My “Cook or Die” project started when I moved into an apartment-style dormitory shortly after university. My room was equipped with a small kitchen – really, just a hot plate, a microwave, and a toaster oven. Instead of always eating at the nearby KFC, I resolved to prepare at least one of my meals each day. Hence: Cook or Die. (Well, Cook or Starve.)
I’ve come a long way since I discovered that pita pockets were called pita pockets for a reason. I hardly ever eat out now. I’d much rather eat at home, where meals are frugal, tasty, and just the right size for me. The kitchen is well-stocked. The garden’s full of herbs. I’ve got a decent collection of favourite recipes, and I’m always learning more about cooking.
We’re heading into our second month of community-supported agriculture. W- has signed up for a weekly summer half-share from Plan B Organic Farms. Every Thursday, we pick up a box containing an assortment of vegetables, some of which I’ve never tried before. The box arrives every week, a relentless parade of perishables. (You can postpone for vacations and get a credit, but I think that would be cheating on our experiment.) I’m getting pretty creative about how to get through all of this plus the groceries we buy. The nooks of our freezer are filled with pesto in small Nalgene containers and chopped green onions in Ziploc bags.
I’m also discovering new recipes. I’d never made green garlic pesto before, but the Internet thinks it’s good, so I gave it a try. Today I baked kale chips, although I oversalted my first batch; and yes, they do taste oddly like potato chips. We’ll see if I can get W- and J- to try them. We all like seaweed, and the texture’s not far off.
I turned our ripening avocados into guacamole, mixing in my chopped-up frozen green onions from the vegetable box. I still had lots of guacamole after making myself an omelette. Turns out you can freeze guacamole, but I figured it was more useful to just share it with our neighbours, as they were having a small party. So I rubbed the tortillas with olive oil, cut them into eighths, and baked them for about 8 minutes at about 400′F until they were crisp and light brown. After testing a few, I assembled the chips and the guacamole on a plate and carried it over. Win!
Now we just have to finish the parsnip and the lettuce, and we’ll be ready for Thursday’s box. Cook or Die? More like Cook or Get Overwhelmed By Vegetables…
One of my principles is kaizen: continuous improvement. If you can make your life 1% better every day, you’ll double your life’s awesomeness in less than three months. Even if you improve life by 0.01%, you’ll still do pretty darn well over time. Today was one of those 0.01% days. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.
You see, I often ride my bicycle to work. This means maneuvering my long-framed bicycle through the mudroom, out the door, and down the porch stairs. The door has two parts: the actual door, which opens inward, and the screen door, which opens outward. If I roll my bicycle near the door, then open it, the door often gets stuck in front of my bicycle. If I open both the door and the screen door, one of our cats usually slips out and starts exploring the porch. (I’m looking at you, Luke.)
Today I had an epiphany. If I open the house door but not the screen door, then I can get out more easily and I don’t have to worry about the cats slipping past. This is what it looks like:
Yes, I know, obvious, but I managed to get through one whole year with this bicycle without having that aha! moment, because I always thought of door-opening as an integral operation: open the house door, then open the screen door. Close the house door, close the screen door. Even though we sometimes leave the house door open and the screen door closed to let in summer breezes, it didn’t click until I stopped and thought about why I was getting stuck in the bike room.
Little things like that are the cruft of un-consciously moving through life, and it’s so much fun to fix them. So many opportunities for improvement everyday!