February 9, 2009

The Little Meat-Filled Kitchen

 

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Things have changed around here recently.

The freezer is nearly full. Our weekly menu, written out on a white board hung on our fridge, looks decidedly different. More than one cookbook is in rotation. And sometimes, when I get home from work, I’m greeted at the door by the smell of roasting meat.

It’s taken me a long time to get around to writing this post. The changes in our food life have felt so monumental that I wasn’t sure how to express them here, in this space that is solely dedicated to that life. I started this blog for many reasons, but one was to document my cooking from the Deborah Madison book. When we decided to start cooking meat, that plan clearly was dropped. And I was scared. What about the little red kitchen? Could it still continue with as much purpose, as much integrity?

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I quickly realized, though, that this blog is what I make it. Deborah Madison or no, it could still be fun and engaging, interesting and personal.

Then I started to get excited. I had loved going through Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone systematically, but I occasionally felt stifled, as though I couldn’t make what I really wanted and be spontaneous in the kitchen. Now I could cook recipes from other cookbooks! And from my favourite food blogs!

Our reason for the Big Change came when J was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’ve read it as well, and she talks a lot about vegetarianism and whether it makes sense, especially in a local diet. It got J thinking (he’s always been more of a meat-eater than me anyway).

We decided to start cooking meat, and this quickly led to a decision to try to eat as much local food as we possibly can. We were already partly doing this, but by following VCFE so strictly, we constantly had to buy non-local ingredients, which sometimes bothered me.

Now the main ingredients in all of our meals come from the farmers’ market, and thus from farmers who live in Central and Northern Alberta.  It might not actually be the 100-mile diet, but I think it’s pretty close.

We are not rigid about this – at all. We still eat oil, sugar, flour, oats, tea, nuts, dried fruit, and a myriad of other things that are not local.  We will still buy convenience foods at the grocery store if we need them, or pick up a few onions if we are running low. But I think the important thing is the step we are taking.

We also both feel that this will make us better cooks. We’ve both wanted to be able to cook without recipes, to adapt, to make things up as we go along, but we haven’t done much of it. Now we can!  Now we go to the market and plan our menu as we buy our meats and vegetables.  We still look at recipes for ideas, and we still follow them a lot, but the freedom is there.

The other night J made a delicious roasted lamb loin with apples, garlic and wine. It was heavenly, and you wouldn’t believe how proud he was that he invented the whole thing himself. So get ready to hear more about his cooking adventures here too.

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The first meat recipe I made by myself was the meatballs from the cover of the January Gourmet that I told you about a while ago. It was an ambitious start. The recipe isn’t hard, but it’s involved, and it took forEVer. Thawing, mixing, rolling, browning, simmering … so many ingredients and so many steps. But at the end of it I really felt like I had accomplished something, and we had four meals to save for weeks to come.

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“Now I feel like a real housewife",” I said to J as I ladled the tomato sauce and meatballs into Ziploc freezer bags and carefully labelled them.  I was only half-kidding. There is something extremely satisfying about having a full freezer, as though I was Laura in Little House on the Prairie trying to get through the Long Winter. And it helped that the meatballs were delicious.

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Don’t worry, I still love vegetables. A lot. And we plan on cutting down on our meat consumption in the summer, when there is a bigger variety of local veg and fruit to be had.

Also, next summer: It’s time to can! And dry things! And be a real pioneer woman. Stay tuned.

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3 comments:

Cheryl A said...

Funny, so much advice on finances and the environment say to eat less meat and here you are eating more - for the same reasons! I love it.

Two things to share - you can get sugar and flour that are pretty local, at the grocery store. Sunny Boy flour is from Camrose. And most Roger's Sugar comes from the giant sugar factory in Taber, in Southern Alberta. You can also gets oats from Highwood Crossing (so nutty and flavourful) from Planet Organic.

Second, next time you make meatballs, try my trick to save time (and fat). Cover a cookie sheet with foil then place a cooling rack (the kind for cookies) on it. Spray that with non-stick spray. Place your raw meatballs on the cooling rack and bake in the oven. Excess fat drips off, they still get brown, and you can cook a whole bunch at once. when you are done you can ball up the foil and your clean-up is only the cooling rack. Coking time will depend on the size of the meatball, but I usually cook them at 375.

Isabelle said...

I know, it does seem a bit backwards ... but for us it makes sense right now. If I could find any local beans or tofu I would definitely buy that too.

That's great to know about the sugar and flour. And also good advice for the meatballs ... I am so doing that the next time!

Cheryl A said...

You can get relatively local beans too - if you look around. They grow a lot of beans around Taber too, Bow Island is bean country!