Growing up, I remember my mom cooking and baking a lot of things from scratch. We rarely had processed foods in the house. She tried her best to read labels and avoid all of the scary preservatives. However, my dad was out of work a lot and we had to rely on food stamps, commodities, and the kindness and generosity of friends, neighbors, and strangers. We also didn’t have a car for several years, so going grocery shopping was a burden that included riding busses and taking taxis all over town. So it became easier to grab fast food or eat out at restaurants and it also served as a treat to be able to eat somewhere new, I suppose. I think my mom did her best to keep us away from that stuff, but it was inevitable. Because of this, I became a fast food connoisseur. After I moved out of my parent’s house and was in the dating world, I spiraled deeper and deeper into fast food and restaurants. I was familiar with places and menus and have very rare memories as a teenager/young adult of actually eating a good home-cooked meal.
Several years later, and a move cross-country to Pennsylvania, I am now a stay at home mom to a 17 month old. Over the last year, I’ve had a chance to really blossom with cooking. We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share in May of this year and over the last 25 weeks has been quite the adventure. Using ingredients and coming up with recipes that I’ve never even thought of. I’m now confident in the kitchen. I know my way around with kale, tofu, okra, squashes, drying herbs, garlic scapes, chard, fennel, kohlrabi, beets, and so much more. I made my own salsa, dill pickles, jellies/jams, and we canned our own apple pie filling.
I’ve loved this adventure, so it is bittersweet that the CSA Summer share has ended; I feel like I’m more confident, more enriched by having had this experience. One thing I have done a lot of is come up with my own recipes. I’m terrible at writing them down though, so I guess that is my next challenge so that I can repeat something I like! My usual process is to do research on a recipe (how long do I cook ____ or how should I prepare _____) and get an idea of what goes together and make it my own. For example, I found a recipe for a Roasted Pork with Fennel, Onions, and Potatoes that was fairly time consuming and listed a bunch of ingredients. So I just tossed all the veggies in the pan, nestled the pork tenderloin in the middle, seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, coated the whole thing with sage and rosemary and olive oil, and roasted for about an hour at 400*. It was amazing. I took a closer look at the recipe afterward and it wanted me to crisp sage leaves in butter and to use that butter to make a reduction sauce with the meat drippings. While that sounds amazing, it was too time consuming for what turned out to be an amazing dish without it. Sometimes things are better when they’re simple.
Instead of buying into another share for the Winter season, I think I’m just going to focus on using fruits and vegetables that are in season and local. I want to get away from the processed foods and be more of a clean eater. I feel better both physically and mentally when I cook at home and it makes me feel good to be able to provide good food for my family.