Kitchen Garden

Cooking in Transition

Go-to Summer Meal – Sliced tomato, toasted whole grain bread, basil pesto , salt and pepper.

Our family cuisine is in transition. I’m hopeful for positive new menu items as summer turns to fall.

My spring diagnosis of high blood sugar brought changes. Through behavior modification I’ve been able to reduce key indicators and hope to continue to do so until the physician takes back his diagnosis of diabetes. At the interim check on Aug. 19, I was well on my way — solely by cutting the quantity of carbohydrates and exercising more.

Most nights it’s easy to get a meal ready for dinner. Our repertory includes easy and complex dishes which satisfy if done right. I prepare dinner for both of us four or five nights a week and we are on our own for breakfast, lunch and snacks. It works.

The cuisine we developed in Big Grove focused on techniques to use readily available ingredients to make repeatable dishes. We regularly eat pasta, pizza, macaroni and cheese, bread, chili, soup, casseroles, toppings with rice, and manufactured non-meat burger patties. Fresh and frozen vegetables are basic. Fruit is seasonal and desserts infrequently made or purchased. To meet a carbohydrate budget, I’ve had to regulate and mostly reduce portion size of these staple dishes. When I make a batch, I use a scale. Dishes last longer with leftovers for the next day or two.

When the garden comes in vegetables dominate the plate. Tomatoes are a favorite and we have fresh with most meals while they last. When lettuce comes in we make big salads for dinner. For the time being, I don’t bake bread very often, eschew meat and meat products, and use only a few manufactured products for their ease and serviceability within the context of our cuisine.

I’ve been cooking since I left home, although some of the dishes I prepared in the 1970s were hardly edible. My main cooking lessons began during a long assignment in South Georgia where I worked long days and crashed in the motel where Food Network was daily relaxation fare. The televised repetition of technique by multiple chefs helped me determine how they would fit in dishes I made. Every cook needs basic lessons in technique.

With the challenge of high blood sugar a new cuisine is in the works. Even if I beat the disease, permanent changes are required to prevent recurrence. Part of our aging in place will include development of a simple process to meet dietary needs in a tasty, efficient matter — focused increasingly on ingredients we produce or source locally.

My go-to recipes are memorized or written in a red spiral-bound notebook I bought on vacation in Stratford, Ontario. My go-to cook books are Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Joy of Cooking by Marion Rombauer Becker, and a couple of others

Part of this means downsizing my collection of a couple hundred cook books. There is a lot of good stuff there, although a lot of repetition as well. Over the years I’ve been enthusiastic about certain chefs — Child and Rombauer Becker, Rick Bayless, Mario Batali, Giada De Laurentiis, Tamar Adler and, of course, my mother and grandmother. I’m hoping to find new inspiration in Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés, Sally Schneider and Nigella Lawson. In any case, the result I envision is a new repertory of about 25 main course recipes that have predictable nutritional value and can be made with mostly local ingredients. I also hope to learn new ways to prepare vegetables.

During the first seven months of 2019 we spent $124 on restaurant meals. I have a gift certificate to a highly acclaimed restaurant I won at a raffle last fall stuck to the refrigerator with no plans to use. Eating at home has been and will continue to be our focus.

Change is frequently unwelcome. In this case change is driven by health concerns about which I feel compelled to act. I expect it to be a good fall and winter sorting this out.

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