Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year Challenge: Cook More


I'm not one for New Year resolutions, though from time to time I've been known to offer up some suggestions. So this year, instead of a resolution, I decided to propose a New Year challenge. It's a simple one: spend more time in the kitchen.

Kitchens can serve as a hub of family activity, a place to spend quality time together. They also offer a direct connection to our health and our heritage, in the traditions of food and in the choices we make about what foods we put in our bodies. And for those of us in the gluten-free community, the kitchen is a place of empowerment, a place where you're not confined by limited menu choices at a restaurant or a defined selection of gluten-free foods at the supermarket. In the kitchen, anything is possible.

Yet, my sense is that as a nation we're spending less and less time in our kitchens. This is driven, I think, by at least two major contributing factors: convenience and choices we make about how we spend our time.

One thing Kelli and I have noticed attending gluten-free conferences, expos, fundraiser walks, and other events—especially in the Northeast—is that people crave the convenience of prepared foods. Each of the last two Octobers we've attended a major event in Westchester County, where we've brought 100–200 mini cupcakes to give away as free samples (usually a seasonally appropriate pumpkin spice cupcake with cinnamon frosting, plus a crowd-pleasing chocolate with vanilla frosting). The cupcakes often garner rave reviews—people sneak back for seconds, or they come by having heard someone else at the event talk about the cupcakes.

But we've discovered that what happens next follows a now-familiar pattern. Someone will say something along the lines of: "This is delicious! Where can I buy them?"

To which we reply: "You can't buy them… but you can make them yourself anytime you want! The recipe is in our cupcake cookbook." Insert shameless plug here.

Then you see their face sink, and they walk away having lost all interest in what moments earlier was putting a huge smile on their face. Sigh. Convenience wins (this time).

In relating this story to my mom, she's sympathetic to the convenience food lovers. People are busy these days, she says. They don't have the time to spend in the kitchen making from-scratch cupcakes or whatever.

I don't totally buy that argument. We're all busy. Getting into the kitchen is about prioritizing that aspect of your life, about making choices about how you spend your time. If being in the kitchen is important to you, you'll make it work. (Though I readily admit there are exceptions, such as the single parent working two jobs just to put food on the table in the first place…)

But consider my own example: I'm a father to two young girls; I work a full-time job; I blog as often as I can; I train for ultramarathons. All of these things place demands on my time. And though from week to week the balance shifts one way or the other, I try to spend quality time in the kitchen regularly.

And here's the wonderful thing—cooking is truly egalitarian; it's an equal opportunity endeavor; anyone can do it. Really. There's no red velvet rope and a bouncer at the entrance to your kitchen, deciding if you're worthy to enter or not.

Like two of my other passions—writing and running—cooking does not require specialized training, advanced degrees, or large amounts of money to participate. The barriers to entry are extremely low. Sure, you can hone your craft and "elevate" your participation, if you so desire. But you don't have to.

Consider running. With a few exceptions, if you have two feet, you can walk or hike or jog or run. And running doesn't require the hundreds or even thousands of dollars of equipment to participate. Writing is much the same way. Unlike other fields, such as medicine or engineering, which require advanced education and training, writing—as either a hobby or a career—is universally accessible. 

So it is with cooking.

And so, if you do one thing in 2013, I challenge you to spend more time in the kitchen. It costs little to do it, and the potential rewards are great—the food, the togetherness with family and friends, the value in making a choice to deliberately spend your time in a certain way toward positive ends, the gluten-free goodness that comes from a refrigerator and pantry matched to your dietary needs. And just imagine even greater possibilities. For example, what if the solution to America's obesity epidemic wasn't spending less time in the kitchen, but spending more, by creating healthy, from-scratch meals?

If the first days of 2013 offer anything, they offer opportunity. Seize it. Happy cooking!

–Pete

7 comments:

Lindsey S said...

Hollah that. I could not agree more! Such a wonderful post for the New Year:) Thank you for getting my cooking back in to heaven Peter and Kelli. I owe you BIG. Thank you from the bottom of my newly gluten free life xoxo This post is for you both http://themullies.blogspot.com/2013/01/no-pressure-no-problem.html

kellibronski said...

Lindsey - Thank you so much for sharing your post about the waffles. We are thrilled that they have positively impacted your GF journey and we hope you enjoy more recipes from the book! BTW we honeymooned on St. Lucia too!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,
Bravo! I agree whole-heartedly! I am on a journey to eating less of processed foods. I have not been 100%(last night we made a Namaste pizza crust for dinner and I had corn tortillas and salsa this week) but I am taking baby steps.

Have a wonderful day!
Much Love,
Janet

Lori-Ann said...

Happy New Year to you and your family! Awesome blog!!! In fact we just finally found a kitchen island that my husband and I love so we can cook together with ease!!! :-)

kellibronski said...

Janet - Good for you for taking the steps to make a positive change in your diet. All those baby steps add up and one day you realize you are where you hoped you would be!

Lori-Ann - Have fun cooking together with your new island! We just moved from a tiny kitchen that was impossible not to constantly bump into each other to our new kitchen where there is space for the kids to sit on the counter and we can move around comfortably. We are really enjoying the elbow room and hopefully that will translate to more new recipes!

keepingpure said...

I agree with you there! Those of us who enjoy cooking gluten free should do it as much as possible so we can share it with others!

You know, after reading your posts, I thought I'd let you know about glutenfreeuniversity.net/forum. It is a great place to get and give answers and tips. The site is just starting out, but they have a good informative crew and the site has a lot of potential. I think you could add a lot to the site. Check them out, and join if you can!

Karen Counts said...

I was so happy to come across this post! I am quite health conscious and always looking for new *AND EASY* ways to drop some weight. I have quite often reached a point in which NOTHING seemed to work and I would struggle to lose those few extra pounds. My new years resolution is exactly this! I need to stop microwaving meals and going out to eat I need to get in the kitchen and take control of my food! I have quite a few friends who are gluten intolerant and have heard from a number of them that there are some amazing gluten free recipes out there that are delicious and extremely healthy (and assist with weight loss!). They have opened my eyes to the wonderful world of gluten *and even dairy free cooking* and I would highly recommend the website http://www.ninacucina.com/. I recently purchased her book, Nina Cucina: Your Healthy Gourmet and I have become addicted to gluten free recipes! I am not a great cook but I found this book (and website) so informative and so easy to follow. For every single recipe the author, Nina Pucillo, gives the nutritional value of each dish and step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the dish. All of the dishes featured in the book are totally gluten-free and Nina has included many recipes that are dairy-free too! Thanks for sharing! I hope my suggestion helps too :)