I don't make New Year's resolutions, for most of us they're empty promises just waiting to be broken by the second or third week of January. That's because resolutions are usually negative - especially the food-related resolutions:
I will lose 20 pounds (eat less)
I will cut down on diet Cokes (deny myself that pleasure)
I will eat more healthily (avoid the foods I like best) Bah! In modern American culture food is an enemy, it's something we loath ourselves for enjoying and under a mistakenly puritanical impulse attempt to deny ourselves to somehow become more pure and deserving. I'm not saying we should overdue the ice cream before bed or eat a bag of pork rinds every day. But denying yourself is just begging for failure.
In that spirit, since I don't have any New Year's resolutions, I do have a few some food-related things I'd like to do this year - all positive.
Charcuterie: A couple of years ago I devoted some effort to learning to preserve meat, making pork and duck confit, sausages, corning a beef brisket, and so on. It was great fun, I got some marvelous treats from my efforts. I got to share this with friends and family and I learned a hell of a lot. Last year I ended up focused on writing and concentrating on making foods that I thought would interest a larger audience than my efforts to create a lamb sausage recipe. Enough of that! It's back to the meat market this year and learning to make some dried sausages like salami and Spanish chorizo.
Cheese: I've been meaning to learn to make cheese for ages. My ambitions aren't large, I'm not talking about 2-year-old aged cheddar or raclette. But I have access to cow, goat, and sheep milk - both pasteurized and un-pasteurized. I can make some fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, mascarpone, and farmer's cheese. The trick to this effort (and the next step in my charcuterie) is getting a wine refrigerator to age the cheese and sausages in since a wine fridge gives control over both temp and humidity, which is essential.
Meat & Beans: In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I'm not as conscientious about buying meat from my local farmers as I wish I were. One reason is that, unlike the supermarket, I can't decide I want a pork shoulder Friday morning and pick one up from Tracy the rancher that afternoon. There's a convenience factor, in other words. There's also cost. Meat that was well-cared for before it became meat is more expensive than the stuff at the supermarket. And part of it is I really eat too much meat.
I love meat. But I want to learn to appreciate it more than I do. Getting back into charcuterie is one way of doing that, but so is learning to use meat as a less central ingredient in meals. On the flip side, I'm not a big fan of dried beans, and yet some of my favorite recipes feature beans with a bit of meat for flavoring. So I'm planning to devote more effort to exploring this mixture. And it has the added benefit of being cheap. Win/win/win!
Ice Cream: Like dried beans, I'm not a big ice cream fan. But late last summer I got a Cuisinart ice cream maker on sale, and this summer I'm going to give it a workout. The truth is I do love fruit desserts and I enjoy both sorbets/sherbet and granitas. So I'll get a copy of Dave Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop and add ice cream to my cooking repertoire. I think that's a noble ambition.
Food isn't an enemy - something to be shunned and denied - it's one of the great pleasures in life. After touch, taste is the most sensual of our senses, a sense closely tied to our pleasure centers. So my goal, this coming year, is to enhance that pleasure not by over-indulging, but by indulging with thought, deliberation, and care.
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