Like most people who work a standard weekday daytime job, my favorite part of the week is when I leave work on Friday evening, because I know that’s when I have the most amount of time left before I have to be back at my desk on Monday. It’s not that I hate my job; I don’t love it, but it doesn’t cause me the heartburn, carpal tunnel, and chronic headaches caused by stress-induced teeth grinding that my last job did, so that’s something. It’s just that I love my free time more. I am fiercely protective of it, I hoard the time I can spend alone in a pair of fat pants.
With that said, my second favorite part of the week is on Saturday morning. I’ve just woken up after sleeping late, I’ve started in on a pot of the good coffee (Folger’s during the week, fancy locally-roasted stuff on weekends), I’ve checked Facebook and queued up the next couple of days on Tumblr and am ready to start reading about food.
I love reading about food. It might be my favorite topic, even above music and linguistics and literature (although this recent review of Helen Oyeyemi’s “Boy, Snow, Bird” is probably the most terrifically beautiful lit review in recent memory, and I’m not just saying that because I’m currently borrowing/adoring “White is for Witching”).
I love reading about food because I love food, obviously, but also because I love making food, and I love learning about food, and I love knowing about food because I love the anthropological reasons why certain food exists. I mean, you can eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day all you want, but isn’t it better when you know that it’s good luck, and that the greens represent money and the cornbread represents gold and why oh why did I let 2014 get away from me because I just couldn’t find the time to put the meal together this year?
Isn’t it better to know that shakshuka is so revered that many North African families consider the sauce to be a freezer staple, and about the crazy hard work that goes into a mole so that when you’re gifted some by a friend you cradle the container as you would a jewel? Isn’t it more rewarding to eat a sauce when you’re aware that it’s considered a mother in terms of cuisine, and don’t you feel proud of yourself for enjoying something that Child You would have refused to touch, sitting stubborn at the kitchen table even after your parents and sister had finished, washed the dishes, and left you there facing a cold plate as a form of punishment?
I can’t deny that I’m a glutton at heart, but I take a negligible amount of pride at avoiding the taco seasoning vs. Skinny Girl wastelands of Pinterest and understanding real food, the way it should taste and how to prepare it. I make a weekly meal plan not because I’m a diet mullah, but because I love the act of finding foods and writing them down. Yes, my brain likes lists and it also likes cursive, but it also also likes having something to look forward to every day. And how am I not supposed to look forward to any of this?!
(Correct. I am even looking forward to the brown rice bowl because heyyyyy, romesco!)
This is not to say that I am immune to the lure of half-off delivery, Cheez-Its on sale, or pints locally-made ice cream (especially Snoqualmie’s Danish Vanilla Bean because unf). But to me, cooking food like this is a better use of my money, a little easier on my blood pressure, and offers a greater sense of satisfaction than does tricking myself into thinking that chips and salsa counts as an entire meal.
Now that you mention it: I can never find a recipe to season taco meat that tastes like I think it should. I trust you more than Pinterest. Ideas? (I know this is NOT the point of this post but it’s your fault for bringing up tacos, no matter how roundabout the way.)
Commercial seasonings contain a SHITLOAD of sodium, which tends to amp up the flavors of other chemically-enhanced items. If I’m seasoning it myself (and say this is for 1 lb. of ground beef or turkey or whatever), I’d first brown the meat in olive oil, then reduce heat to medium low to soften some small-diced onion in the drippings and then add some minced garlic for only about 30 seconds. THEN add a mixture containing the below and stir well to combine:
1/2 tbs. ground cumin
1/2 tbs. ground chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. paprika (optional, although the smoked kind is preferable)
2 dashes cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper to taste
You only want this stuff to coat the meat, onion and garlic and toast there for about two minutes at the most.
(And this may be more than you asked for — but it’s your fault for asking about tacos — but even if you doubt that you’ll use these spices more than once, you can either buy small quantities from the bulk section or just figure out ways to use them. I use the belt-around-the-world method…if these spices are common in Mexico and Central America, then going laterally around the world, they can also be used in Mediterranean, North African, Middle Eastern, Indian, and some South Asian foods. So they’re much more versatile than a lot of people think.)
I have all of those things on my spice rack. If I didn’t already have something percolating in the slow cooker I would scrap my dinner plans and try it. Thank you!
“something percolating in the slow cooker” might be one of the most comforting phrases I’ve ever heard.