I’m rich! The frig is full. A stockpot is bubbling on the stove. Muffins are in the oven. Not only do I have enough food for the five dinners I’ve planned, I’m sure we’d be fine if we were snowed in for a month. While not a survivalist with a bunker, I am the poster child for what to keep in your pantry for fast, last-minute meals. And yet, I don’t leave meals to chance. I’m a planner. I like getting out my cookbooks and binders of recipes. It’s fun to build a menu around some of my favorites (Sarah Fritschner’s zucchini with lima beans over rice; Pleasant Hill’s baked eggplant; catfish gumbo), or a recipe that will help me use ingredients I have on hand (chilaquiles casserole; ricotta, arugula and egg sandwiches).
I grew up with wonderful meals and parents who liked to cook, so it’s no surprise that cooking is something I enjoy. It can be communal and fun, or a solitary, quiet way to spend the day. Like my mom, I want to make a pot of soup or a lasagna when the kids will be home. I’ll assemble a casserole in advance to speed a week-night dinner. And after traveling, it’s great to come home to a grilled cheese sandwich.
I think I’m the only person I know who makes something for almost every meal, every day. Many people skip breakfast, buy a lunch, and either eat out or get take-out for dinner. They seem surprised to learn that I like to cook and make time to do it. But I’m neither an aspiring chef nor a budget-driven home cook. I like the process, and the control over what I’m eating. I like transforming humble ingredients into something that’s healthy, tasty and satisfying.
Our kids have a similar love of cooking. They pride themselves on making interesting and affordable meals, and add their own improvisational touches. Occasionally, they make special requests for a family recipe. I’m thrilled to share them, memories distilled to a taste. The most precious recipes are family heirlooms that I return to often. My mom’s black bean salad, my dad’s linguine and clam sauce – both written out by them in long hand. My Great Aunt Marie’s pound cake with black walnuts – tied for favorite with my most frequent birthday cake: carrot with boiled buttermilk frosting (forget cream cheese frosting – this is the way to go!)
So Sundays are cooking days, chopping, sautéing, mixing. Filling the frig with lunches and dinners I’ll look forward to all week, and tapping into family history. I’m hungry.