Cooking is something I really started getting interested in when I was living in Saudi Arabia. It may have started with my desire to make some of the amazing flat breads and hummus I was eating at the time. It’s also where I first started flirting with eating more like a vegetarian, inspired by a friend I met in Oman. I started experimenting more and more with grain and vegetable based meals and continue to do so. Cooking remains an activity that brings me a great deal of joy and since it’s my most expensive category of spending each month, I thought I would share with you guys some of the things that are cooked in The Stoic’s Kitchen.
One of my favorite appliances in the kitchen is the slow cooker. This thing is amazing and this makes my second winter of using it to make soups, stews, and chili. It’s very versatile and I’m looking forward to learning more ways of implementing it in my meal preparation.
This is the first winter I started storing some of my food. I’ve always prepared meals and put the leftovers in the fridge and would eat them over the next few days. Cooking many of my meals in the slow cooker gave me plenty more than I wanted to eat as leftovers so I started taking the extras and freezing them. Now, I have plenty of food that is already prepared and simply needs to be thawed and heated. It has really helped during the times I didn’t feel like cooking a proper meal. Batch cooking like this, especially in the winter, is one way I plan on establishing a more sustainable way of eating. With the cold weather we’ve had this week I took advantage of the indoor time to make up a batch of potato soup and chili. I’ll keep a few servings of each to eat on over the next few days and the rest will be frozen for whenever I’m ready for them. Using the slow cooker this way and freezing a variety of meals means I have plenty of choice in preparing a good meal with little effort other than thawing and heating.
My cooking has evolved over the years. When I first started out I couldn’t make anything without a recipe, but like most things, the more time and consistency I put forth the better I became, I’ll still go by a recipe sometimes, but I’ll swap out ingredients or add others depending on what I have available and what I can change to make it my own. I like to experiment a lot as well, which I’ve been doing quite a bit lately with casseroles. There are endless combinations of which you can base a casserole on and the more I play with them the closer I come to having one that reflects my tastes.
Most of what I make in the kitchen isn’t processed. I use mostly fresh ingredients and you won’t find any frozen meals or boxed dinners lying around. I haven’t completely freed myself from using the convenience of some processing, things like canned tomatoes for example, but I’m trying to get away from it as much as possible. I hope this year to be able to grow a garden consisting of the things I use most and preserve some of them for the winter months. This is a whole new element to my cooking that I’m really looking forward to. The thought of having some garden fresh ingredients to use in my meals is very appealing.
Cooking with more natural ingredients goes well with my desire to interact with the Natural world on a more personal level. Cooking with food that comes out of a box, can, or has been processed some other way is deeply impersonal compared to the hands on feel you get when prepping fresh ingredients for homemade meals. Cooking with fresh foods reminds me of how much I’m dependent on the natural world for not just my survival, but my thriving. It’s easy to forget this and to give credit entirely to the systems that man has created to add convenience to one of our most natural urges; feeding ourselves. I would argue that we pay a greater price than what we give at the cash register when we forget our connection to the natural world and how much we depend on it for our well-being.
I would like to conclude by sharing with you one of the most enjoyable aspects of cooking and that’s the process itself. Cooking allows me to be completely in the moment versus preoccupied with whatever thought happens to jump out of my mind. It is when I can quiet that inner voice and enjoy what I’m doing. It connects me to a world that sometimes goes completely unnoticed in our daily lives; the natural world. I’ll take my time cutting the onion, garlic or peppers. I’ll sometimes grab a handful and really feel the texture, then bring it to my nose for a good whiff and then maybe a little nibble. Involving every one of my senses as much as possible. Not even attempting to rush this ritual, but giving it the proper place it deserves in the moments of my life. And what moments could possibly deserve more reverence than those of nurturing oneself and others? Cooking, when given its proper place, is nurturing to those we engage in the activity for, even if it’s just ourselves. It’s not something that should be rushed or done as an after thought, but actively engaged in. And so it should be with most things we do in life. Cooking brings me into the moment, but it also acts as a gentle, and savory reminder that I would do well to bring this level of mindfulness to every moment of my life. Difficult as that may be, there are worse things I could strive for…