Lemme guess -one of your goals for this new year (like the rest of us) is healthier eating? with more in-season, locally-grown foods?
While I can't show up and cook for you, I can make it one step easier: Simply In Season is an excellent cookbook that celebrates the joy of eating with the seasons while encouraging consumers to be wise and compassionate with their money by choosing locally grown and fair trade foods. Anyone who was challenged by the film Food, Inc. needs this book; it helps put arms and legs to all those good intentions.
A friend loaned me her copy this fall, and just when I was feeling reluctantly that I should return it, another friend sent me my own copy for Christmas! Oh, Joy!
Authored by Mary Beth Lind (unfortunately, no relation) and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, the cookbook was commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee to "promote the understanding of how the food choices we make affect our lives and the lives of those who produce the food." Pretty lofty intentions, but Americans are slowly catching on to the concept that every time we shop for groceries, we can vote with our wallets for our ideals. Opportunities for improved health, sustainable food sources and better conditions for farm workers are as close as the next trip to the supermarket.
As for eating what is available locally now, Simply in Season makes it easy. There are four main sections, one for each season, which are each then divided into categories: soups, main dishes, desserts, etc. Each season highlights the vegetables and fruits that are easily available then - green peas and rhubarb in the spring, tomatoes and berries in the summer, etc.
Now that we're officially in winter, I am happily ensconced in the section with the purple edged pages, hinting at lovely winter vegetables like rutabagas and beets that too often get upstaged by their flashier summer cousins. What to make for dinner: Vegetable Vindaloo? Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos? Marrakesh Lamb Stew? Every time I start making a plan, I get distracted by the next page. Maybe I should just try the Maple Parsnip Soup. January seems the perfect time to snuggle up close with a parsnip, don't you think?
I should mention that there's no glossy photos here, which I consider a bonus. When my dinner turns out delicious but doesn't look quite the author's recipe - I'll never know! I'll just be eating with happy satisfaction - another way this book encourages us to reject our current societal cycle of perfectionism and over-consumption.
What it does have is a helpful owner's guide to vegetables: how to select, store and serve them as well as basic how-tos. I bought a bunch of pears yesterday just because the description of poaching was so good. I have never poached a pear in my life. Let this be the year!
The pages are also filled with quotes from contributors that educate and challenge about where and whether we are getting enough (or too much) of our daily nutrients. Here's one I found particularly a propos for this season:
When the holiday season of consumption that began on "black Friday" draws to a close, our consumption doesn't stop, it just changes focus. During the holiday season we are encouraged to consume, especially foods, to feel loved. In January we are encouraged to purchase diet foods and exercise equipment; ironically, to assuage our previous over-indulgence.
Reading (and salivating) through Simply in Season recently has made me reflect on some of my own resolutions about healthy eating. There's a direct correlation I realize between how I feel and how often I must empty the compost bin. If I've got a lot of veggie peels to deal with, then we must be eating the veggies. In our recent move, I had to give up my backyard chickens and their tasty eggs, but I haven't yet made the effort to find a new source of fresh eggs in my new locale. However, there's a farm down the road where rumor has it I could get eggs and a farm raised turkey. I just need to muster my courage (and my French skills) and make the trip down there.
Meanwhile, I'm planning to spend the year eating in season, and I'd love to have you join me. I'm going to say No to insipid travel-weary January tomatoes and Yes to hearty root vegetables with a loving dose of butter therapy. How about you? Have a parsnip?