What's for dinner?
"We have to stop seeing cooking as a problem when it's actually a solution." Adam Liaw
I have to say that I am totally uninspired today. So uninspired that I almost gave up on the idea of writing a blog at all. After all I have been a bit boring of late, judging by the number of hits so maybe it's time to give it a rest. But no - it's a discipline that satisfies. Once done I can say that I have done something marginally creative every day.
So I looked through my various lists, magazines, lucky dips and so on, and still felt completely uninspired. The next thing was to turn to the net to find ways to get inspired. Which was not very helpful, other than the exhortation to just start writing. About what thought I. And then it said, try looking at a magazine and the first words in the magazine and that's what I did - again initially without much success. Food magazine editorials are not very inspiring. However, then I looked at the cover of this month's Coles magazine and saw 'What's for dinner?' - their theme of the month - well it's their theme every month really - and just started writing.
Actually I know what's for dinner tonight. Unusually I have planned tonight's dinner for a few days now. It's quiche Friday - not something I always stick to - and the quiche will be the favourite beetroot and smoked trout, because I have one beetroot left in the fridge, and a smoked trout waiting to be used. It might sound a bit exotic, but not in this household. It's a quick and easy regular. When I make pastry I make a big batch, roll it into smaller pieces and freeze. Then I only have to remember to take the pastry out of the freezer, which may sound obvious but sometimes doesn't happen, and prepare the filling which never takes long. Quiche is a great standby dinner and never disappoints. Basic filling is three eggs and 300ml cream + your flavours. I even made one with leftover tandoori chicken once + peas and it was surprisingly delicious. And if you have nothing else - there are always onions, even carrots.
But I digress. Which is Ok because the point of today's post is really to see what falls out of the brain.
I'm absolutely certain I have talked about how one decides what to cook for dinner - whether one plans every meal for the weekend, or just takes it as it comes - which is me. Well I never know whether I will have leftovers from previous dinners that I absolutely have to deal with, and it also depends on what I have in the vegetable drawer. In that respect I guess I'm a pretty good seasonal cook in that, especially now when I have to shop in the local supermarket, I buy what is cheap - and that tends to be what is in season. It's not that I can't afford the expensive out of season stuff, but it just goes against the grain. Well the basics - potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, lettuce fluctuate a bit I suppose, but generally speaking my veggies are seasonal.
I read an article by Michael Pollan - a well-known American food writer - extolling the virtues of those boxes of seasonal produce that you get from the farm (supposedly). And I have to admire his turning an oversupply of swedes into a virtue by saying that it got him in tune with the vicissitudes of being a farmer when crops fail or there is a glut. I like swedes by the way - unlike many and they are always expensive here, so I never get any. But I don't think those boxes are the answer because I think I would be tempted to supplement what was in them with other things, if I didn't fancy what was there. I did a quick search and here is an example of one (in America). Now if you were feeding a family for a week you really wouldn't have enough here would you? 4 potatoes? A handful of Brussels sprouts, a handful of cherry tomatoes! No onions and only a couple of carrots. About the only useful thing there is the silver beet I reckon. And far more oranges than anything else. No you would have to supplement quite a bit I think. I mean I know it makes you try things you might not otherwise, but those avocados would be wasted in our household as David doesn't touch them. I would have to give them to my daughter-in-law, and I can't do that at the moment. She is more than 5 kilometres away.
Anyway - obvious factor in deciding what's for dinner - what have you got to work with? It's really the only criteria isn't it? You have already decided what you like, what you feel you should eat, what you shouldn't eat, what the rest of the family does and doesn't like when you went shopping, Done.
What about time? Coles made a big thing about all of their meal suggestions being ready in under 30 minutes, because being time poor is a modern thing. Really? Adam Liaw had a few interesting things to say on this topic:
"We're a nation that can watch two-hour episodes of MasterChef every night but can't spend a few minutes to actually make dinner ...
I find it hard to imagine that a homemaker at the turn of last century – with no washing machine, no dishwasher, no electricity at home and perhaps five kids running around – had more free time to cook than we do today." Adam Liaw
Michael Pollan also made the point that getting take-away was also not necessarily time-saving - although I suppose he was talking about take-away that you pick up yourself. The logic being that it takes time to order and to travel to the shop and then wait around for it to be ready and travel back home. Possibly you have to reheat it too. He also gave the example of microwaving ready-made food, in a family of three who each had separate microwave dinners. Because only one could be heated at a time, it took quite some time for all to be ready and then the first lot was cold. Anyway - point taken - it really doesn't take a lot of time to cook dinner. Indeed it can take as little preparation time as five minutes. Throw a few things in a baking tray and shove it in the oven. Or look up cherry tomatoes and pasta on the net and take your pick of a whole lot of 10 minute recipes.
Really though it just all comes down to mood doesn't it? What do you feel like tonight? Which is why I can never plan in advance. What do you fancy? How inventive are you feeling? How lazy are you feeling? Not to mention how much you feel you need to consider the rest of your family on this particular day.
And, as Adam Liaw says cooking is not a problem - it's a solution. To all sorts of things. It can lift your mood - simply by chopping up things and absorbing the beauty of the ingredients, and the smell of it all. You can bash out your anger and soothe yourself by stirring something over the stove. And at the end you can have the enormous satisfaction that comes from having created something that pleases you, that gives a sense of achievement and that pleases others too. Not to mention the excuse it gives for the family to get together and to talk. Very necessary in these times of lockdown. Sharing. That's what it's all about.
As to finding something to write about I don't think I have done very well. I have indeed written words, but not very interesting ones, and mostly said before. I have also not concentrated. At one point I got up and went and made myself a cup of coffee served with a chocolate biscuit. I rarely do this. We always have chocolate biscuits available though because David is a bit of a chocoholic and there is always chocolate somewhere. I have no idea when he eats them, but eat them he does.
I have flicked through those magazines to see if there was anything in them that could add something new to the topic in hand. But not really. There were just the usual exhortations to eat healthy things, the whizz bang gourmet meals produced in almost an instant, the need to get children cooking and so on.
So there you go. I did see one recipe that I might try next week though - Lemon and caper pork steaks. I've got a lot of lemons and I would like to use capers more. And there are some pork steaks in the freezer.
Really we are still hunter gatherers at heart I think. Picking up ideas and ingredients from here and there.
Remember that Tik-Tok cherry tomato and feta dish from the other day? Well I came across this comment from Melissa Leong - MasterChef judge:
“There are online food trends that are truly awful – the TikTok one about the whole block of feta and tomatoes? Ew, no"
It almost makes you want to try it doesn't it, to see who is right - the probably millions of Tik-Tok fans or Melissa Leong? It was certainly quick and it looked temptingly oozy and charred.