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Homecooking Boredomisus

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By James Geneau

Well, it is that time of year again. You know, when we decide to head indoors and nest until the winter winds die down, the polar bears retreat from your garbage cans, and the snow banks recede down to the mid-waist level. Those of us left to survive in the Northern Hemisphere do this every year. Like the mighty grizzly, we hibernate and turn our eating and drinking towards the comforts of our home - our sweet home on the range.

For many, this act is poorly planned and can result in a condition I like to refer to as "Homecooking Boredomisus", the state in which humans will become bored with cooking due to the lack of seasonal ingredients available and an unwilling need to use the same ingredients over and over again. Many people experience it. Meat, potatoes, fish, bagged salads, oil, and vinegar make their way into our diets, day in and day out. In the good ole days, humans were immune to this condition. They harvested and preserved seasonal ingredients for use throughout the winter. Pickled vegetables, preserves, frozen meats, stews, and other dishes were prepared far in advance to be reincarnated as meals during the cold winter months. Today, few of us take these steps in advance. Sure, we get the flu shot but few of us do anything to prevent Homecooking boredomisus from setting in each winter. Well, for you folks out there that suffer from this ailment each year, I offer some remedies to help alleviate the pain.

First, start canning. OK, not literally as in go out and buy a $30,000 canning machine but start preserving seasonal ingredients for use at a later date. The biggest chefs out there do it. Why don't you? Apples, pears, plums, carrots, and cabbage can all be preserved for use in future dishes. You just need to plan ahead. Make a big batch of homemade tomato sauce and freeze it each August. Or take fresh pumpkin and preserve it for pies, cakes, and breads every October. Pickle some asparagus or green beans. Make fresh strawberry jam or preserve some peaches for use with a pork dish in February. Whatever you decide to save for those cold winter months will bring some excitement back to your cooking, without breaking the bank.

Secondly, use the whole hog and keep using it. By that I mean get a full cut of meat and get creative with how you will use it. Get some lamb and have the butcher give you some chops, a leg, and a shank. Make a stew, broil the chops, and make a sauce. Don't just cook and consume. Make more than you need and save some of it for later. A lamb stew in January is delicious but it is still a treat to have later on in February. After all, you have 60 dinners alone in the first two months of the year; you are allowed to repeat once or twice. The point here is that you should try to get as much out of your ingredients as possible. Get creative with the seasonal ingredients you have sitting in the pantry and mix it up. And in my opinion, lamb stew actually tastes better when it has been frozen a few weeks - it just collects more flavours.

A third option is of course the cooking party. In December, these are a big hit as friends come together to bake cookies and treats for the holidays. Everyone gets together; a couple of bottles of wine are poured, and everyone leaves with a selection of goodies for their own use. Why not do this for meals as well? Call some friends and ask them to come over for a cooking party. Make homemade pasta with five of your friends and then divide it up and take it home. Maybe some muffins or banana bread? Blanche then sautée some green beans with olive oil, garlic, and something sweet, package them up, and let everyone take them home for use the next day as a great cold salad with brunch. You can spend $6.00 for a small container at Whole Foods or have fun making your own with friends. This is the kind of event you and your foodie friends can look forward to each year and provides you with some creative inspiration to help fight off Homecooking Boredomisus.

Finally, and only for those who failed to take the right steps to prevent it from happening through steps one and two, find a vice to force some cooking creativity. Our advice? Wine of course. Nothing provides a better catalyst for great meals than pairing food to wine. Sure, we all spend time doing it in the opposite manner, but why not get creative by exploring new dishes and adding variety by putting the wine front and center? Each week, Gremolata offers a different wine with tasting notes and food compliments. Why not grab a bottle and make a night of it. Look at the compliments listed and then create a dish to go with it. Who knows, one night could be chorizo, the next night fish. Pasta, chicken, beef, and pizza: anything is possible depending on the wine you choose. After you're done, let your fellow readers know how it went and if it worked well with your dish! This is a perfect way to add some spice and variety in addition to trying some great new wines.

Of course, you could always just sit inside and suffer from Homecooking Boredomisus. After all, who needs any excitement in January and February anyways? Just sit there, eat the same thing each night, turn pale from lack of nutrients and sunlight, and lose a couple of brain cells watching American Idol. Hey, it is only two months.



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