Well folks, I don't know about you, but I feel like I've done nothing but cook, eat, snooze, and watch movies for the past few weeks...
OK... with a little bit of yoga thrown in there so my poor little body doesn't turn to complete jelly until I can get back on the bike again.
Seriously though, the combination of the bitter cold (the mercury hasn't climbed above freezing in over a week) and with it being the holidays... well, it all pretty much has me in hibernation mode.
Anyhow, as I was cruising the blogosphere earlier today, I came across an interesting post by Kristen over at The Frugal Girl. The post was basically about these new "ingredients in a box" services like Blue Apron.
As usual, the part I found really fascinating was all of the comments.
What really struck me was the number of people who said something to the effect that one of the selling points of these services is that they provide everything you need for the recipe and no more, so you don't end up with extra ingredients that will go to waste. For me, this was sort of a baffling idea, because if I ended up with extra amounts of something that I'd purchased for a special recipe, I'd just use up whatever it is by making something else.
Anyhow, in reading the comments, and in thinking about all the cooking I've done over the past few weeks, I'm coming to the conclusion that there are very different schools of thought when it comes to preparing food.
Maybe this is crazy or maybe it falls under the category of Captain Obvious, I'm not sure, but I'm starting to think that some folks are "recipe followers" and others (like me) are improvisational cooks.
Once I thought about it that way, a lot of things I've run into on the blogosphere started to make sense.
I've always been baffled by people who are deeply into meal planning, and who claim that the key to success in the kitchen is to decide what you're gonna cook for the week, make a list of all the ingredients you'll need, stick strictly to your grocery list, buy no more than you will use in a week, and aim for an empty refrigerator by week's end. Honestly, I can't imagine trying to cook (or shop) that way - I think it would thoroughly exhaust me.
My technique is to keep a well stocked pantry (I don't have an actual pantry, but you know what I mean) as well as a freezer full of staples and a refrigerator filled with an assortment of fruits, veggies and dairy products. When I shop I look for things that are in season or on sale, as well as stocking up on the basics.
When I cook, I often don't exactly know what I'm making until it's done, I just choose a nice assortment of ingredients, a general flavor idea (Mexican, or Chinese, or traditional American, etc.) a cooking method that suits the weather (reserving things that require long hours in the oven or on the stove top for days like today) and then I have at it.
I seldom make the same thing twice, and if I do, it almost never turns out the same because I vary the ingredients based on what's on hand and what I feel like eating. The one exception to this rule is when I'm cooking for CatMan because... well... let's just say that the man values predictability over all else where food is concerned. I actually really struggle to cook for him because I find it to be hideously boring, but we've managed to settle on a system that works for our weekly movie & dinner nights.
It's not that I NEVER use a recipe when cooking for myself. I mean, I think recipes can be a great source of inspiration especially if you've got an odd collection of ingredients that you're trying to figure out how to combine, or if you're trying to recreate some dish that you've run into elsewhere, or if you're just bored and want to try some new flavor combination. But even when I use a recipe, I tend to view it as a rough guideline, not a set of instructions that must be followed precisely.
Perhaps this sounds crazy, or like I'm putting down the idea of following a recipe or something, but I sort of think that these ingredients in a box services are to cooking like a paint by numbers kit is to art.
I mean I think that following a recipe to the letter like that may help you to ensure a decent result, but it also seems like it just takes the joy out of the entire process and fills it with a bunch of rules.
Because to me, the whole fun of creating - whether it's art or food - is the process. You start with a blank canvas, you mix, you chop, you stir... and then you get the enjoyment of seeing what you come up with. Am I just totally crazy?
Anyhow, thinking about all of this got me curious about how other people cook? Do you follow recipes? Do you shop with a specific ingredients list? Are you an improvisational cook? Do you cook differently for your family than for yourself? Inquiring minds want to know!!