Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We're Slow Cookin' Tonight

by Wesley Hatch, Produce Clerk

Does it ever feel like there are never enough hours in the day? That moments of peaceful, face-to-face human interactions are scarce, relegated only to cyberspace? That mealtime is just another word for work-time, catch-up-on-old-emails time, organize-tomorrow’s-schedule time? In other words, simply a chance to fill your belly between never-ending tasks.

Imagine this: coming home after 6:30, a clouded day rushing by in continuous motion from place to place non-stop; feet tired, brain pounding, the stereo in your car locked permanently on the Top Twenty Countdown beating out weary pop tunes one after another (or maybe it’s your daughter singing a cappella in the backseat ‘Let it Go’ over and over and over again), and the last thing you want is to cook. Anything. The very idea of dragging out a cutting board, chopping onions and carrots, marinating a slab of chicken or tofu, spinning that wretched salad bowl round and round makes your eyes tear up just a bit. Tired. Hungry. So imagine your surprise when you turn the key, push past the scattered shoes and unhung coats, and are confronted with mouth-watering, nose-tingling, thoroughly enticing smells wafting from your kitchen. It is almost as if someone slipped in before you to secretly prepare a meal of stunning proportions. What is that smell?

You move cautiously toward the kitchen, unconsciously afraid of some ghost chef brazing beef in your great grandmother’s cast iron. And there it is, standing proud upon your counter, steaming out wisps of spice-filled vapors: your long-lost, nearly forgotten slow cooker. What new mystery is this?

But then you remember, like a vision of a reoccurring dream, you standing at the counter that very morning almost mindlessly preparing a concoction of spices and vegetables, stock and browned protein, which you haphazardly placed into the pot, turned to auto mode, and rushed out the door to meet your madcap day. How could this simple act of putting food into a pot and leaving the mixture unsupervised result in such an amazing, fully cooked meal? Eureka!

As living beings, we need food to survive, our fuel. But so often we rush our vittles, rush both the preparation and the consumption in order to satisfy a need instead of engaging with our bodies and the food we consume in a managed, deliberate way: a chore rather than a ritual. A slow cooker may only be a small step, but more than likely in the right direction. A time saver, simultaneously allowing us time to rush about and engage fully in this techno world, while also inviting opportunity to pause from our days, set down the phones and push out the distractions, to speak face to face while we enjoy a delicious, healthy meal. Plus, it sure beats cookin’ after work.

In lieu of beef or chicken or any other meat, I prefer beans as the base in my slow-cooked dishes: loads of flavor, high in protein, and with a hearty texture, beans come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavor. Plus, for a quick fix, canned beans can be used in substitution for dried beans. A plethora of unique and flavorful recipes abound on the web – meat, vegan, and every option in-between, including deserts and soups and chilies and stews – if you’re daring enough to take the slow-cook plunge.

Eat well, friends.