here's a list of a few things I can make from scratch (no cans, no freezer) without resorting to a cookbook:

Minestrone, split pea, various kinds of lentil soups. I could probably come up with a gazpacho without consulting a recipe. I can also make a chicken soup -- starting with a whole chicken with the feathers still on and the guts still inside -- but I haven't chosen to do that since around 1988.

Stir fries of various flavors and with various ingredients. Does that count as one dish, or as various dishes? I might flavor with garlic, ginger, and jalapenos, or with thai curry and coconut milk, or with sesame oil and soy sauce.

Curry. Potatoes and chick peas, spinach and dal, various other possibilities.

Breakfast foods, which sometimes get served for dinner: eggs scrambled, fried, omelette-d; pancakes (with bananas, apple sauce, flax seed, zucchini hidden inside), french toast. Do those count as "meals"?

Refried beans with rice and fried plantains and some salad, with or without tacos. Tofu fried with herbs or curry, with one or another leafy green or other vegetable, steamed or sauteed, or over salad greens. Black bean and corn salad with cilantro and lime juice. Root vegetables (beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots) roasted, steamed, mashed, or fried.

Apple pie, hot fudge sauce, apple sauce. I could make jam without a cookbook-- half fruit, half sugar, boil until it reaches the right texture when dropped on a plate -- but I usually use low-sugar pectin, and follow the instructions in the box.

I don't bake much, and when I do, I use a recipe. I've made cakes and muffins and quick breads and pies and cookies, but I don't have much patience for any of that. Mostly because I don't like to follow a recipe; I like to cook with what's fresh and in season, and make things up as I go along. I read cookbooks, but mostly for ideas.

How about you?