Welcome Back, old friend. I was tempted this year to just re-post last year’s Kitchen Resolutions as a bit of a re-do, but as I mentioned this week in my annual review, 2020 was not many things, but proved to be a good year for eating things out of my kitchen. I was truly surprised that the variety of things that I ate and cooked for myself. There were a lot of simple meals. That said, a lot of this is just copy-paste of years past. I’ll go ahead and make notes about what I’m updating.
One of my favorite lists to come back to each year is my Kitchen Resolutions: my commitment to spending more time doing the things I love: cooking, reading about food, talking about food, and eating…. all of the food.
I’ve been writing these resolutions for more than a decade, and some of them pop up year after year – affirm doing good things that work – and a handful are new each year. You can take a peek through previous years here: (2012) (2016) (2017) (2018) (2019)
Here’s a list of my resolutions, some old, some new!
My weekly meal planning process – it took me more than a decade of meal planning to realize that I don’t love this process because I’m obsessed with food – I mean, I am, but that’s not the point – I love the process because it’s an anchor habit that helps me do everything else in my life. It keeps me fed, energized, and provides me joy and novelty. It helps me connect with friends, culture, and tap into my creativity.
Blogging my weekly Good Things: Good Things also has a dual purpose – I find myself living more fully when I know that I’m accountable to having it written down at the end of the week!
100(0) fruits, nuts, and seed to try – here’s my list; I was surprised to see this as one of my most viewed web pages of 2020. It seems like a lot of folks out there were interested in a challenge.
[New] Intentional Culinary Novelty: I get a lot of joy from the quest for the best (chocolate, sandwich, chestnut spread, bean, etc.) In 2020 I had some fun with my Rancho Gordo Bean Club subscription, a box from Mozzerella Co., treats from Elephantine, and mail-order of individual ingredients such as Xi’an Chile Oil. I’d like to continue this trend! Do you have any favorite mail order items for me to add?
Revise my backup list: (a version of it here) even when I meal plan, some days, I just want comfort food that requires little effort and really only muscle memory. There’s the food I plan, and then the food I eat when I can’t stick to what I’ve planned – and it always helps to have something in between that provides some sense of nutrition: I’m looking at you, microwaved bag of broccoli or cauliflower gnocchi.I’d also like to add a short list of global 10-15 minute meals.
Minimize the amount of stuff on the counter in my kitchen: this seems like a yearly aspiration, but I find myself updating and iterating every time. I really like having quick access to ALL THE THINGS. One of the things I need to tackle this year though is finding extra space for clutter on the countertops, and paring down dishes and Tupperware because if everything is clean there isn’t… actually space for it all put away.
Cooking recipes from cookbooks – in addition to (I think) a weekly Turkish recipe, I’ll make an effort to add at least one cookbook recipe to my weekly meal plans, add a few new cookbooks to my collection, and combine this with some favorite cookbook re-reads. I’m not set on these; they are a starting point:
January – Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food by Diana Kennedy
February – Cook, Eat, Repeat – Nigella Lawson
March – What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin
April – The Flavor Equation – Nik Sharma
May – The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot
June – The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast by David Leite
July – My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
August – Saffron in the Souks – John Gregory-Smith
September – Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Everyday Meals, Effortlessly Good for You by Chetna Makan
October – A Work in Progress: Notes on Food, Cooking and Creativity by René Redzepi
November – Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara
December – Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
Collaborative Dinners + Cooking Classes: With Zoom becoming just a normal part of every day life for EVERYONE, and dinner parties currently impossible, I’d like to host three this year. Starting with a small friend Alta Strada meal. I’d also like to take at least (1) online Zoom cooking class – something I’m unlikely to have made myself at home.
Food memoirs and literature: more from my favorite genre, that I’ve not paid nearly enough attention to this year. Next on the docket: The Man Who Ate Too Much by John Birdsall. Everything is Under Control by Phyllis Grant. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. Dirt by Bill Buford. Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn.
Garden 2021: this year I opted for the front garden in pots. I think I’d like to plant FLOWERS in the back garden next year so I have blooms ready to go.
Bucket list restaurants – this one is on pause for some of this year! I dream of a time where we’re all vaccinated and I can travel and eat at some of my dream restaurants around the world. Where I can eat through all the local places with Eater 38 as a guide. For now, I’m set on enjoying some local takeout every so often as a treat.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing up my annual review. My process is relatively simple – I run a retro – what worked well, what didn’t go well, what I’d like to improve. I gather the evidence of the year – my photos, my calendar, my sent emails, my journals, and I look over them, taking the time to sit in the feelings. I feel lucky to be able to spend some real time taking stock.
The biggest takeaway I have is that 2020 proved a strong point about why the practice of acknowledging the good (and writing it down) is so important for me.During times of stress I straight up forget the facts. Stress robs me of my ability to see the bigger picture. Instead, I may remember the theme (PANDEMIC!); the colors are not vivid, and the details slip through. When I take notes, when I write, and when I pause, I get to keep living the plot.
While working on my review, I was honestly surprised at the breadth of experience this year – in large part because my brain (really our collective brains) have been overloaded by the suspense, fear, grief, news cycle, and more. 2020 was a collective trauma.
As I took notes on this year, I was surprised to see how many of the dreams and hopes I had for 2020 actually ended up happening, despite the pandemic, or even more unlikely – because of it. This year I was able to help more people in my business, cook more, move more outdoors, create, develop deeper friendships with people thousands of miles away, and become closer to my friends and family – because of the constraint of something truly awful. This experience led me to be of better service to others. It’s a weird, complicated mix of feelings.
Back to the process.
Photo Documentation: To start, I open up my Evernote and my photos, and scroll back to January 1st. I then take the time to look through each of my photos for the year. As I go through, I take notes on fitness adventures, the meals and snacks that stood out to me, making sure to take note of novelty.
Reviewing my “master lists” and my tech history: my movie goal (I have a spreadsheet, and share on Instagram stories), my reading list (Goodreads), I also take a peek in my Amazon and Netflix viewing history. That said, in 2021, I think I’m going to track my television viewing on my movie list as a way to make it more intentional and enjoyable. I listened to a good deal of podcasts, so I made sure to note those too. How diverse is my input? What kinds of sources are driving my thinking and ideas?
I then take a look at my calendar, review my blogs and notes in Evernote, and peruse my saved sent emails to capture some of the things that end up not showing up in my camera roll or typical lists: conferences, courses, people that I’ve met, the occasional Facebook group drama. I take note of what I learned, and the projects I worked on, and work highlights.
A few more categories I take note of:
Review Travel and Creative Dates. (This year that section was short – next year I’m working on re-framing the possibilities rather than cutting out experience all together.)
Identify the things and experiences that brought me joy. (There was a lot of material purchases as I “upgraded” to the (best) items that would improve my experience of living at home.
A list of Random Things that don’t get slotted anywhere.
People I met or re-connected with.
A list of low points in 2020.
This year, I spent some time thinking through the process with a friend who does the same and added a few more categories and questions to think about, as she does values-based goal setting:
How have I connected to my values this year?
What do my choices show have been my priority?
This year I was….. as evidence by:
What do I want to pull into next year – carrying forward the work I’m already doing?
Where do I want to be next year? Which of these themes should I work towards in the coming year?
I tend to spend a few weekends working on capturing, notes, and reflection.
Of course I wouldn’t leave you without a peek into some of the good things; that is, of course, what I aim to do with this corner of the internet. This is admittedly the highlight reel; I have a long document with the rest of it all, but that’s probably best for another day.
Favorite Eats of 2020: we shall start here. This was the part of my annual review that SHOCKED me the most – the variety of foods that I ended up cooking and eating was very expansive.
Favorite Breads: Stone & Skillet Muffins, everything from Elephantine, Whizzo’s seedy bagels. Joseph’s Flax Lavash. Hamburger buns from my farm share.
Favorite Beans: everything delivered in Rancho Gordo bean share. Pickled black eyed peas.
Fitness Highlights: I started the new year with my Needham New Years 5k, after a few months of running three miles three times a week, three years of my run streak down, I took great joy in completing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (and back) – 1275 miles during the months of May through August. I organized my “fitness station” visibly in the middle of the living room to make sure that movement was always on my mind: yoga mats, props, blocks, dumbbells. I didn’t lift as much as I would have liked because I don’t have a barbell at home, but enjoyed some solid lifting at home with my growing collection of weights and Bret Contreras’ at home fitness program. And I took a LOT of yoga classes on Ompractice – our schedule has grown to almost a hundred live group classes a week, and it’s been a true delight seeing classes get “regulars”.
Movie Highlights: I can’t really choose a top 10, so this is about a top 15. Of note – in the (before time), the last movie I saw in the theater was Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn in the ARCLIGHT – which was the single most glorious cinematic and acoustic pleasure I’ve had in a theater. Some of my favorites this year included: Booksmart, Ladybird, Uncut Gems, Dolemite is My Name, 1917, Fighting with My Family, John Wick 3, Raising Arizona, Portrait of a Lady On Fire, Tigertail, Troop Zero, The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats It’s Young, The Half of It, My Spy, Pride, Mucho Mucho Amor, and Brave.
Favorite Books: in no particular order. I read less this year than usual, but still enjoyed a real range of genres and topics.
The Institute – Stephen King (fiction)
Vagina Bible – Jennifer Gunter (non-fiction)
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides (fiction – thriller)
Legacy of Orisha — Tomi Adeyemi (2) (YA)
Ride of a Lifetime – Bob Iger (memoir)
It’s About Damn Time – Arlan Hamilton (memoir)
Range – David Epstein (non-fiction)
Rise – Patty Azzarello (business)
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke (fiction)
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – VE Schwab (fiction)
Untamed – Glennon Doyle (memoir – inspiration)
Favorite TV Series: in no particular order. Chef’s Table BBQ, the Queen’s Gambit, Hannah Gadsby – Douglas, Kim’s Convenience, Tiger King, Ashley Garcia, Worst Witch, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Umbrella Academy, Locke + Key, Vera (finished the series), Midsomer Murders (finished the series after years!), Jack Ryan, Schitt’s Creek, Indian Matchmaker, Bridgerton, Dash & Lily.
Favorite Podcasts: the Michelle Obama Podcast, How I Built This, RadioLab, Tim Ferriss, 1619, My Favorite Murder!, Dirty John, Inside Trader Joe’s. A few business specific: Arlan Hamilton’s My First Million, and Simone Seol’s Joyful Marketing.
With that, here’s to a full year to come. Thank you for reading, being a part of my life, and making the world a better place. I appreciate you.
I occasionally link to products using affiliate links, including Amazon. I get a small commission if you purchase something from that link and this helps cover hosting costs (I use DreamHost and have been a happy customer since 2009). Thank you for supporting The Second Lunch!