A new year, a new beginning; we all use January 1 as a clean slate. Granted, better choices can begin on any day, but there’s something about starting a new year that infuses our best intentions with extra energy, and new year’s resolutions.
As we all know however, resolutions are rarely kept, at least beyond the initial weeks of good intention. At the very best, they turn into subconscious forms of guilt. We should all do more to improve ourselves, be it eat better, volunteer more, or be kinder to those around us, but those are things that should be embedded into every day life. We don’t need January 1st to remind us that we really shouldn’t be eating chicken nuggets; you already knew that.
What we can use January 1st for is a reformatting of our relationship to food. You won’t find a single mention of ”eat fewer carbs” or “stop eating sugar” on this list; these are real food resolutions meant to get us thinking more about what we eat and appreciating what’s on the plate in front of us (and the people we’re eating it with).
Maybe it’s a list of resolutions, maybe it’s a little more like a manifesto for eating. Whatever it is, enjoy.
1. Commit to spontaneity.
“I have brussel sprouts,” said one of us. “I have quinoa,” said another. “I can make a salad,” responded the third. And that was how one of my favorite meals at the end of 2012 was born. Four good friends, all contributing what they had – even if was stashed at the back of the pantry – and coming together simply to enjoy each other’s company. You don’t need a long menu, and you certainly don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen. Just join together to share good food with good people. Roasted brussel sprouts are enjoyed even better in company.
Make your own cheese. Butcher a rabbit. Learn how to pickle beets. Whatever it is, do something that gets you engaged in the food process.
Not everything needs to involve a cardamom-fennel-rosemary infusion (although that does sound good). If you do that, you and your counterparts will be overwhelmed. Let 2013 be the year you get back to basics. Learn how to roast a chicken… well. Master a vinaigrette. Cook meals in under thirty minutes or less. Good food doesn’t have to – nor should it be – complicated.
4. Eat outside.
In the snow. In the rain. In the sun. Eating outside, be it for a picnic or a dinner party, ups the ante on whatever dish you made by at least 29%.
Make food for friends. Take part in a community dinner. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. We all have to eat; help to make sure that happens.
Ask questions to those around you. What are their food rituals? Sit your grandmother down and have her teach you how to make one of her favorite dishes. The more we ask, the more we learn and the more we share.
7. Master a chocolate cake recipe.
We should all know how to make one. Be it vegan, gluten free or full of butter, know it and know it well.
This one falls under the “just say yes” category: push yourself to try new things. You never know what might become your new favorite dish.
9. Stay conscious.
When we’re conscious about what we’re consuming, we eat things that are both better for ourselves and our planet. You wouldn’t put low grade fuel in your car, so why would you put thoughtless food into your body?
10. Be part of a movement… but have fun.
Everything we know is always changing. One day salt is in, the next day it’s out. But having a concept of why and how we should eat something is often a symbiotic relationship, one that is an ongoing process. As Adam Gopnik writes in The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food, “The fashionable chef knows to serve wild salmon; the one with values knows why wild salmon is better than farmed; the one with taste knows that if you are serving wild salmon you ought to serve it with rhubarb and organic quinoa to make a proper meal.” In other words, don’t just be part of a trend, be part of a movement. But make sure you enjoy the process, and add rhubarb.