A Cure For Frugal Fatigue
I was recently sent a copy of a new little book published by the people at American Heritage Dictionaries. With a back cover declaration that "you don't need to cook like a master chef in order to sound like one," the 86 page small paperback offers up meanings for such words as chiffonade, chipotle, choucroute and 97 others. If I'm sounding a little sour on the idea I think it's because I'm reacting to the book's slightly dumbed-down positioning (you don't need to know what you're doing, only talk like you do) plus it's title: 100 Words for Foodies.
Foodies. The word really repels me and if you search all of The City Cook, you'll see that aside from this article, it never appears. Not once. I don't like it for two reasons. First, it's a term invented to replace real meaning and whether it's pertaining to food or anything else, I don't like words that are the result of laziness. Not only does it sound like "junkie," it's one of those imprecise terms that means whatever the user wants it to mean and come on -- don't we have enough of that? Second, I think the word is insulting because it trivializes having an interest in what you eat. Whether food and cooking is a passion, a hobby, entertainment or an obligation, why use a word that suggests that it's inconsequential if we give time, money or care to preparing our food?
I also take the publishers to task because if someone was, indeed, a "foodie," why would they need a dictionary to explain garlic, one of the 100 words?
Okay. Rant over.
But staying with words a bit longer, I recently learned two new terms that are wonderfully useful when it comes to concisely explaining complex modern conditions. The first is "scope creep." This is when a project, bit by bit, using rationale after rationale, just gets bigger. Think about doing a kitchen renovation that begins at $20,000 and finishes at $40,000. Or an iPod that needs a protective case, new earbuds, and an open-ended account at iTunes. Scope creep.
The second is "frugal fatigue." I don't think I need to explain that to most of us. After this past year of continuing economic troubles that are making so many families, individuals, companies and communities just worn out, as we enter the holiday season we could use a antidote for frugal fatigue. The kitchen is a good place to start.
There are so many ways to have pleasure and fun during the holidays that don't need to cost lots of money. A splurge doesn't have to be big to deliver that go-knock-yourself-out kind of feeling. Sometimes it can be as simple as having friends at your dinner table or making favorite foods that you've forgotten you love.
So in an effort to combat any frugal fatigue you may have as we enter the last two weeks of December, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite holiday foods. I won't be able to make them all, but this list is a good place for me to start.
25 Favorite Holiday Foods
- Gingerbread with sweetened whipped cream
- Roast leg of lamb (with the bone) and slow-cooked flageolets with garlic and thyme
- Apple tart with cinnamon ice cream
- Crown roast of pork (half the price of crown roast of beef)
- Seafood stew like cioppino or bouillaibaisse
- Shortbread cookies with a cup of my favorite Earl Grey Classic tea from Fortnum & Mason
- Chicken soup with rice and extra carrots
- Paella with both chicken and shellfish
- Chocolate fudge. No nuts.
- Spinach lasagna
- Beef brisket with Sauce Raifort, a creamy horseradish sauce (I know. Dairy and meat, but I'm Irish.)
- Creamed spinach
- Baked ham -- our recipe with peach syrup and Bourbon -- and biscuits with grainy mustard
- Seafood risotto with clams, shrimp and calamari
- Frozen lemon mousse
- Pork roast stuffed with dried fruit
- Sour cream onion dip made with real, fresh caramelized onions
- A bountiful breakfast: frittata, chicken sausage, coffee cake, French toast and real maple syrup, baked pears with a pour of cream, fresh squeezed orange juice and sparkling wine
- Collard greens with bacon
- Mini potato latkes topped with sour cream and a piece of smoked salmon
- My father's favorite divinity fudge with black walnuts
- Toasted and salted Marcona almonds and a glass of very cold Champagne
- Cabbage pierogies with fried onions
- Marcella Hazan's osso buco with rigatoni
- Onion soup with as much cheese as onions
So if you're suffering from frugal fatigue, take the holiday cooking cure by making something you love. I absolutely believe that keeping an old tradition -- or starting a new one -- is a declaration of optimism. Who knew onion soup could do such a thing?