New Year's resolutions for the cook of the house
Good resolutions for the cook can be made at any time. Certainly I've made my share over the years, but I seem to do better when I start with the New Year.
Usually I've received a new tool or pan for Christmas and probably a cookbook too, both excellent incentives for spending more time in the kitchen. January and February are my favorite cooking months anyway.
It's cold outside, and at this time of year the ailing budget needs all the help it can get.
It's wise to be realistic as well as enthusiastic, however. Home-baked bread is delicious - better for you and cheaper than the supermarket variety - but forget it if you're working full time.
That also applies to comparable niceties such as spaghetti sauce made from scratch, crepes suzette, and homemade noodles.
It's easy to overextend yourself, thus ensuring failure. I found that out one year when my prime resolution was to serve something different for breakfast every day of the year. My family feasted on scones, apple fritters and eggs Benedict.
All went well until one rainy week in March, when I realized it was too much. I served the group oatmeal three days in a row. That was the end of that, and rightly so.
I've made the following list for this year, and it sounds realistic and attainable to me now, but only time will tell:
1. Keep a record of the dinner menu each night. I blush to admit it, but this is a resolution I made four years ago. Each evening I jotted down what we'd had for dinner on the calendar.
I am still constantly referring to that old calendar. It helped me stay out of the rut of relying on old standbys, and it reminded me of family favorites that had slipped my mind.
2. Solve the recipe-clipping problem. I have to do something immediately about this dilemma since I can no longer shut the clipping drawer.
I'll weed out clippings ruthlessly. After I try the recipe, I'll either throw it away or put it in my recipe box. It will be lovely to have an extra drawer in the kitchen.
3. Don't buy any luncheon meats. I have already started implementing this resolution since doing a little arithmetic in the supermarket and discovering, to my dismay, that our favorite brand of hard salami costs more than $5 a pound.
You don't notice the price per pound, or at least I didn't, when you're buying in small quantities.
I pack two lunches each day, so variety is essential, but I've started to utilize leftover meats from dinner, sometimes deliberately buying extra for this reason, poaching the breast of the chicken for sandwiches and making a sandwich spread of the livers.
If all else fails, I plan to fall back on the old staples of egg salad; peanut butter; chopped olives; and bacon, lettuce, and tomato.
4. Have more family cooking days. We started this plan last year and it's truly a winner. Everybody had fun, and what a boon for the cook. We managed three this year, Saturdays when all of us stayed home and cooked together.
Once, we made tamales. There's a job for everyone. Set the youngest to softening the corn husks in water while the rest stir up the masa and prepare the filling. We set up an assembly line for filling the tamales, and made enough for six future meals.
Another time, we made individual pizzas for the freezer. Each concocted his own favorite topping.
The third time, we baked. My husband and I made four apple pies while the children baked cookies. This is a resolution that could easily become a tradition.
5. Keep an eye open for ethnic markets. I have had several rewarding experiences in ethnic markets this year, and I plan to make this resolution a must for 1983.
I stopped at an Italian store to buy olive oil recently, only to discover that they also sold Italian sausage, both hot and mild, which is made on the premises. It was cheaper and better than the supermarket variety - and even cheaper when bought in a five-pound box for the freezer.
Oriental markets often have the best quality and prices on pork, fish, and seafood. Squid seems to always be at least 20 cents a pound cheaper there than at the supermarket, and usually the squids are larger and easier to clean and stuff.
Perhaps my best find so far is a tiny Vietnamese charcuterie, where ducks and a whole suckling pig hang from the rafters. Despite the language barrier, I managed to purchase a duck, a pound of exquisite pate, and a marvelous galantine.
6. Further lengthen time between shopping forays. Staying out of the grocery store is the best way I know to save money. I used to shop weekly, but have gradually lengthened the period to 10 days.
My present goal is two, or perhaps even three, weeks. It's entirely possible since I know by now exactly what I need for a given period and have ample storage room.
I make a quick weekly trip for milk and bread, looking neither to left nor right and zipping right through the quick-check line. I store my canned goods in boxes in the garage. People who hear that I don't shop weekly ask, ''What if you forget something?''
If I forget, and I frequently do, I improvise or we simply do without. We did without paper towels very nicely for over a week once, and the cat thrived on table scraps when we ran out of cat food.
Six resolutions are plenty for me. I'll probably be lucky if I manage to keep three of them, but I plan to try mightily. After all, I'll be older and wiser in 1983.