You Cannot Make Good Food Without Good Food
With the surging growth of apps like UBER Eats, Seamless and Door Dash, cooking is starting to feel more like a hobby rather than a necessary daily output. Gone are the times where our mothers would prepare a meal for several hours each day of the week for our entire family, and still have enough for leftovers. Ironically, The amount of processed foods and foods delivered from restaurants consumed continues to increase each year even with millennials becoming more health-conscious. The simplest way to combat this and reimplement cooking into our daily lives seems complex and archaic, but it’s rather simple. Let’s dig in.
It all starts with what I call the “big 3”- good spices, good kitchen tools, and proximity to an affordable grocery market (sorry Whole Foods). First we start with the flavor agents. The primary spices everyone needs are garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder. Once you’ve assimilated the perfect formation of spices, try to replenish them after 6 months to avoid losing their potency.
Good supplies and utensils can be expensive- if you’re a lazy shopper. Quality essentials each kitchen needs can be ordered online at affordable prices or at restaurant supply stores. These essentials are as follows: a solid wooden cutting board, even a wood block if you have the space. A quality knife set. I prefer knives made in Germany or Japan and there are many affordable options out there. A 10” sauté pan with a lid. A medium sauce pan. A pair of silicon tongs. A spatula. A silicon mixing spoon which I also use as a spatula, and a wooden mixing spoon. Hopefully you already have a stove and oven.
Once you become an intermediary chef- let’s call it someone who makes dinner 4 nights a week- you can up the ante with more spices and more supplies. I love my cast iron pan and ceramic pot which does everything from boiling water, to cooking pasta to braising meats in. A narrow fish spatula is crucial for delicate foods. In terms of spices having Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried herbs like parsley, basil, bay leaf and thyme can take you from Thailand to Brazil in a few minutes. Perfecting your Knife technique, cooking methods, and timing will soon become increasingly more important to you along your journey from beginner chef to a food truck operator.
The final piece of the big three is quality sustenance. You cannot make good food without good food. I took grocery trips, in San Fransisco of all places, when I would purchase enough meat and produce for 2 weeks and spend no more than $40. Macro-cooking as a like to call it, focuses on macro-nutrients. These are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Proteins are simple- always have eggs, peanut butter, fish, beef, chicken, pork and shellfish in your fridge. Outside of eggs, you can practically store the rest in the freezer for months. Carbohydrates can seem intimidating because there’s a million ways to cook them and they usually take the longest of the macronutrients to fully cook. Don’t be discouraged. They’re a friendly and resourceful food to have in your kitchen. Start with stocking up on white and brown rice, sweet and Idaho potatoes, good dark breads, oats, multigrain pastas, quinoa and legumes if you’re feeling adventurous. These are primarily prepared with various cooking methods like steaming, boiling, sauté and baking.
On to produce. Fruits and vegetables provide carbohydrates and many of the micronutrients we need to support normal heart and brain function. I always keep mixed berries, apples, citrus such as lemon, limes, oranges and grapefruits, bananas, and tropical fruits when in season. For vegetables, I like to have dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and collard greens, and dense veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, green beans, Brussels sprouts and carrots, assorted squash and colored peppers.
I cannot forget the most important pair to be in the kitchen since Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg- onions and garlic. Don’t make the mistake of these being absent in your fridge when you need them most. Now that you have all the necessities to become the next Food Network Star, let’s get cooking.
I’m not going to get into the weeds of cooking techniques in this piece but the Magna Carta of cooking is finding the perfect balance of protein, starches, and vegetables. This is where your newly stocked fridge comes into play. With the ingredients gathered, you can now combine them to make nearly all of the world’s most acclaimed fares in no more than 30 minutes.