It’s September – we’re tiptoeing toward autumn here, cooler nights and mornings although still hot during the day. Let’s talk about a new (but fun!) challenge I’ll call eating for one, and please chime in!
For decades I’ve been feeding a pack of kids (and often their friends), and meal prep became a mindless routine. I’m a decent cook, dining out is expensive, I bought groceries and cooked by volume so there were always leftovers in the fridge when hunger struck, my crew were okay eaters but not terribly adventurous, there were revolving dietary restrictions I might be working around, I had an eye toward healthful eating but wasn’t obsessive about it. The last year of the pandemic, our groceries came from Aldi (love Aldi!) weekly via Instacart, with the occasional quick trip to the corner store if we ran out of eggs or milk.
All those years I ate what they ate, and I saved any fancier food desires for the occasional dining-out-with-friends. Every now and again I’d be in a place like Whole Foods looking for some specialty ingredient, and I’d see folks browsing the expen$$$ive cheeses or the equally $$$pendy prepared foods and I’d feel a pang of envy. A fancy hunk of cheese or a tray of smoked salmon left unattended at my house would disappear into the maw of a bored teenager in five minutes, followed by a burp and a bowl of cereal, so I didn’t bother.
Now there’s just myself to feed, and within walking distance I have a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, our local gourmet grocery, and the farmer’s market twice a week; this is a small town with a big interest in food. So, what do I want to eat right now, when I’m the only person I have to please? I’m enjoying figuring that out.
During the summer heat I’ve spent weeks doing variations on the antipasto board. Sometimes it’s more of a … Greek salad board, or a charcuterie board. I don’t have to turn on the stove, I just throw it together on a platter and add whichever fresh veggies make the most sense – sliced tomatoes, Persian cukes, top it all with some fresh basil leaves. My diminished sense of smell means I’m drawn to stronger flavors of cheeses, meats, brined or pickled things. I’m the only one here to finish off whatever I buy or make; the good news is my growing stash of pickled and jarred delicacies and cheeses and Italian meats and mustards won’t go bad in the fridge in two days.
Just going to a grocery store for a browse is exciting; does that make me weird? I’m not an ass about it – I go during off hours (wearing an N95 mask) and get out of the way of people who are clearly in a hurry. I wander slowly, hands clasped behind me like I’m at the National Gallery, perusing the options. I probably look like a loon. Do I want cold, grilled salmon and asparagus from the deli case? (Sometimes, yes.) I always have an eye out for interesting, flavorful things — hits over the past month include roasted herbed Marcona almonds; sweet-spicy peppadews; fig and olive crackers; and quince paste with Manchego. Anita sent me this article about chile crisps and I want to add one to my pantry (I already have two, I put them on/in all sorts of things for extra heat and crunch; the TJs one I have eaten directly from the jar with a spoon, I love the texture so much.)
And dessert? Now I don’t have to worry about sending my low-carb kid to the hospital with my stash, I can buy all the chocolate I want. There’s always a tub of the Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups in the fridge, and usually a bar or two of some odd chocolate (black pepper, anyone? Ginger? Red chile?) Cookies with extra punch like lemon or ginger thins. I’ve discovered an incredible no-raisin bread pudding from the bakery up the street, made with their day-olds and lots of cinnamon (this prevents me from eating eight servings alone, which I absolutely would if I made my own.)
Okay, your turn! What are some of your favorite, flavorful snack things? What condiment or cheese or dessert or combination-of-flavors must I try? I’m ready!