Friday, January 6, 2012

Variety is Overrated! "Eating In" part 4

Variety is overrated! Most peoples idea of variety is eating something "different" every meal.  Real variety is making and eating the same basic recipes and then recycling them with slightly different ingredients.  I think it's unfortunate this idea of having to cook a different meal for your family every night, never repeating one for fear someone will get bored.

There are only so many foods in the world.  Seriously.  There are unlimited amounts of ingredients, but when you put them all together in the traditional way of composing a meal, most of what we eat are basically the same things.  The only reason food magazines and cooking shows promote recipe after recipe is so you buy the magazine or watch the show and buy the advertised products!  Once you know how to cook an ear of corn, how many different recipes do you need for cooking corn on the cob?  Well, here's 15+  (sorry, I realize it's not corn season but this is what came off the top of my head)

All of them sound yummy...bacon, mayonaise, jalapeno butter etc...but trust me, once you know how to  cook an ear of corn, all of those recipe ideas will come naturally!  Who knows who was the first person that made jalapeno butter, but I'm sure it's been around for a long ass time!  If jalapeno is a flavor you like then at some point you would have "invented" jalapeno butter!

For instance....I love jalapenos, although I rarely buy canned pickled jalapeno peppers (even though I love them, see note*) I often use fresh jalapenos along with my onion and celery as a base for soups, stews and anything and everything else I can throw them in a fresh salad!  Canned jalapenos (or in a jar) are pickled with vinegar.  The definition of "pickle" is something that has been preserved in vinegar or a brine (brine is usually salt....olives are brined).  If you "marinate" a bunch of jalapeno peppers in vinegar, then the vinegar will taste like...?  Yes, jalapeno vinegar!  How could you use jalapeno vinegar?  Well, let's a salad dressing for sure.  In tuna salad?  Yep.  So I started using the vinegar in canned jalapenos as an ingredient in itself to spice up dressing, dips and salads.  Add it to mayonaise and you have jalapeno mayonaise to spread on a sandwich or a slice of meatloaf!  Did I just invent jalapeno mayonaise?  lol

In every culture, all over the world, there are only so many ways to cook and prepare foods (methods and techniques).  The only things that change are the ingredients that reflect it's regional and cultural roots.

Why must we eat "Italian" one night, "Mexican" another, "Chinese" another?

If we eat a salad everyday but change the day we add pickled jalapeno vinegar to the dressing, maybe some corn, some black beans and chicken..."Mexican".  Another day we use red wine vinegar (or God forbid balsamic, lol), white beans, garbanzos, or pasta, basil and again...chicken.  Another day we use Chinese cabbage, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, ginger, (sirachi sauce!) and again....chicken (lol, does anyone eat anything other than chicken....beside me of course!)...a salad is a salad, is a salad. But all of a sudden you can see the tremendous variety in a salad.

Here's one of my point.  Make a damn salad everyday!  Or some other meal you love, but you have to make it, you have to practice it, until it's yours.  You will find the variety if you want it, or need it! Same with any other kind of meal.  How do you think "wraps" started?  "Wraps" are burritos that reflect regional flavors!  Put all of the above salads in a tortilla and what do you have?  A wrap!  A recycled burrito!

So what's the point?  The point is that you can trust yourself.  You know what you like, and what you don't like.  The basic skills of cooking are "the craft", and you must learn and practice in order to express your creativity, and then your imagination will come to the forefront. For instance, you cannot create a kettlebell swing routine if you don't know the skill of a proper swing.  One you understand and have practiced the skill you can be free.

Variety is not freedom.  The illusion of variety is a trap.  Food is basic, so use basic recipes and basic techniques.  All that "fancy, smancy" stuff can be fun, if that's what you are in to, but at the end of the day learning how to feed yourself and your family with uncomplicated and nutritious foods/meals is what health and happiness is all about.

(note* Take note that although pickled foods are usually very low in calories, they may have different effects on different people.....I never lose weight by eating pickled products...maybe because I overeat them thinking they are "low calorie".  Find your own way.

I also want to thank my husband Mark for helping me "wrap up" my thoughts on this subject.  It was Mark that helped me bring up my final points to end this blog post.  Thanks Sweetie!)


guy said...

jalapenos rock! I love to cook with them, although I admit I have not yet had jalapeno butter. Have to try it.

Maribel said...

In the previous post I almost went in to the "pressure" I used to feel in cooking a variety every single night!

When I went to visit family in Mexico last year, a friend and I were discussing cooking (yes, I always talk about cooking), anyway she was so surprised when I said dinner is cooked every single night...and something different every single night. She was in shock. She kept asking "why?" and I couldn't really answer. She said she had a main meal on Monday and Friday and Sunday and the rest of the week was a "whatever" day. Scrambled eggs with beans or just some fruit or sliced veggies with a sprinkle of lemon and s&p.

The simplicity of market schedule was another eye opener. Monday was pork day, Friday fish and Sunday beef. This led to the discussion of having too much in "America". Too many options can sometimes paralyze you. At least, that's how I feel at times.

I loved this series of posts.

Maribel said...

ps. I always use japaleno "juice" in my tuna!

Tracy Reifkind said...


It's the weirdest thing...jalapenos used to be a regular item on my shopping list but I don't think I've bought any in months! I've been eating a salad that doesn't benefit from spiciness (if you can believe it, lol), and I haven't been cooking with them...hmnn..

Maybe they are a "summer" thing?

Tracy Reifkind said...


Hey, I invented jalapeno tuna salad!

You bring up a very important experience of how other countries and cultures live less complicated.

And I think this constant over complication of what to eat is the number #1 problem that creates the resistance of cooking at home for ourselves....but we know better!