Saturday, September 17, 2016

Does Simple Food Have to be Boring?

Food has been on my mind lately. I guess that shouldn't be much of a surprise, since I-like most people-eat at least a few meals a day! But I guess I've been thinking more intentionally about what I'm eating, and how I'm eating it.

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie The Hundred Foot Journey, which is an amazing story of community and food. Really, really good food. Watching that movie led me to looking up food websites (which then led me to the discovery of coffee jelly!). Then, I picked up My Life in France, by Julia Child. As I read it, I thought, Wow, I want to start cooking fancier food. Not just for entertaining purposes, but even for myself throughout the day. The thought of "fancy food" seemed a little daunting, because I'm not a professional chef and don't have loads of time to dedicate to cooking. But still, wouldn't "fancy food" be nice? 

As I continued to let this percolate in my thoughts like a good cup of coffee (and yes, I'm on my second cup today, so that lovely beverage is also on my mind!), I realized that I often equate "fancy food" with "complicated food." I commonly want to make something quite easily, because I don't have time to make fancy food, right? I'm a one-bowl-per-recipe kind of cook (guess who ignores cooking instructions when they insist on separate bowls?). Yet, lately I've been thinking about how sometimes, the simplest of foods are quite enjoyable-and can be presented in exciting, fancy ways. 

These thoughts all started to reach this point when one evening, my husband made us some ramen for a snack. Not complicated ramen; just the super cheap packaged, processed, salty deliciousness that many college students gobble up. Jacob kicked me out of the kitchen as he prepared the food, and a few minutes later when we sat down to eat, it was anything but boring. It wasn't complicated, either. My husband-from what I could tell-just added nori, celery, fresh lime, some spices, and a raw egg to each bowl. Super easy to make, but quite tasty, and a definite step up from a plain bowl of ramen. 

The other day, I made bierocks. As I ate my warm, moist roll for dinner one night, I chewed slowly, savoring the flavors of cabbage mixing with the beef, onion, and sweetness of the bread. Such simple flavors were not necessarily "fancy," but they were really, really good-and anything but boring!  
So innocent looking, but so awesome. 
Last weekend, one of my friends hosted an Arts & Crafts party, which was amazing (think: group of women sitting around with multiple craft supplies-including coloring books-alcohol, and delicious refreshments). The food that my friend served wasn't complicated, but it was delicious and definitely looked fancy: fresh fruit, chocolate chip cookies, and cheese adorned fancy platters. On a tray, crackers were decorated, each with a slice of cheese, a fresh basil leaf each, and half a cherry tomato. This is such a simple appetizer-but it was amazing, with an incredible explosion of flavors. 

Seasoned fries, bacon, chicken, sauteed onions and peppers,
white queso, and ranch dressing. So good! 
On Wednesday, my husband celebrated his birthday, and I made a meal that he requested after seeing it featured at a food truck: seasoned fries that were loaded down with a variety of toppings. So, as I went about my day, I prepared the fries and toppings. This dish was so simple to make-most of the food could be made at any point in the day and reheated later, like the vegetables. However, when we laid it all out for diner, it seemed pretty "fancy" and exciting!  And so, so delicious. I think we'll have to make this dish again at some point in the future (plus, it's way cheaper to make than it would be to buy it from a food truck). 

So much more exciting and delicious than plain ol' french fries with ketchup. 
I still think it would be fun to create complicated food sometime, but I think for now, I'm going to try to adjust my mentality. Instead of looking at quick and easy meals as "boring," I'm going to try and appreciate the subtle flavors that come together in each dish. I'll toss in something to freshen up a "standard" dish, like adding fresh spinach leaves to grilled cheese. Or I could do a super simple meal of crusty bread with roast chicken, so that we can focus on the flavors of fresh hot bread and juicy meat. This summer, Jacob and I had a fondue date at home, and it was so simple to make, but also so "fancy" and fun! I need to do things like that more often. 

I'm usually never intentional about food presentation, but I think it would be fun to focus more on how I'm presenting the food-making sure that the array of dishes looks nice. A few months back, I found a couple nice-looking trays at a thrift store, and I think I'll start using them more often. Of course, this is coming from the girl who had a friend over to breakfast today and did not present any of the food in extra-special ways. It's a process, people-I'll get there eventually. 

And at least I didn't burn the bacon ;)  


  1. Because I'm generally busy with my kiddos, I often gobble up my food way too quickly. I don't take time to savor the taste--whether it is simple or complex. I think just slowing down and paying attention can help make simple foods more exciting!
    Also, I like to make small adjustments to simple foods to give them a new flair. I love mac and cheese, so I'll make Italian tomato mac and cheese, sloppy joe mac and cheese, chicken broccoli mac and cheese, etc. These keep dinner interesting but are still pretty simple.

    1. I think it is so easy for moms to gobble up food to quickly-I have also done that many times! I love your mac and cheese ideas-those sound so awesome, and I love how you take such a creative approach to a simple dish. I just pulled up your blog's recipe page to look for these recipes, and I'm excited to try them out! My husband doesn't like mushrooms, but I think I may have to try the bacon swiss mac n cheese without the mushrooms.

  2. I think you're right--just adding some ingredient that's a little different can make food feel fancy--or trying something new. The biggest thing for me is variety. I always feel like an awesome cook when I'm inventing some new concoction--always a variety of an old concoction, but still fun.

    1. I'm sure you are an awesome cook! Experimentation is super exciting (mainly when it goes correctly. Once, we tried putting cheerios in a fruit smoothie...that was an experiment that didn't work out haha).

  3. I've been looking for tasty meals that are also simple and easy, too! One thing I've recently been loving is eggplant parmesan. It's not hard to make (it just takes forever to bake) but it feels like something fancy you'd order in a restaurant.

    1. Oooh, I need to try that! Actually, I thought about making eggplant parmesan this past summer, because I came across a recipe that has been attributed with putting many pregnant women (around 300!) in labor. But then I gave birth before I got around to making the dish, and I kind of forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder-I'm going to put this on my next meal plan!