Making Do, Or Doing And Making - Learning To Cook Blog at - 323040

Learning To Cook

Making Do, or Doing and Making 
Mar. 4, 2014 9:56 am 
Updated: Mar. 16, 2014 12:12 pm
It's been a pretty busy time in the kitchen for me these last couple of weeks. Before I get into that, I need to carp at AllRecipes for a little bit. The primary reason I subscribed to AR was for the ability to blog. It seems as though the blogging feature on this site is a child, and an ugly one they want to hide as well. The other features of going Pro I don't find particularly handy or appealing. I know! Plenty of people will stand in line to disagree with me on this, and that's to be expected. This is a preference issue, and I just think that saving my dollars makes more sense. I don't think I will be resubscribing, and in September, I'll be regressing to non-Pro status. I hope it doesn't affect my cooking. I also hope that I can keep in touch with the friends I've made here.

I've been wanting to write a post regarding living in a small town and having far less selection available to me than in a large city or metropolitan area. The problem was that every time I started to write, the post took off in a negative direction. I don't want this to be negative because there is no reason for negativity. Certain things are not easily available to me. I am inconvenienced by their absence. In the words of my young daughter, "First world problem, dad."

It is a first world problem. How incredibly self absorbed it is to whine about not having fresh basil with which to make a Caprese Salad. Ok. The store doesn't have fresh mozzarella normally either, but it is still just an inconvenience, right? Still, I like having a fresh, Caprese Salad, even if I have to use supermarket tomatoes. It's better then not having it at all.

It is possible to make do and change the Caprese Salad a bit to account for what you have available. The market has a "sort of" fresh basil product in a squeeze tube. It isn't terrible tasting. So I could make a vinaigrette using three tablespoons of olive oil,  one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, two teaspoons of the basil paste and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle this dressing over the sliced tomatoes and then top with some freshly grated Parmigiano. This is a reasonable approach to making do and getting by.

But what if there is an opportunity for making and doing rather than making do? I am growing basil and several other herbs in my basement because I was tired of the pathetic supplies of wilted and/or rotted fresh herbs at the supermarket. The next step will be to make some fresh mozzarella cheese at home. I have read that you can also make ricotta cheese from the left over whey, so there is a double benefit to making your own fresh mozz at home. Then I will have my wonderful Caprese Salad!

The challenges are often more about organization than the lack of availability. If I were better organized, I would pick up the things I need in the big city when I am there. I get into Minneapolis or Sioux Falls every few weeks. Yes, it is a pain to hitch up the buckboard, but it has to be done. It isn't hard to find the things you need, if you know you need them. The internet is also a great resource for those of us living in the white areas of the map, labelled, "Here there be monsters."

For certain things, there seems to be no answer. Seafood, for instance, is just not an easy thing to find in almost any part of Minnesota. Rather, it is available, but just, no. I need to explore this more. Maybe I can buy frozen fillets of salmon before they ever thaw and rot in the display case. I think I miss fresh mussels more than the salmon even. I don't think there is really any hope there. I am almost at the point of trying that invasive fresh water species that is clogging up industrial waste water pipes. Mmmmm... Local shellfish!

What I am saying in my very long winded way, is that maybe we should be making and doing rather than making do.
Mar. 4, 2014 4:02 pm
Hello Doc, I have basil and rosemary started on my kitchen sills. I know what you mean, when we moved to N.S, in the country coming from Edmonton, Alberta was a eye opener for me. What I took for granted buying there was not so much here, we had to go to Halifax to get the good stuff. When I went out west to visit I always went to The Italian Center Shop and brought home things I could not find here. It is much better now, but we still grow our own herbs and hopefully this year have a garden. Hope you are well.
Mar. 5, 2014 5:04 am
DOC! Come back to NJ! hahahahha NOT ;-) Yes please share where you move your blog to! I look forward to when you start you BIG garden back up!
Mar. 5, 2014 6:49 am
Hi Doc! I really like reading your blogs. I would love an herb garden. At the moment, I just don't know where I would start it inside. Perhaps, share how you did yours and maybe I can figure out how to grow a few herbs.
Mar. 5, 2014 9:15 am
Well, I know what you mean. Being in the middle of the Midwest definitely constricts some options for broadening one's culinary horizons. Things have changed around here, the bigger supermarkets are starting to carry things that 20 years ago were unheard of. Herbs. I've been growing my own for over 30 years. I have one room in the house (the sunroom) just so I can bring some of those less hardy ones in. Right now I have ginger, Italian parsley, cilantro, bay, ginger, basil and lemon verbena all waiting for warmer temps and no snow. And it is odd how the blogs are on here now, I used to not have fits trying to get photos uploaded. That was the main reason I originally got a membership too. Someone gifted me the last one. Thanks heavens Spring is on its way. I just hope Mother Nature checks her calendar!
Mar. 5, 2014 11:02 am
I live in the middle of the Andes, the stuff that finally makes it up here that most people would not pick out of the garbage is our usual fare. I've tried growing my own herbs in the one window that gets the sun necessary but in the end they die. I must sing praises to my raspberry bushes this year...a handful everyday. Sadly the season is way too short and I have never gotten in a second harvest like others in the town do. Frost will be here most likely this next few days and kill off the ones I am wanting to put up in my freezer. Oh well, I know how you feel. Fresh basil, cilantro and fresh anything really is a treat! Oh, with the reverse seasons that is why the frost is just coming...fall is two weeks away. I'm sure you will not mind not being a pro again, I find it freeing and still enjoy the site for the great help and recipes.
Mar. 5, 2014 2:45 pm
Winters make it hard in out-of-the-way places, but soups and breads can be as enjoyable as a fresh salad. When it's not available year-round, you don't take it for granted and possibly enjoy and appreciate it more. Can't wait for that first garden tomato!
Mar. 16, 2014 12:12 pm
Thanks everyone for the comments. Human contact is the fun bit for me in everything that I do. As such, the comments are like little treasures to me. Learning how others deal with similar or worse circumstances is very helpful and encouraging. Amazing things can be made with dried, canned or otherwise preserved foods. There is no doubt of that. Likewise, there is nothing quite like a dash of fresh herbs, a wedge of ripe tomato, or the first blue berries off of the bushes in the backyard.
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Doc Simonson

Home Town
St. Peter, Minnesota, USA

Member Since
Jan. 2009

Cooking Level

Cooking Interests
Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Italian, Southern, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Gourmet

Gardening, Camping, Hunting, Reading Books

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About Me
I'm old and smelly, kinda like a really good salami with that really nice white mould all over it.
My favorite things to cook
Meat, carbs, meat, carbs, meat, carbs and did I mention meat?
My favorite family cooking traditions
Drop a plate of Pierogis and sausages in front of me and watch my eyes glaze over in pure joy.
My cooking triumphs
Schweinebraten mit Knoedel und Krautsalat. Also Edel Hirsch Gulasch was very nice. I make killer Spaetzle and Knockerl also.
My cooking tragedies
There aren't enough electrons in cyberspace! :) Actually, the tragedies usually involve well intentioned creativity out of control.
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