Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Art of Simple Food

We periodically go through shifts in our way of living, and a seismic occurrence seems to be going on right now. It was the addition of homeschooling to our schedule that cemented this new shift, I believe. Well, that and learning how to knit, if you can imagine.

Regardless, we are currently mid-shift and it is affecting the way we eat.

Gone for now are the afternoons in which I can tinker around in the kitchen for a few hours, putting together complicated meals. Gone also are the countless other hours spent poring over cookbooks and food magazines, planning meals and shopping lists, and cleaning up a wrecked kitchen at the end of the day.

Instead, some of that former free time is being redirected into other pursuits that are becoming very important to our funny little family.

Archaeology training, for instance, takes precedence as a new daily priority.

There are tepees to make and science projects to root.

And we have frozen birdbaths to inspect (while wearing bathrobes and snow boots).

The Art of Simple Food has been my bedtime reading for the past week or so - such fortuitous timing, and while there isn't a lot of new ground in the way of recipes in this gorgeous book, it is her notes and explanations and, well, her guiding principles that I treasured as I read. If you are at all familiar with Alice Waters, then you already know why her cooking guidelines would be so endearing, and for those who might not have already been exposed to her quiet sermons on food and place, I could not possibly recommend this book enough as an introduction to her way of thinking about eating.

I cannot get enough of her, obviously, and have coveted this book since it was released. I finally splurged with some birthday money and read it slowly, cover to cover, even the sections on cooking meat, which I suppose means I may have slightly lost my mind (though I do not intend to actually eat any of those dishes, of course). The lovely book now sits proudly on the menu desk next to a few of the other Chez Panisse cookbooks that I have collected over the years. I turn to these often for inspiration these days, especially there close to dinnertime when I realize yet another day just sped by in a whirlwind of reading and snuggling and creating and learning and exploring with my young teachers.

As our schedule evolves, so do our meals, and I am a bit invigorated by the change and the challenge of seeing things anew. There have been a few duds (well, okay, more than a few) in the recent new, more streamlined, recipes that I have tried, but there have also been some make-you-smile-with-each-bite winners as well, and I cannot wait to share them here.

Of course, I'll need to squeeze in the time to do that...

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