Often times, when I make baked goods or cook something that requires longer than a microwavable dinner during exam time, people will ask me: “How do you find the time to do that?”
And I wouldn’t say I’m proud of the fact that I will frequently prioritize a batch of cookies over studying for an upcoming midterm, but I will say this:
For me, making time for food is a key part of keeping in touch with reality and happiness. You know that all-too-famous Parks & Rec quote: “TREAT YO’SELF?”
That’s how I want to approach food. Not as simply fuel or an obligation, but as something that I—and the people around me—can enjoy. And being able to make time for that is important, not just for the sake of eating, but for the sake of my sanity. Because midterms will do that to ya.
So I’ve got a problem. Well, it’s not so much of a problem as it is me complaining about two main things:
1. I’m pretty much out of flour in the apartment which means no baking.
So why not dip into the money I’ve earned and spend more on groceries? (Which I already do quite profusely—barring rent and tuition, I legitimately spend about 75% of my money on groceries) Because of the second thing.
In a perfect world, our refrigerators would be stocked with exactly the right ingredients whenever a recipe idea strikes. We’d magically have just enough butter for a new cookie recipe, we’d somehow have cans of cooked chickpeas (I’m so tired of forgetting to soak those little suckers…) when we randomly started craving hummus, and we’d have all the right vegetables we’d want to use in a new dish we’ve been meaning to create.
But we don’t live in a perfect world, unfortunately, and too many times have I been dying to make a cheesecake only to realize that I have neither cream cheese nor graham crackers. Too many times have I opened my fridge, thinking that I had enough heavy cream for the recipe I had in mind—only to be sorely disappointed.
While that might sound a little sad, I promise you won’t feel that way with this dish. The nice thing about a gratin is that it’s customizable (is that a word?) for whatever’s in your fridge. I really wanted to use zucchinis and yellow squash, but we were totally out. So I did my best to improvise. And the best part? It still wound up being filling, delicious, and healthy!
This morning I woke up with a plan. One that I’ve been mulling over for almost a week now. Even longer, if you count all the times I scoured through the instructions online.
What instructions, exactly? Ones that explained how to prep artichokes. And a few days back, I bought an artichoke from the grocery store, determined to incorporate the elusive vegetable into a recipe.
Artichokes have always been so mysterious to me. Growing up, I never really had any experience eating them but I could recognize the strange-looking vegetable no matter where I went. As I got older (and subsequently started obsessing over recipes), I began to see them more and more—to the point where I knew I had to try cooking with them.
You know those foods that you wind up craving at random hours of the day (or more frequently—night) that seem even more crave-worthy because they’re usually the type of food that you go out to eat for? There’s something about a stereotypical “restaurant food” that makes it seem so much more unattainable and coveted.
One of those foods? Definitely pho. On a cold, blustery day, I’ll eye the little Vietnamese restaurants down the street, fighting an inner battle between wanting to save money and wanting to devour an enormous bowl of rice noodles and beef broth.
Growing up, I never felt any inclination to try new foods. It was partly due to my assumption that my parents knew what good foods were out there and I could just trust that whatever they cooked was what food I should try, but it was also in part because I—like most children—was perfectly happy eating Chex Mix and Girl Scout cookies (not that there’s anything wrong with Girl Scout cookies. I could eat those Samoas for days).
Clam chowder was one of those things that I never really got the chance to taste—except for one day at school where they were serving it in the cafeteria. But I’m 99% sure that it was something from a can. Or several cans. Enough to feed the school, at any rate.
So I never really had a stellar experience with clam chowder—which is why I never bothered ordering it at restaurants or seeking it out wherever I was.
But the more I started cooking for myself, the more I was side-eyeing chowders. I just had to try making it.
I have a severe addiction to pizza. Those who know me actually like to stretch the pizza-obsession joke as wide and thin as possible (or as a ball of pizza dough…) People send me links to photos of pizza. Of t-shirts that say things like “I’d rather be eating pizza”. To those sardonic e-cards that say “I just like pizza so much more than people”.
I would protest but I actually find it kind of funny. Besides… pizza.
Yeah, that’s the extent of that argument. People could just end arguments with “but…pizza” and they’d probably come out on top. Just saying.