Fresh Shell Beans

Fresh Shell Beans

Late night kitchen. I stand at my countertop, shelling fresh beans. It’s one of my favorite kitchen activities. Meditative. I also like cutting the tops off of string beans with scissors, squeezing limes, folding dumplings, and any other task that allows you to dip into that drowsy state as your hands and muscle memory take over the work.

Tonight, I listen to a podcast – Balanced Bites – Diane and Liz in an older episode, talking about how imposing order on yourself, be it strictness of diet a few days a week, a minimal wardrobe, or other arbitrary rules every so often can help reduce stress and anxiety, and help you do more, successfully. I know that I feel this way – imposing limiting structure every so often actually helps me be more productive – the key term being “every so often”. Abiding by food rules during specific times of year to reset my habits can help me recalibrate more quickly – it’s why I’m so fond of programs like Whole30 – they focus on crowding out your diet with real, whole foods, and encourage you to build good habits, such as cooking at home, which occasionally fall to the wayside of our busy lives, even those of us who love to cook! It’s not about restricting yourself from all the foods you love, it’s about committing to nutritious food, and letting your focus shift to other things. This also fits with the Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin’s theories of Abstainer and Moderators. Some people function better when abstaining totally, others are naturally capable of moderating themselves. I find that I alternate between both, usually preferring abstention when my life feels a little out of control due to external factors, moderation for all other times.

Tonight I’m savoring the last of the warm evening air with a mini pumpkin whoopie from Volante Farms. Maybe it’s just shy of 60, and the window is still open. The World Series is on. Funny how this Giants team feels so dear to me even though I’m so far from my temporarily adopted city. Soon though, to bed. Tomorrow is my last half marathon in Newburyport, before the big one: 26.2 in Savannah.

Kitchen Resolutions, 2012.

Julia Child, photographed in her Cambridge, Massachusetts kitchen, June 29, 1970. By Arnold Newman/Getty Images.

I love this photo of Julia, because it reflects a level of organization that I aspire to – a sort of chaotic organization where everything is in plain view and accessible. And we all know that Julia Child got stuff done. 

Kitchen Resolutions, 2012:

I keep lists all year long, but January is a nice time to share them because everyone else seems to be sharing theirs, and it makes me feel a little less crazy to have a moleskin filled with thousands of bullet points. Here is my current kitchen list, in no particular order. I call them my “Kitchen Resolutions” because it has a nice ring to it. Some of these I do already, some I’m just starting, and others I’m working towards.

:: Take time each weekend to plan meals for the week. The goal here is to avoid the inevitable laziness that happens when I’m starving and haven’t thought of ideas for a meal. The main benefit is that it saves money and time, and it allows me to actually plan out new things to cook in advance.

:: Stock the larder with home made goodies. Once a month (at least) I like to make a new condiment. I’ve been working lately to put together a “condiment calendar” with ideas for each season.   

:: Wash all dishes and wipe down counters before going to bed each night. I’m too often guilty of leaving things until the next day. A clean slate makes life infinitely easier in the morning, and I feel even better when I have my coffee mise en place ready to go to avoid confusion during my morning grogginess.

:: Keep a running Kitchen Journal. I usually record what I eat in loose notes anyway, but I’d like a more concerted effort to put together a real kitchen diary that I can look at in the future, and maybe even pass on as a keepsake.

:: Take stock of what is in my pantry. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has this ridiculous spreadsheet that I admire immensely. I’m pretty good at itemizing and knowing where things are, particularly with my large cookbook collection, but keeping better track of spices, expiration, etc. is the way to go.

:: Make a list of easy pantry meals. In addition to my meal planning, I’m working to compile a list of easy pantry meals to make if I’m really tired, or just don’t want what I’ve planned. Having this list will make things easier, and help me to avoid my standby spaghetti nights.

:: Start more food traditions. I love traditions. Maybe pizza night? Sunday brunch? I haven’t quite figured out one that works best for our household, but I’d love to find something.

:: Sign up for a few cooking classes. I learn a lot out of cookbooks, from cooking shows, videos on the internet, but hands on in the way to go. I’m particularly interested in Thai, Japanese, Filipino and Persian food at the moment.

:: Work on my “Things I’d Like to Cook List”. I’m working on my life list, but this one goes in tandem. So far I’ve been adding just a few things at a time to my Pinterest board.

:: Assess and update kitchen for efficiency. The kitchen needs some more love. I’d like ideally to get some metro shelving, maybe a peg board, and figure out the best layouts to move smoothly in the place.

:: Identify and celebrate my kitchen rituals. David Tanis and Nigel Slater (two of my favorite writers) have written so well about ritual – those little private moments in the kitchen that remind us why we love the place so much. Morning coffee, heating oil to re-cure my cast iron pan, afternoon tea, frying eggs, using my Microplane to zest, and making oats are some of my favorites, but I always love discovering new ones.

What are your kitchen resolutions? Do you keep a list?