New Year’s resolutions – whether about food or not – seem little more than a parade of past sins with half-hearted intention to rectify, although last January I made a commitment that worked: Never enter a supermarket without reusable shopping bags. I assembled six, from the classic French string bag that expands to hold a watermelon, to a heavy canvas tote. I return them to the car promptly when emptied. Occasionally I forget, but safe to say I saved 10 plastic bags a week – that’s 520 a year. If 10 people accomplished this, the savings would be an impressive 5,200 bags.
Other not-quite-resolution suggestions:
•Adopt an unpopular veggie: If the family balks at cauliflower try scattering tiny florets on pizza before baking. Likewise cure-all kale. Radishes sliced paper-thin are fantastic on meat sandwiches or, as the French attest, atop buttered bread. I grate them into coleslaw for extra crunch, color and bite. And remember, almost any vegetable tastes better steam-sautéed in a tiny amount of oil, butter, water: asparagus, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, green beans. Tempura may be more labor-intensive, but guarantees palatability.
•As for those new “spiralizer” gadgets, they do produce an attractive result, especially for kids, and aren’t horribly expensive.
•Speaking of veggies, have some fun with the new “swamp” juices, so-named for their froggy green hue. At first offered by natural foods labels, the juices are now commercialized by V-8. Put a bottle on the table with enough shot glasses for the crowd. Pour, chug-a-lug and laugh. Not bad, really.
•Keep a winter herb garden. Supermarkets carry potted herbs year-round. Invest in a long metal window box for basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage to give the kitchen a spring atmosphere.
•Caveat emptor rules the vocabulary front. The marketplace is going bats over “simply/simple” and “smart.” Know that these terms are unregulated, can mean something or, more likely, nothing. I read “simply frozen” on a package recently. How do you freeze something simply? Have we been eating food frozen by a complicated method all these years? “Natural” is minimally regulated, over- or misused. Don’t forget that low and non-fat products, especially yogurt, may be loaded with sugar.
•Speaking of words and marketing, I could write a thesis on Campbell’s new Well Yes! canned soups. Despite variations, Campbell’s has never escaped the condensed, over-salted, red-and-white can. Progresso fixed that. But the Well Yes! label is a carefully executed study in subliminal coercion, with Campbell’s written in the smallest letters and Yes! in the largest, followed by an artsy photograph of ingredients. Varieties include trendy sweet potatoes, kale, quinoa, lentils, wild rice, barley, roast chicken. “A Soup in the Right Direction” replaces “Mm-mmm good.” At a hefty price. But they are tasty, full of texture and lacking that shiny cornstarch finish common to premium canned soups.
•Another trend to notice in 2017: simplified (there’s that word) frozen vegetables, as Green Giant’s “riced” cauliflower with no sauce or seasonings. I’m not sure everybody knows that a ricer presses cooked food through small holes creating a mashed consistency. This term may prove a stumbling block, along with what to do with the product, other than adding it to soup. GG’s broccoli-cheese Veggie Tots are interesting but, like the riced, pricy. Not sure any of this will survive the year.
•You really don’t have an Asian sauces collection? I often yen for Chinese/Thai/Japanese flavors. Recipes are arduous, requiring many unusual ingredients. But with a collection of sauces on hand, stir-fried vegetables, rice noodles, frozen dumplings satisfy the craving. My favorite: homemade chicken nuggets doused with spicy orange sauce, canned mandarin orange sections and a handful of snow peas – quite appropriate for Chinese New Year (of the Rooster) which commences Jan. 28. Instead, make this the Year of the Soy, Sweet Chili, Ginger and Hoisin Bottles. Try T.J. Maxx, Trader Joe’s and other specialty stores for best selection.
•Here’s a resolution every person needs to adopt, and keep. Make an effort, big or small, to address hunger in the community. You can do it individually or through a group. Vermont is such a spectacular foodie state with bistros, markets, growers, packers. But how sad that a significant population cannot even afford the state’s signature product: maple syrup. Also, teach your pre-teen children to cook simple (used correctly here) dishes to replace fast food and take-home. I’m sad when I visit a fancy home kitchen with a microwave mounted low, at kid-level. If they can Tweet, Instagram and Snapchat they can manage a pot of spaghetti and a salad. Just think, if necessity hadn’t drawn me to the kitchen at age 8, I might not have enjoyed these 30 years as your BFP food columnist.
Eat well, stay healthy and a happy 2017.
Contact Debbie Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org