Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pleasurable Discoveries.

In her book, The Pleasure of Cooking for One, Judith Jones says, "The secret of making cooking for one fun and creative is not to think of a meal as self-contained but to understand that home cooking is an ongoing process, one dish leading to another." I am learning this art, that is, the evolution of one meal flooding into another, taking one ingredient from a past meal and slowly stewing it in the crock-pot of my mind, until new flavors emerge, ready to be imbued.

Particularly in cooking for one, there is no other to urge, "Oh, just eat the last few scoops up." There is no animal to indulge in licking clean my conscience as they do the plate. I must eat, or save it, or let it go to waste. Usually, I save it, and then forget about that poor half a can of beans, or half a squash, before it rots behind newly gathered foodstuffs. This is my weakness, again with the Food ADD. I am carried away by a Blushed Beet at the market, when I have parsnips persevering at home.

Buying in bulk quickly outgrows little cupboards, and cooking in bulk tires the palate. Thus, I am learning how to strategically use my vegetables. Each play, each cut, each steam and salad...what will be used? And, in what order? What flavor's steps will fit with another's dances?

I suppose the most appropriate analogy and perfected ideal of Victual Reuse, is the school cafeteria. I was blessed in never having had this experience, day after day. However, I did go to summer camp. Coming from a home where my mom made everything from scratch: she ground her own wheat berries and baked her own bread, we made concord grape preserves from our own vines, we gathered eggs hot and freshly formed from the chicken, and slaughtered our own chickens and was made before my eyes and I saw my food sources before they came to be in a pan, pot or jar in the kitchen. Mass feeding troughs of pre-made (and quickly cooling) mushy foods, were thankfully foreign to me. I was an alien, wandering in this land of convenience food.

Except for at summer camp: one whole week of repeated ingredients. I remember becoming skeptical on about the third day, after hamburgers, then meatloaf, and then spaghetti with meatballs. This was too suspicious to be a coincidence, yes? I realized I was in the panhandle of Nebraska, and there were many cattle ranches and feedlots in the vicinity. But still. Did a cattle rancher posses the coveted sole protein provider agreement worked out with the camp? These children...working up large appetites riding horses, climbing ropes, shooting bows, and rowing boats, shall only eat Beef! After all, it's Nebraska, and it's what's for dinner.

These camp cooks, probably local cattle farmers' wives, were masters of rephrased meals. Slight variations on a theme...variations on a theme of beef.

Tonight, I had leftover Azuki beans in the fridge. And so it goes, the process of cooking for one...

Daikon Radishes, these strange white roots are familiar sights to my post-San Francisco-Asian-market eyes. However, I never bought one. I never knew what to do with this "radish" that is fifteen times larger than the spicy little red garden globe variety.

Japanese beans? Japanese radish! It is "cleansing" and "enhances digestion" -- this latter quality, one for which I am always seeking. Plus, upon discovery that this root's scientific name was longipinnatus, how could I possibly live any longer without feasting upon such aptly named delight?! Now the dilemma of Cooking for One: daikon radishes are gargantuan.

I discovered the benefits of being nice to the produce man. There were no daikons at the market. Oh no! My dinner plans were foiled! But, the chivalrous produce man agreed to go through the dungeonous depths of the back warehouse. He was sure there were some kept treasured there. He was right. And, he noticed my overwhelmed expression upon seeing him carrying a white root out through the dungeon doors, much larger than my arm. My "Oh!!! Thank you so much!" was accompanied with a "Dear God, what am I going to do with this all?" expression. He took pity. Mercifully, he offered, "Would you like me to cut you off a small piece?" Eagerly, resoundingly, and gratefully, I said "Yes!"

I have still half of the daikon; half of the small piece, portioned off just for me. What will be its comestible fate?

And so it goes, the process of cooking for one...

~ Salad Longipinnatus ~

Daikon radish
Cold rice
Azuki beans
Romaine lettuce
Rice vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper


  1. I remember making all that bread, eight loaves at a time, and I didn't even own a bread machine. Back in the old days it was all back and arm muscles and a song with a good beat to knead to. Punch, roll, punch, roll, punch, can feel the beat.
    Remember the pans of ooey gooey cinnamon rolls? yum. But alas it was unbeknownst to me that the food I loved was killing me.