I think about food — pretty much all the time. As a food writer, I have the absurd fortune of getting paid to craft stories that inspire others to think about food. And at home, I fall into the cliché of people who begin plotting dinner before the morning coffee gets cold. So perhaps it’s fitting that, as the New Year begins, my mind is on food, eating and my relationship to both.
Five years ago on Rosh Hashanah, I took stock of my “kitchen teshuvah” (repentance) — examining the places where I thought I could improve as a cook and a consumer. Food is deeply connected to everything else — family, politics, religion, health — so I found it a particularly fitting frame for self-reflection. As the Forward’s food columnist, I typically use my allotted monthly space to share tales of the farmers and food producers, chefs and shop owners who define the world of Jewish food. This month, I’d like to get a little personal and share a revised set of my kitchen resolutions, for 2012.
In some ways, I feel pretty content. I already shop at the farmers market, eat plenty of greens and cook dinner more nights than not — so those items, while important, did not make the list. Neither did “drink less coffee” or “grow my own food.” After accidentally massacring a nursery’s worth of houseplants, I have come to embrace my lack of a green thumb. And as for coffee, I am simply not ready to kick the habit. Instead, here is a somewhat random, highly idiosyncratic list of food-based aspirations for the year ahead. Maybe you will read something that speaks to you, or be inspired to write a list of your own. Either way, may 2012 bring you good health, good deeds and great food.
•Stop criticizing my cooking.
My mom, who is a wonderful cook, criticizes her food all the time. Whether at a Passover Seder or a weeknight dinner, she comes to the table apologizing for her soup’s blandness or how she overcooked the chicken. Growing up, I could never taste what she was talking about. Now, I get it. Cooking for others is intensely personal. Each dish exposes the cook’s heart as much as her (or his) knife skills, and there is ample room for rejection in the shape of an upturned nose or unfinished plate. It feels safer to preempt others’ potential disapproval with a comment, rather than face it directly. I inherited my mother’s habit, agonizing over my meal’s flaws (real and imagined) both at the table and hours after the guests have gone home. Of course, we are all our own worst critics, and no caveat can change the food or people’s reactions to it. So this year, my aim is to pipe down and eat up.