I can’t believe that January is officially over! It feels like 2018 has just started, yet it’s already over 1/12th complete. Which brings me to the 2018 “goals” (we don’t say resolutions anymore because everyone knows that resolutions are bound to fail). I’ve had goals/resolutions/aspirations in years past but hadn’t thought too much about them this year until I was at a party over the holidays and a friend asked me what my food goals were for the new year. I wasn’t ready to get on board with the usual lose-ten-pounds-by-eating-only-egg-whites-and-spinach situation, but food goals sounded like something I could get excited about. So I did some thinking, and I came up with a pretty substantial list, which I’m sharing below.
2018 Food Goals
- Eat more native/indigenous foods. This was the goal that sparked the rest of the list. Andrew and I were in Arizona for aforementioned holiday party, and every time we visit I love tasting and learning about local/indigenous foods and ingredients. I’ve tried delicious prickly pear margaritas (I also have a bottle of this prickly pear syrup that I bought in Phoenix and I’m excited to try out in my own recipe soon!), local pecans, and lots of chiles, but I still haven’t had tepary beans, saguaro seeds, or cholla buds, and that’s just Arizona. I’d like to find out more about the ingredients that are specific to New York, where I live, as well as to other areas I’m visiting. And along with learning more about the ingredients, I’d also like to learn more about their place in Native American cuisine and their traditional methods of preparation. I found this article to be a helpful and interesting frame to the issues of cultural appropriation and colonialism that come up in this context. As in any traditional cuisine, I think it’s really important to learn about ingredients and dishes in their cultural, historical, and environmental contexts in order to appreciate them in a way that is respectful to their origins. Having said that, I am very much in favor of experimenting to create something new and delicious (I have big plans for a mango pickle–rubbed pork shoulder soon, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be great).
- Learn more about wine. I’ve written before about my obsession with The Great Courses’ “The Everyday Guide to Wine,” a 24-lecture course, which Andrew and I have slowly been watching class by class through the New York Public Library’s streaming service, Kanopy. I’m looking forward to continuing with the course, but I also want to find more opportunities to taste wines, learn about them, and expand my palette. I’m particularly interested in natural wines (organically produced, they tend to have some offbeat and funky qualities) right now and am excited to learn more. I really want to visit the NYC wine bar Compagnie des Vin Surnaturels to do some tasting—I haven’t been yet, but it’s high on my list!
- Do more meal prep/planning. Specifically for lunches—I don’t like being stuck paying $10 for a mediocre meal when with a bit of meal prep and planning, I could have had a much cheaper, healthier, and delicious lunch that I packed myself! Lately I’ve been prepping a lot of salads and grain bowls. My work week typically begins on Sunday, so I spend a lot of Saturday afternoons roasting root vegetables and squash, slicing lacinato kale and red cabbage into fine slivers, and cooking grains like farro or quinoa. Then the night before each work day, I assemble some combination of these things along with avocado, a sprinkling of nuts or seeds, and maybe a bit of full-fat Greek yogurt or labne, leftover chicken, and dried cherries or fresh pomegranate seeds. I keep a jar of homemade vinaigrette at work a mix in a few spoonsful when I’m ready to eat. The problem is, when I get toward the end of the week, I start getting tired of the same combo, so I’d like to prep a few more elements so I’m not stuck with the same meal every day. Also, I often arrive home from work at 7 or 8 o’clock or later, and if there’s no dinner plan I sometimes get overcome by a combination of panic and lethargy (yes, weird combo, but believe me, it’s possible) and we end up with a less-than-inspired dinner (or with mediocre sushi delivery). So the new 2018 me is going to plan out a few things that I want to cook during the week, and then write down in my calendar the ingredients that I need to pick up on my way home from work on the days that I need them (I want to do more shopping for fresh foods on an as-needed basis, because see goal 4). On days when I get home on the early side, I’ll see if there’s any prep I can do for things I’m making on the nights I’ll get home later.
- Waste less food. This goes hand in hand with number 3—better planning = less waste. Also, I’m trying to be more realistic about how much time I’ll have to cook during the week, how many times we will want to eat leftovers of the same meal, and how many times one or both of us will be out running around all day and need to pick up a meal on the go. At the same time, I tend to feel so guilty about wasting food that I too often end up eating something that’s on its way out and would be better off in the garbage. So better planning is really important here (see goal 3)!
- Don’t throw good food after bad. I’m borrowing this phrase from Erica Strauss, who explains the concept really well in her book The Hands-On Home. As great as it feels to pickle a huge batch of kale stems instead of composting them, am I really going to eat a huge batch of pickled kale stems? Or will I eat a few, keep them for a few months, and then end up throwing out the rest when I’m not sure if they are good anymore, thus wasting all of the vinegar, shallots, spices, etc. that went into the pickles to begin with, not to mention wasting the kale stems too?
- Try more new-to-me international/regional foods. For me that means both cooking them at home and trying out new restaurants. I’m lucky enough to live in New York, where you can find practically every type of cuisine there is, so I’d like to experience more of them. Even if I’d rather stay in, I can find almost any ingredient I could want at local stores. I’ve also found that Amazon is a great source for spices and other ingredients I’m having trouble finding, so If you don’t live in a city, that would be a good options for sourcing ingredients. Some restaurants I’m excited to try? Pye Boat Noodle for Thai hawker food, Barney Greengrass (the Sturgeon King) for bagels and smoked fish, and Taste of Persia for delicious-looking soups and rice dishes. A few grocers I want to visit? Kalustyan’s for spices, Titan Market for Greek ingredients to recreate some of the dishes Andrew and I enjoyed on our honeymoon, and H Mart in K-Town so I can start learning to cook Korean food.
- Have more dinner parties! Cooking can be a lot more fun when there are friends around to enjoy the final product. And what better excuse to make a large-scale dish like a roast or a cake than actually having enough people to consume it?
- Buy high quality ingredients. Cooking at home is so much cheaper than going out, so even if I’m spending a little more buying the best ingredients, I’m still saving money. And closely related to goal 8 is goal 9:
- Eat more organic/sustainable food. Especially meats. I spent 10 years as a vegetarian, and five of those as a vegan, so I’ve done a lot of reading about the horrors of factory farming. I do make an effort to buy sustainably raised meats when I cook at home, but I want to do this much closer to 100% of the time. I’d also like to to visit the Union Square Greenmarket more often for their amazing selection of local produce and sustainably produced meat, eggs, and dairy.
- Celebrate more. Yes, there are holidays, but they don’t come around nearly often enough for my liking. So I’d like to make more of an effort to celebrate the occasions in between, whether big or small. Four month wedding anniversary? (That was a few days ago!) We went out for barbecue. First day of summer? A vegetable feast grilling dinner party in the park (there will be meat too, don’t worry). Made it through the work week? Let’s open the champagne!
- Learn more. Whether it’s through taking cooking classes (I can’t WAIT to enroll in another at ICE!), reading food magazines or cookbooks, watching cooking shows and documentaries, or asking questions at restaurants, I want to be learning more about food and cooking every day. There’s so much that I still don’t know, but it always feels great to expand my knowledge, even if it’s little by little. I’ve started watching The Great Courses’ The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking, which goes over lots of cooking techniques and makes me feel (almost) like I’m getting private cooking lessons. I always love reading new cookbooks (I usually check them out from the library first to see if I want to commit to buying them), but I want to get more food books that are not cookbooks into my reading rotation. (Some past favorites have been The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, Blood, Bones, & Butter, and anything by Ruth Reichl.)
- Make more time for blogging. Sometimes (ok, most of the time!) it’s much easier to prioritize the things that actually bring in money (aka day job), but I want to spend more time doing the things that really make me happy, like cooking and blogging. I have to remind myself that even if I feel mentally exhausted from work, I’ll still be glad pushed through for another hour or two to cook or work on my blog. I’m coming up on Lo-Fi Gourmet’s two-year birthday in under two weeks, so I’ll try to do something special on the blog to mark the occasion!
I’m not aiming for perfection here (phew), just a little improvement, learning, and fun. Wish me luck! I’d love to hear about your 2018 food goals too—please comment and tell me about them!