April 29, 2010

What can you do with a picky eater?

I was kind of a picky eater as a child, I admit it. I didn't like onions or mushrooms, particularly, and the trauma associated with green beans, yellow beans, and peas (which were always canned, until they were available frozen) took the better part of forty years to get over. I mean it; it's really only within the last twelve months that I've approached green beans with anything other than fear and loathing, and even then, I'll only speak to fresh ones. I don't even know if they still make canned green beans. I hope not.

I liked roast pork, but not pork chops (though that might have had something to do with the mushroom-soup sauce my mother insisted on overcooking them in), and I liked everything to do with beef - including liver - except the tongue roast my mother tried to slide in under the radar that one time. I liked lamb any way I could get it, but didn't like any kind of fish except salmon. And we ate a lot of bland, baked white fish (cod, halibut, sole) because my dad had an ulcer, and we were still 30 years away from identifying heliobacter pylori as the cause for all the pain, and were still treating them with bland food and milk to drink.

But that was all when I was a kid. I grew up, and so did my tastebuds, and I learned to appreciate the onion's contribution to flavour, the mushroom's fantastic adaptability and variety, and even the taste and texture of a properly cooked fresh green bean. I like all kinds of things now that I didn't then. Exceptions include kidney (as in steak and kidney pie), canned or frozen beans or peas, and bland white fish. I kind of fell in love the first time I tasted broccoli; I was fifteen, and at a friend's house for dinner. And I fell in love again with cauliflower.

Fifteen years ago or so, I fell in love with another human. And I married him. And I slowly discovered that I'd married an eater whose pickiness put my own childhood aversions in the shade. I am reminded of this because I've been surfing cooking websites, finding recipes that sound fantastic to me, but that contain one or more ingredients that would put My Beloved right off his feed. The first to fall were broccoli and cauliflower, followed quickly by Brussels sprouts; any kind of chicken on the bone, other than wings; any chicken other than breast meat; turkey in all its forms, unless it's Christmas dinner, and then only the one meal; any kind of squash, summer or winter; cucumbers; pretty much all fruit unless it's in a fruit salad or over ice cream; goat's milk and its products; avocado in any form except inside a California roll; spinach, unless it's in things like lasagna; eggs unless it's breakfast time; chickpeas... the list grows every time I whip something new on him.

Between his vegetable aversions and my previous aversion to beans, the only green non-leafy vegetable we agreed on, for several years, was asparagus.Which can be horribly expensive, even in season.

He surprised me last night by actually liking the couscous we had with dinner. I'm not sure he's ever had it before, but it turned out well, and he said he enjoyed it. Thank goodness that's one for the "like" list; it makes up for the nose-wrinkling about the chicken thighs (which were at least boneless and skinless anyway). He ate the chicken because he thought I'd be upset if he didn't (I think he confused me with his mother for a minute there), but even though the one thigh he ate was tiny, he didn't want to finish the last one.

April 28, 2010

Success: Chicken with Rosemary Vegetables

I am not an imaginative cook. I quite often don't even know what I have in the fridge, the freezer, the pantry, and even if I did, I've never been the kind of person who can pull up a mental picture of the contents of those food storage areas, and think "well, if I pick up some couscous and some rosemary, there's an awesome dinner in the offing!" To stretch my cooking chops outside my half-dozen easy peasy quickie meals, I need some guidance, some suggestions, a list, a recipe, and preferably a photograph to show me what's possible.

Shortly after I resolved to cook more of our meals, there was a post on Lifehacker about NoTakeOut.com, whose mandate seemed to suit mine admirably. So I subscribed, and I read and saved all the daily emails, and today I finally used one of the recipes. To wit: Chicken with Rosemary Vegetables.

All I needed to buy was the couscous and the fresh rosemary (note to self: plant some!); I even had a suitable bottle of red plonk at home. Whole Foods didn't have "instant couscous" so I bought their ordinary (bulk) couscous, and it might as well have been instant. (Is there anything in the world easier to make than couscous? It's brilliantly simple.) I also used boneless/skinless thighs, because that's what we had in the freezer.  It was quick, it was tasty (even though I forgot to season the chicken with salt and pepper, because S was bustling about, distracting me), and there's enough left over for lunch.

And so it begins

In early 2010, the (not very original) realization dawned on me that, if I wanted to be more in control of what I eat, that I need to cook more of it.

At about the same time, I read (in rapid succession) three of Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules, which opened my eyes to a number of things, and stiffened my resolve to be more in control of what goes in my mouth. (I highly recommend all these books, by the way.)

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a freezer pack (30 lbs) of pastured, grass-fed beef from a local farm. I also researched pastured chicken (for meat and for and eggs) and pork, and found a local market where I can get them. We'll get the beef at the end of June, and we'll get a couple of pounds each of various kinds of steaks and roasts, plus a few pounds of ground beef and a few of cubed beef. My husband, Simon, is looking forward to steaks on the barbecue. Here's hoping the weather is good.

Anyway, my plan for this blog is to document our process, narratively and photographically. Comments, feedback, recommendations and commiseration all welcome.