For 2011, we offer 11 Culinary New Year's Resolutions (Kulinářské Novoroční Předsevzetí)!
These can be summed up with 11 words:
Such are offered in the true spirit and belief that anyone can cook (thanks, Auguste Gusteau and Remy in Ratatouille) and that excellent cuisine is within our reach globally (thanks, Julia Child)!
You can grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits almost anywhere. Many gardeners use containers if they don't have open land...put them on your deck, patio, in a window box or wherever you have sun. Just as everyone can cook, EVERYONE can grow something. Choose to!
As with the grand dinner in the movie, Chocolat, time will stand still while you're happily, energetically engaged in building and enjoying relationships! There's no better complement to good food than excellent friends, family and/or neighbors to share it with!
Note: Be sure to do your preserving--especially canning--properly; most countries have suggested guidelines to keep these foods safe and free from risk of Botulism. Consult these guides or learn from an expert who is more than happy to demonstrate the chemistry and art of food preservation!
What's the easiest way to peel winter squash with those rock-hard skins? Try using a peeler instead of a knife! It will run with the contours of the fruit (yes, they are fruits!) and minimize the risk of cutting yourself....
We found this to be true in the Czech Republic where we had to learn the names for every product....cibule (onion), česnecky (garlic), pomerance (orange), citron (lemon), etc. In some instances, knowing the scientific names meant that we already knew the names of some fruits and vegetables: pineapple, for instance, is called 'ananas' in Czech (which is the genus for pineapple; Ananas comosus) whereas sweet potatoes are 'batatas', the specific epithet or species name (Ipomoea batatas).
In much the same vein, knowing food relatives may be useful in cooking or preparation. All of the cole crops, for instance, are within the Brassicaceae (formerly the Cruciferae)--a family with a rich tradition of plant breeding, feeding numerous cultures around the globe for millennia. It's where so many important foods come from: radishes, canola, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, to name a few. Many of these share similar properties or possess characteristic compounds (we'll bet you can guess at least one of them).
All of the 'stone fruits' are in the Rose family (Rosaceae) and particularly housed in the genus Prunus. How is this useful information, besides being fascinating intellectual tidbits to mention in passing at a party? They have similar anatomy!
[Prunus....plums--Prunus domestica and peaches--Prunus persica from the September Czech Farmer's Market in Ceske Budejovice]
For many things we haven't made it a practice to read the labels, such as innocuous products like crackers or soup mixes....trusting the manufacturers, distributors and retailers whom we don't know. When Mark suddenly became ill after we had some crackers for lunch one day we quickly read the ingredients, even though it meant having to translate them from Czech. To our horror we discovered that nearly all of the crackers sold here listed glutamate sodium or Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in them! We then read the labels of all the dried soup mixes sold here in Central Europe and found they all contained it as well! While MSG or glutamic acid is used to enhance flavors by manufacturers and restaurants (ask yours if they use it!), the side effects are anything but tasty: obesity, neurological disorders, headaches, increased heart rates, etc. There is even The Glutamate Association of manufacturers that put it into their products (search the web...!). So, read your labels. Know what you're purchasing. Of course, if you grow and make your own food or purchase it from people you know and trust, you'll have much less cause for concern. Food safety is in everyone's interest!
The Castle at Ceske Krumlov (just ~20 km west of us) is situated on top of a steep hill. The road leading up to the Castle is extremely inclined and great for exercise....Neil worked up quite the appetite pushing Mark in his wheelchair up the treacherous wooden walks and gravel paths.
Neil and Mark
Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.