I've been thinking (ouch!) lately about cooking more economically and simply. Don't get me wrong; I do not frequent gourmet food shops and I don't know when was the last time we had an expensive steak. I have a freezer full of fruits and veggies from last year's garden to work with along with plenty of poultry from our flock and meat which we've purchased in bulk from reliably healthy sources. And venison friends have given us. With just the two of us working on all this bounty most of the time, we are not lacking for food.
I think what brought on this urge to cook more simply was talking about using some of my "old" cookbooks, those which present perhaps more basic food preparation . . . both economical and easy. And also downright tasty without the use of wine sauces or pricey condiments.
My mom was a great cook and we never lacked for food when I was growing up. But I know she followed a food budget and did a lot with the "cheaper" cuts of meat and ingredients she found on sale in the grocery store. I can't recall ever having a steak growing up. The purchase of steaks, even for our small family of four, was probably out of the question.
I can remember going to a girlfriend's house one summer evening after dinner when I was about nine or ten. There on a plate in the middle of the kitchen table were four, huge, deep-fried shrimp. Leftovers from dinner apparently set out for anyone who wanted them. I was amazed. I was drooling. I didn't even know you could make shrimp like that at home. Being shy, there was no way in the world I would have asked for or helped myself to one of those shrimp, but I left her house thinking these people must, indeed, be very rich in order to buy and prepare shrimp at home.
When hubby got his first degree, we had very little money. But we celebrated by buying two steaks and going to a nearby park to grill them and eat with potato salad I had made. Such decadence!
At my first "real" job, I was sitting in the break room one day with another young married gal. She said she and her husband never ate leftovers. I asked what she did with, for instance, the remainder of a pot roast that might be left after a meal. "It goes down the garbage disposal," she said. "I never bother with leftovers." (Picture me sitting there with mouth agape, and wondering where they lived so I could make arrangements to pick up their leftovers after each meal.)
Actually, I think I've always done a good job at stretching our food resources. Once hubby shot a couple of grouse in the fall. I roasted them the first night, but our family of three didn't finish everything. So I made a soup with the leftover meat for the following evening. Still had a little soup left so I thickened it and we had it over mashed potatoes the third night. I was relating this to friends of ours. Bill turned to his wife and said, "Mary, go out back and get that mouse we caught last night. You should be able to stretch that into a couple of meals."
A little more appreciation of some of the old-timey recipes couldn't hurt us a bit. Our local library has several books on "rustic" cookery that I've gotten marvelous recipes out of. And there are plenty of older cookbooks in my own collection that I wouldn't give up for anything. I'm thinking it's time to gather a bunch of them, and settle down in my recliner in front of the fire one of these nights soon. Up here in the Northwoods we're in the midst of good ol' winter time. What better time for experimenting with more simple, basic food preparation.
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