(First Published September 2011)
We just moved into our new house a few weeks ago, and during the period of our homelessness (traveling plus an extended stay at our North Conway, NH ski condo for the whole month of July) I thought a lot about good food. Or lack thereof. In such transition mode, it is hard to rely on some of the staples of good cooking.
Our transition had roughly three stages. The first stage was called the eat out a lot stage. The second stage was the cooking in the really tiny ski condo kitchen stage. The third stage involved easing into our new kitchen with simple meals at first since we were unpacking, until finally, a return to cooking (and recipe following and wine drinking) commenced.
In the eating out stage, I realized how much I appreciate good food. We traveled quite a bit and had to rely on convenience food (please, McDonald’s, come up with healthy food! Or why hasn’t someone developed healthy fast food???) Unripe tomatoes, overcooked meat, three pieces of shredded lettuce, dried out cheese, dressings and spreads with no flavor but three times the fat, and the most frequent offender: disgusting bread. You have to really try hard not to care as a restaurant to serve bad bread. Nothing is as unsatisfying as bad bread. Except for unripe tomatoes. Especially in gazpacho.
So by the time we rolled into our condo, tiny kitchen and all, I was thrilled to get away from road food. I can remember my first trip to the grocery store when we had settled. I was like a kid in a candy store. Fresh herbs! Asiago cheese! Artisanal bread! Even the hummus and taboule felt like a luxury. We were in flux, but at least we could eat well.
Quickly, however, I discovered that a kitchen in July of a second-story condo with 1 air conditioner made you want to do anything but cook. I braved one night of a rosemary and garlic crusted pork tenderloin, but most of the time I chose a meal that would require the least amount of time in front of heat. At least we had summer’s produce. We lived on Caprese salad, cold cucumbers, salads, and sandwiches.
I found a local health food store and bought the local milk they sold. Then we planned a trip to visit the farm where it came from. Sherman Farm in Conway, NH is a beautiful, clean, pastoral vision. It was so much fun to walk up to the cows and watch them eat their grass, lick their salt cubes, and moo. The kids had a kick out of the animals freedom of expression of poop and bodily functions. Especially the pig that got up to greet us and then promptly relieved himself. Best of all, their pre-made dinners from farm fresh ingredients were the perfect solution to my dilemma of a warm kitchen and craving good food crew. That and their delicious produce which sustained us for several weeks.
Finally, we moved into our house, and I fell in love (again) with the amazing storage and organization capacity of our new kitchen and pantry. I was able to fill a whole room with mixers and food processors and cookie cutters and platters. Having these items accessible is truly my biggest luxury of our new house (that and the great neighborhood families, of course). We were actually able to have house guests the following week after moving in and, despite an unorganized spice cupboard, pull off relatively good meals like lobster and chowder and delicious homegrown tomatoes from our visitor (thanks Mark for making up for all the bad tomatoes I have eaten this summer).
But it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was finally able to cook with the music flowing, wine flowing, and delicious things simmering. I made chicken stuffed with brie and spinach, a gemelli pasta with sausage and broccoli and ricotta, chicken noodle soup, and delicious turnips. With both chicken stock and homemade chocolate sauce in the fridge, along with the wonderful smells throughout our new house, I knew we were finally home. Oh, and there is half a bag of crusty rosemary & olive oil bread on the counter, too.