We first started this blog almost four years ago, when we combined kitchens into a single household and began our life together. Since we both loved to cook and eat, with pretty divergent styles, our thought was to document* our culinary adventures and see how we changed and grew. In the intervening years, we’ve fallen into a steady rhythm of habit and circumstance for how we stock our pantry, how we shop for ingredients, and how we cook – and it isn’t at all what we imagined when we began!
Once upon a time, I was a rigidly predictable home cook. Meals were planned in accordance with recipes from cookbooks and blogs, based on a relatively consistent and small list of staple ingredients and fresh produce. Shopping was done on the same day each week with a visit to the farmer’s market and the nearby grocery store, holding to a modest budget with enough room for the occasional splurge like a beautiful cut of steak. Wasting food was a cardinal sin, so cooking well was a duty as well as a pleasure.
By contrast, he was an “anything goes” sort of cook. Whatever ingredients were on hand were turned into meals, and if that occasionally meant cold cereal with sliced fruit for dinner, then so be it. Shopping was a haphazard thing, with trips to the market made whenever an item was needed, to purchase whatever looked appetizing – particularly if it was on sale. He’s more playful and adventurous than I, firmly believing that “if it’s awful, we’ll just order a pizza.”
As you can imagine, marrying those styles took some concerted effort, so we let circumstance give us a little push toward what seemed easy. Given that I have a longer commute and more rigid schedule during the week, he does most of the cooking – which means it’s generally improvisational in nature. I take responsibility for keeping the kitchen well stocked and generally tidy, which means the freezer is full and the larder is overflowing.
Since he has driven me to be more adventurous while retaining cost consciousness, we make a lot of our food from scratch – it’s less expensive to buy incredible ingredients and turn them into sauces and garnishes than it is to buy tiny jars of dreamy extravagance, so this allows us to eat better quality food than we could otherwise afford to. For us, cooking “from scratch” includes:
- Making our own specialty dairy items like yogurt, sour cream, clotted cream, and ice cream from milk, cream, and butter sourced locally
- Baking our own yeast breads using whey, a by-product of making yogurt, to give our loaves added flavor
- Baking quick breads, muffins, cakes, and pies at home
- Keeping whole spices on hand and grating or grinding them to create our own blends
- Allotting freezer space for gallon-sized bags of shrimp shells, poultry carcasses, beef/lamb/pork bones, and vegetable peelings – to make broth from whole ingredients rather than bouillon
- Creating sauces as part of meal prep from those spices and stocks and a whole new set of must-have pantry staples
- Saving overripe fruit by pureeing it for yogurt stir-ins, smoothies, sauces, or home-made ice cream/sorbet
…and a whole lot of other things I’m likely forgetting.
I’m not the only one who’s changed, though. While still an improvisational cook, he will share ideas for specific meals a day or two in advance, so I have time to think them through and suggest additions or alterations. While he prefers not to eat the same meal several days running like I will, we save leftovers in the fridge as “pre-cooked ingredients for the next meal”, such that rice, chicken, vegetables, and peanut sauce from last night’s stir-fry might be used in rice pudding, chicken pot pie, pasta primavera, and hummus (respectively) – and he focuses on using leftovers first, so as not to waste things.
Speaking of waste, we also subscribe to a local composting service; they collect our kitchen scraps and leave us a fresh locking pail each week, and we can purchase finished compost from them when needed.
Although we’ve ordered plenty of pizzas—especially since discovering a favorite place has opened a new location between our train station and home—it’s never been because of a disaster in the kitchen.
*We had to document something. Since our first meeting was over livejournal in 2003, and since we fell in love so gradually over email and iMessage that we didn’t even notice it, a failure to continue our epistolary adventures might be the undoing of us!