I love to cook. And personally, I feel like a kitchen success whenever I create something that is both edible and earnest. Edible requires no explanation, I simply like my food to taste good and for my loved ones to agree that this meal/baked good is indeed delicious. But what do I mean by earnest? Well, I like to have sound and true intentions behind my meals. Let me explain.
As a Dietitian and thus, someone interested in health and nutrition, I pretty much always intend for my meals to be nourishing – to provide my body with nutrients and energy so I can function really well in life. I also intend for my meals to be an expression of love and to nurture people. To provide them with the joy that is a good piece of pie or the comfort of a beloved childhood dish (which reminds me, I must make my husband his Aunty’s asparagus soup…) This is all earnest cooking to me.
Though recently, I’ve articulated another dimension to my earnest kitchen endeavours. To shop, prepare and consume food mindfully. What do I mean by that?…Ok, let’s get serious. Don’t worry, there’s pasta at the end it it all.
The past sixty years or so has seen incredible changes to our food production and consumption systems. These changes have drastically impacted our world, our health, our planet – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I’m focusing on the “worse” here, the environmental and lifestyle-related illness impacts. Last year I attended a few different talks on the environmental costs of this overwhelming mass production and greedy resource draining. The resounding advice from experts was that we consume too much. And boy, is this terrifyingly true.
I first acknowledged my own consuming ways after volunteering at a children’s home in rural Thailand a few years ago. Six weeks later I arrived home in Melbourne, walked into my bedroom and opened my wardrobe to have what was surely a panic attack before donating half my wardrobe in a rather dramatic, self-important affair. I had so much stuff. I still struggle to enter shopping centres. I find the excess suffocating.
Bringing this back to our kitchens, the statistics on food consumption and household wastage are shocking, with young adults being some of the worst offenders. Over the past sixty years we have gradually become more and more spoilt. Vast, ridiculous quantities of food are readily available wherever you turn. And we are greedy – we buy in excess “just in case” or because “it was on special”. Yes, we’re being tricked by sly Supermarket advertising tactics but we ourselves have become blind and lazy. We purchase too much, we waste too much, we consume too much. It’s distressing.
And so as a coping mechanism (to avoid another panic attack and subsequent possession purge, because I really do like my pretty bowls and spoons) I went foraging for inspiration to live simpler, to live more intentionally, to live…better, and to help reduce my consumption and wastage.
There are many people out there striving to be more accountable in what they cook and consume, and setting a wonderful example for us all. Tammi and Rohan are just a couple of inspired individuals whose names spring to mind, and we can certainly all learn from them. The message? Know where your food is coming from and support local producers who are employing sustainable, environmentally friendly practices with happy animals; steer clear of major corporations who edge out smaller, local companies; think about what you’re buying and don’t just mindlessly consume…shop, cook and eat with these intentions. Becoming more mindful in this way can help us to get into the habit of consuming less and in turn wasting less. This benefits the planet, directs funds towards sustainable food production and also saves us money. It’s a no brainer.
And please, this post is not meant to sound preachy or shame you for ducking into Coles to buy cling film and frozen peas on your way home from work. Nope. We are not going to be perfect all the time. But I do know that we can do better. Every time you choose to buy produce from the local green grocer who you know source their goods from local orchards and farms with sustainable practices (ps don’t be afraid to ask your green grocer or butcher these questions), or every time you decide to make your own stock out of the leftover chicken bones instead of buying it from the store (real talk, this does require a bit of time), or every time you favour an apple instead of a pre-packaged apple-flavoured snack, or every time you save that extra scoop of casserole for tomorrow’s breakfast on toast, or every time you share your lemon tree surplus with neighbours in exchange for their fresh eggs…Every time, you’re making real, sustainable, mindful choices, which will benefit our planet and our bodies.
I hope that My Mindful Kitchen can inspire us all to be more intentional in our kitchens and in our lives. A mindful kitchen is a beautiful thing.
And now, we eat…
Here is a recipe for a dish I frequently make when we have little in our fridge and I’m encouraged to turn to pantry staples for nourishment. Research shows that you tend to buy more food, as well as food outside your original intention when you are hungry. And so rather than racing to the store for last minute, hurried purchases, it’s nice to slow down and take a few minutes to search through your pantry. Instead of spending more, use what you have. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll have anchovies on hand.
Anchovies – they’re a recent love of mine. Previously I parked these beautiful oily fish firmly in the funky aisle. But with time I’ve come to see their true wonder, how they lend a sharp, sticky, saltiness to dishes and in return for this outrageous deliciousness, you get a bucket load of good nutrients. Yep, they’re pretty ace.
I’m quite thrilled to post this recipe as my first Mindful Kitchen post. I hope you enjoy it.
Spaghetti with Anchovies, Kale and Pangrattato
2 slices of stale Sourdough Bread (or 1 large slice)
1 tablespoon Oil (go for the anchovy fillet oil, it’s there and so tasty)
1 clove Garlic, crushed
4-7 Anchovy Fillets in Oil (depending how fishy and salty you like your dish)
A pinch of dried Chilli Flakes
1 handful cooked, diced Kale (you can replace this with spinach or rocket, or omit it altogether. It’s not traditional but I love my greens)
1 generous handful chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley
200g Dried Spaghetti
~1/2 cup reserved Pasta Cooking Water
1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil.
2. Meanwhile, blitz your bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.
3. Add the pasta to the boiling water. You absolutely must cook your pasta al dente for this dish. I always check mine early and tend to cook it for 1-2 minutes less than recommended on the packet. Overcooked pasta kills this dish.
4. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large frying pan over medium heat with the oil from the anchovies. When hot, add the breadcrumbs, garlic, anchovies and chilli. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the breadcrumbs get nice and toasty and golden, stirring occasionally. When done, add the parsley, stir one last time and then place in a bowl for later (don’t wash the pan, return that to the stove but ensure the heat is off).
5. Place the cooked, diced kale in a colander. When al dente, drain the pasta over the kale to reheat it (reserving about 1/2 cup cooking water).
6. Add the pasta and kale to the frying pan with the juice of 1/2 lemon and a splash of the reserved cooking water (add more as required). Add only a third of the breadcrumb mixture then stir well before quickly serving. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumb mix over the top of your pasta and top with parmesan if you’re feeling cheesy.