So my score at the farmer's market on Friday and my subsequent cooking spree (as evident on the cooking blog) has led me to lots of reflectin' on my relationship with food and cooking.
Today, I was talking to a friend online who was saying that they wanted to cook more but didn't know where to start. I realized how much I've learned about food and cooking since moving to Brazil.
This may sound silly to older readers, but I moved here when I was 22. Combine that age with a working class family that wasn't big on cooking or vegetables, and with a college life that required lots of hours working, and with general food ignorance in American culture, and the result was that I knew basically nothing about the basics of food prep.
For this friend, I typed up an email with a list of kitchen staple ingredients that are good to have on hand, and then I typed up simple tips on cooking on the cheap at home. I learned ALL of it living in Brazil. I realized while writing the email that I didn't know how to describe meat cuts in English. I think that's a basic thing people (well, non-vegetarians) need to know -- how to choose beef, what different cuts are good for, etc.
I credit Brazilian culture for being so much more health-conscious, and for putting more of an emphasis on making time for healthy eating, for being more resistant to restaurant marketing, for celebrating things with barbecues and home-cooked meals rather than at restaurants. I mean, I credit myself for looking into it so much, too, for taking the time to learn stuff-- but my environment definitely gave me a push. I feel so lucky to be here, to have gotten this new perspective.
My own research and math showed that food prices aren't actually that different between the countries if you're buying the right stuff. So a healthy diet is doable in the US, if you can try not to give in to the social pressure of eating out all.the.time. I read this ridiculous article in Newsweek about something they're calling "food insecurity" in the US (because they can't be pretentious enough to call it hunger-- that'd be an insult to people who are actually starving). They basically argue that lots of Americans are going hungry, going without basic nutrition. Despite the poorest 5% of the nation that they mention, I think this lack of nutrition is almost entirely a result of a lack of priorities (why invest in nice food for your kids when you can have a Wii and a brand new TV?!), and a lack of education on food and cooking basics.
Come on, America! Be better! I'm trying not to judge. It's a huge complicated situation, and I'd still be just as mixed up in it if I was still living there. I'm just hoping I can get through to at least one person or two.
I feel like I still have a lot to learn. I learn something new with every meal I cook, things that some people may consider obvious. But if you feel just as lost as I once did and want me to send you the email I typed up with the staples and the tips, email me at the cooking blog email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll pass it on to you.
What do you think everyone should know about food and cooking? What ingredients are staples in your kitchen?
EDIT: Fellow blogger Laurel just put up a really nice post on how to shop organic in the US. Enjoy!