I have always looked at food as something you eat when you are hungry or eat to satisfy a craving (pasta, cookies, waffles, etc.). I also have equated it with holidays, romance, and friendship. It has only been since moving to the country and living in the middle of a fresh farm food mecca have come to regard food as a means of expressing creativity, health, deep community, and unbounded joy.
I watch in wonder every year as apricots and tomatoes magically appear and weigh down branches and vines with their gifts. A silent prayer raises my heart in wonder at how much grows out of tiny seeds and how deep and rich the flavors are. I am a city girl-fairly new to this existence. It is becoming obvious that real food is better, healthier, more magical, and more fun to pick, eat, and store than grocery store food.
Real food has become my fountain of youth and my adventure companion as I travel through recipes, regions, and cultures without leaving home. I am learning to find new simple tools to play with that enhance the process of discovery in learning about things like grape pies, apricot coffee cake, greek salads, and apple cakes. The real food adventure continues to excite not only me, but the participants of my experiments as gifts, dinners, and community pot luck contributions as well as my house pets, who seem to immediately relax quietly on the kitchen floor when the vegetable chopping or stirring up eggs and butter begins.
I do not advocate having all the answers. In fact, that is what I love the most is the journey of change. My relationship with ingredients changes with the season, the time of day, who is in the house, what mood I am in, a country I have visited, and so on. The energy flickers on and off towards cooking. It is not always there. Everyone has their own relationship with food.
I am hiring some of the discoveries that follow will be enjoyed by others. If this were a workshop, I would welcome all suggestions, as I am sure you all have your own tricks and secrets. For me, I have always traveled. Once I count the countries I had visited and the number came to 35. I had lived in three other countries for short periods of time and loved it. What I am finding is that the discovery of working with real food is similar to an adventure travel trip. I use recipes, but experiment if I feel like it. If I see an ingredient I want to use, I do a search on the internet for recipes with that ingredient. If I have used cans or packages of something in the past, I try to figure out whether I can get that ingredient without packaging or cans. I have learned to store (can or freeze) all of my surplus fresh food (apricots, grapes, tomatoes, etc.) and found it tastes fabuloso in the middle of the winter. (Fresh concord grape juice-there is nothing like it! !!!).
So, to sum up, with cooking, as with travel and life- The journey is the reward, the recipe is the travel guide, and if you change your mind in the middle of the journey and want to go somewhere else-that's part of the fun .. The worst that can happen is you learned something.