Friday, January 2, 2009

Saucy New Year!

Happy New Year!

This holiday season challenged my intentions. Snowy sidewalks and crowds at the stores made one-stop shopping a priority. Shopping around for local goods pretty much stopped. Treats at work, dinners with friends and other celebrations made worrying about food origins and ingredient lists pointless. Holiday traditions also played a role in food choices. Our Christmas Day trifle contained local berries and whipped cream from a BC dairy, but time and sanity led us to choose Bird’s custard and store bought ladyfingers rather than homemade versions. And you know what? I’m OK with that. Holidays are stressful enough without obsessing over the details, so I gave myself permission early in the season to relax and enjoy. So I did.

After several weeks of indulgence, I’m feeling ready to get back on track. This morning I was poking around the fridge, looking at what was left from the holidays, and considering a New Year clean-out. This was prompted by the discovery of an almost empty jar of jam of unknown age. It’s funny how something can be in front of you, as in every time you open the fridge, and you just stop seeing it after a while. Closer inspection of my fridge revealed several jars and bottles that I had forgotten about. Most of these contained sauces of some variety. A friend from England once commented that North Americans need such large refrigerators to accommodate all the sauces they use in their cooking. After looking in my own fridge I see her point.

I have to ask why we need so many prepared items to flavour our food. Historically foods were seasoned for a variety of reasons. Salt was used to cure and tenderize foods. Some herbs and spices are known to have medicinal and antimicrobial qualities. Even if early cooks weren’t aware of these properties, it’s no coincidence that the spiciest foods tend to come from hottest countries. Of course herbs and spices were used to add flavour. In some cases they may have been used to disguise the taste of less than fresh foods. Of these early reasons, only flavour seems to explain the numerous bottles in my fridge. But why do I need so many ways to season my food? Could it be that my basic ingredients are lacking flavour of their own? Has my broccoli travelled so far that it no longer tastes of broccoli? Or is it because it was selected for features other than taste? Whatever the reason, I can’t avoid the fact that I really need to clean out my fridge.

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