Aug 27, 2011

In praise of the home-cooked meal.

A couple of days ago I was watching t.v (at my mother-in-law's - we don't have t.v. at this point) and the hosts on a popular Christian program were raving about a new recipe book designed for the "modern busy family" - all meals that could be prepared and served within 15 minutes.

Apparently they all needed a copy and found it to be just about revolutionary, because really, (insert slight sarcasm) who has time in this day and age to spend precious time in the kitchen? (And as a side note, why on earth is everyone so busy anyway! In most cases, don't we have a choice to pare down our schedules?)

Sure, there are those busy days where a quick-fix meal is just the thing, and that's fine, but I can't help but think that our grandparents and great grandparents would shake their heads at all the frozen or already-prepared and packaged meals that end up on the dinner table each night as the norm. Or you know, the t.v. table.

I'm lucky enough to have grown up with a mom who stayed home and enjoyed all the creative aspects of homemaking, including cooking. From a young age she included us in menu planning and meal preparation - from scratch. And normal evenings found us all crowded around the dinner table to a sit-down meal.

Now that I'm married, I'm finding myself in the kitchen a whole lot more than when I lived at home since the what's for dinner question is coming at me rather than from me (Although my husband is not picky and wouldn't mind cooking if I asked him to).

And that has been fine with me - I'm realizing that cooking can be a grout outlet for creativity - trying to use up what's in the fridge, experimenting with new ingredients, learning.

I love being in my kitchen in the early evening - the setting sun floods through our balcony windows, everything is quiet (my husband doesn't get home until 6:00 or so) and I am alone with my thoughts - chopping and mixing and preparing.

Food can be an expression of love - I think about my Dutch grandmother on my mom's side preparing huge suppers for her big family, largely using food they grew themselves. I see my husband's Italian mom loving her sons through the meals she makes - prepared with care and just the way they like it.

And memories are often made up of foods - decorating sugar cookies at Christmas at the kitchen table, melted cheese on crackers and "tea-milk" after a cold afternoon of tobogganing, warm stew and biscuits around the table with the family on a crisp autumn night.

Recipes passed on like heirlooms, flavors remembered - my husband says he's never had tomato sauce as good as the homemade stuff his grandmother in Italy makes.

I can't help but think that we would all be a lot better off if we cut out the unnecessary things that steal our minutes away and spend just a little more time in the kitchen chopping garlic, so to speak.


  1. Mmmm. You make me feel ambitious just reading your blog. And yes, I will probably make something homemade tonight, although our family here at home is growing smaller. There are *only* six of us here now. ;)Your meals look yummy.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Always nice to know who is reading it:) I absolutely love Ottawa (was reading your "about me"). My cousins grew up and still live there...I always tell my husband if we were ever to move I would want to move back to Canada(lived in Toronto area til I was 14)...Ottawa or Toronto. Love both cities. Great blog and food looks delicious! :)

  3. Stephanie I find such comfort in the kitchen as well and to me it has been a delight to cook things and then see my husband enjoy it :) And I agree homemade is soooo much better than already-made foods. It's a house rule here not to buy frozen foods, unless it's the occasional pizza, although I did make homemade pizza once but it was a failed attempt because my dear electric oven is not made for such things...but I will try again in the future.. :)

  4. You are an amazing wife! If we slowed down, we would actually be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor and connect with those we love. I bet you cook some yummy food! :)

  5. I agree with you Jennifer, she is an amazing wife!

    The only complaint that I have in regards to her cooking is I eat too much sometimes! Like tonight, I didn't NEED to have that second plate of homemade pesto. Okay, I did need to, it was just too delicious to pass up! ;)

  6. My mom always cooks from scratch too, and I have to say that she passed down her love of cooking to me, but my skills don't measure up too well at the moment. :( And also, my husband doesn't necessarily like the food that I know how to cook... but hopefully I will improve my repertoire very soon.

    I long for slow, quiet evenings...but unfortunately we get home pretty late here. :( So I am going to have to get creative, maybe do a lot of prep work in the morning or night before.

    Do you have any soup recipes? :) What's that one in the photo?

  7. Thank you all, for your comments!

    Elizabeth, the stew in the photo (both pics, one's before and the after is on the plate) is a Black bean, Beef, and Vegetable stew that I made up as I went along.

    Not sure about measurements but you don't have to be precise - I pre-cooked about a cup and a half of black beans (soak overnight, then boil in a pot for 15 minutes or so before use), cut up some stewing beef I had on hand as well as potatoes, onion, carrots, chopped fresh bok choy, (or cabbage) and a couple cloves of garlic. Just throw it all in a pot and add water (half full maybe, depending on how much broth you'd like). Add salt and pepper and any other spices you'd like to use. Bake at 350F for a half hour. After this I stirred in a couple tablespoons of instant beef stock mix and about a half cup of quinoa. (so healthy, delicious, and adds thickness) Stick it back in the oven for 10 minutes and you have a yummy, healthy stew!

  8. haha Loris! I'm so glad you agree. :) oh no. I guess that's a good problem to have. :)

  9. So true, that cooking is a outlet for creativity and a wonderful way to show love! Hence why I enjoy it so very much!! ;) :D

    Good for you for experimenting and having fun - that's the key! It's why I have such trouble with the idea of meal planning - it seems to take the spontinaity and creativity out of cooking....have to find the balance I guess.

    You soup sounds good! You used dried black beans, not canned I take it? I have yet to do the dried beans thing, they are supose to be so much cheaper, I'll have to give it a whirl! :D

  10. Kaitlin, it's true that spontaneity is fun...I don't meal plan a whole lot but I do check what's on sale in the flyers and try and think of recipes that take advantage of that, as I'm sure you do too.

    Yes, dried beans are the way to go!! It's so much cheaper (lentils, mixed beans, chick peas, etc...) to get them in the bag - it's easy as long as you remember to soak them them the night before and you don't get all the loads of sodium that's often in canned products!

  11. Thanks for the recipe! :) I like using dried beans, too.