Both of my grandmothers were fantastic cooks. Mamaw (my maternal grandmother) was a country cook. She made wonderful fried chicken, scratch biscuits, peas, butterbeans, and coconut cake the memory of which makes my mouth water nearly 30 years after she died. Nannie (my paternal grandmother) was, well, I don’t really know how to describe her cooking style. She cooked more complicated things than Mamaw did. Although of Danish descent herself, she learned to cook Italian food from her cousin’s mother-in-law, Mama Venucci. As a result, Nannie made the best lasagna and ravioli you ever put your mouth! Although as different as chalk and cheese, both women were nothing short of incredible. They were strong. They were determined. And they set a mean table cooking with lard, butter, dairy, fat back – all that yummy stuff!
And they both died of heart disease.
I think of them often when I’m cooking; but, yesterday, I felt like they would have been standing in my kitchen shaking their heads at me. I sautéed onions, mushrooms and peppers without using any oil. Sacrilege! I made pasta dishes without cheese. Horrors! I fried nothing. Oh, good lord! And I cooked no meat. (Somebody get the smelling salts.)
I’ll tell you straight up, too, it was weird as all get out. I’ve never browned onions without some butter or olive oil. Well, I hadn’t until yesterday, that is. And you know what? They tasted just fine. I made the red lentil dal, Jamaican black beans, baked ziti, pineapple chutney, and sweet potato pie oatmeal. I was missing ingredients to make the other dishes; however, what I did make was all VERY tasty! In addition, while I thought that the recipes would make meals for this and maybe one other week, I’ve got enough portions in my freezer for at least a month of lunch and dinner entrées. With fresh veggies or a salad as a side, I’m set up really nicely!
In The Forks Over Knives Plan, the authors encourage new practitioners to identify their personal needs, giving themselves the greatest chance of success. They instruct us to prioritize the following personal needs: Health (preventing or reversing disease), Pleasure (having food that looks and tastes good), Ease (having convenient meals) and Acceptance (keeping people from looking at you sideways).
Since I work nights, ease is the most important of the list for me. If you’ve ever worked third shift, you can relate to this. Sleeping during the day is difficult and less restful for me. As a result, I tend to sleep more hours to get the same amount of rest. While I do have three days off each week, I sleep for at least one of them and typically find myself fairly inactive on the other two. On work days, forget about cooking. I’m not giving up an hour’s worth of sleep to prepare my food. So, I really do need to be able to thaw and go, making today’s efforts a real plus for me. For side dishes, I can throw together one huge salad a week, apportioning it out daily, and steaming veggies is a snap.
Just as Nannie was always prepared with spaghetti gravy in the freezer for quick, emergency meal, I’ve got individual meal portions for weeks of healthful eating with little daily effort. I’m taking the wisdom of my ancestors and combining it with a new approach to food.