Sometimes the best new ideas are the ones that aren't new at all, but rather a rediscovery of methods and means whose wisdom has been known for ages. When it comes to cooking, this idea is heralded repeatedly by those who advocate for slower, more local eating. The Slow Food movement, in addition to working toward food that is "Good, Clean, and Fair," points us back to vanishing cooking styles and heirloom ingredients, along with the increasingly uncommon practice of sitting down to enjoy a meal we've prepared with family and friends. Michael Pollan, one of the most prominent voices in the local food movement, tells us: "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." Simple enough, and an easy way to navigate around the many processed food-ish creations that inhabit our modern supermarkets. Mark Bittman, cookbook author and writer for the New York Times, is also a voice for more planet-friendly eating, and as part of theTimes' New Year's section on sustainability offers an alternative to the countless diet crazes that emerge at this time of year: "Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion."
The concept is easy to embrace: three simple recipes--stir fry, rice and lentils, and a chopped salad--that can form the foundation of a lifetime of healthy cooking and eating. As Bittman states, they are techniques as much as recipes. Once mastered, they can be adapted to fit any locale or time of year, incorporating local, seasonal produce and whatever personal flourish the chef desires. Also important, they can all make for full meals without meat, an element that can be difficult to find in planet-friendly form. For so many of us who have fallen away from cooking in our daily lives, these easy, classic meals provide a re-entry point into a healthy, fulfilling relationship with our kitchen, one that can be passed on to our children during the evening hours in place of so much excess screen time.
Personally, I'm going to start with the rice and lentils. For years now I've been swayed from such dishes by my bean loathing husband, but maybe with a little extra flair I can win him over...full report to follow in the coming weeks.
Happy New (Old) Eating!