New food trends in our home

Last weekend I was invited to speak on the Frugality panel in Vision Forum’s recent food conference, Reformation of Food & the Family.  I was also privileged to attend Chef Foucachon’s 6 hour cooking class with 3 of my teen daughters the following Monday.  We loved it!

We may not be ready to take on gourmet French cookery, but we came away inspired to do more with what we have.  While the emphasis was not on frugality, I couldn’t help but think there was a strong connection just waiting to be made.  The French put a heavy emphasis on presentation – on making their food more appealing before it ever reaches the taste buds by making it more beautiful.  I was struck by how much of this was done not with expensive ingredients, but just by applying a little thought and attention to the planning, cooking and arrangement of food on the plate.

cottage cheese on romaine with mandarin oranges

Another thing that struck me was the idea of serving a meal in more than one course.  We may not have the dishes or the time to prepare and serve dinner in 7 separate courses, but we can do two.  We can serve a cup of soup, an attractive salad or an appealing appetizer, chat a bit, maybe wash up the dishes, and then continue with an artfully arranged main course.

basmati rice pilaf with creamy almond chicken

One of the benefits: those of us who tend to eat too much, too quickly will probably eat less.  After the first part of our meal, our digestive system will have a chance to send the message to our brain that we are not as hungry as we thought, and when the main course comes a smaller serving will satisfy our appetite.  This is a normal physical process, but when we are served our entire meal at once we often eat so quickly that we have to rely on a full stomach to tell us to stop rather than sufficiently elevated blood sugar.  This easily translates to overeating.

Of course others who don’t eat so quickly - little children who dawdle at their food, for example, or naturally slow eaters – will not notice as much difference since we already rely largely on our blood sugar cues to tell us when we’ve had enough.  Some will still have second helpings, but seconds may be easier to resist for those who don’t need them.

Another way this style of eating could be more frugal is that I am encouraged to incorporate foods even when I don’t have 12 full servings.  Two pickles or tomatoes, a mango, or a single orange can become a tasty garnish rather than languishing in the fridge because there’s not enough for everyone.  One cucumber can provide 2 or 3 slices per person to liven up a plate.  The remains of a bunch of fresh cilantro purchased for last week’s taco salad can become pretty garnishes on this week’s meals.

A few days ago Kaitlyn created a spectacular chicken/walnut tart dish that stretched 1 lb of chicken into 12 small but rich servings, a nice change of pace from a meat-stretching casserole.

walnut chicken tart

Of course if we hadn’t started with a hearty appetizer, this wouldn’t have been enough.  As it was, I could barely finish mine and even the heartiest eaters were satisfied.

bacon and cream cheese pinwheels

Part of the reason these changes are so exciting for us is because Perry is totally on board.  Since he was diagnosed with diabetes, he has worked hard to improve his overall diet, eating smaller, more frequent meals with less carbs and more protein and healthy fats.  This style of eating fits perfectly with his goals, and is better for the rest of us too.

We have also talked to each other in the past about how feasting glorifies God, so we love the idea of using our daily to food to glorify Him as well.  Food should do more than just fill our bellies and build our bones and muscles.  When we make our food beautiful and appealing rather than approaching it in a purely utilitarian sense, we are better able to appreciate the wonder of God’s creation and His daily gifts to us.

To celebrate these new changes, I have a potted mint plant.  It seemed like a good place to start, since mint is notoriously difficult to kill.  If it survives until next payday, I plan to reward myself with a potted parsley plant, followed by basil and cilantro if I can find them.  I love fresh cilantro, but it’s last on my list because:

A. It’s cheap and plentiful in South Texas. Any WalMart produce department will provide a big bunch of fresh cilantro for 28 cents, and

B. Most of my family does not appreciate the flavor of fresh cilantro as much as I do.

I’m finding new joy in cooking and serving modest portions of rich foods that seemed too expensive in the larger quantities that I thought our family required.  A little heavy cream goes a long way, and a single portobello cap can be sliced into 10 small portions.  Sauteed in butter or bacon grease with some salt and pepper, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, and a splash of heavy cream, it’s pure heaven – and most of the little kids don’t know it, so the wiser among us can eat theirs too.

sauteed portobello mushrooms with balsamic vinegar

And French cooking?  We may just give it a shot.  Perry ordered me a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I have to admit that I’m more than a little eager for it to arrive!

Comments

  1. Kim,
    I’ve enjoyed your blog for awhile, but my time is usually limited and I haven’t yet commented to say ‘Hi’ and let you know that I appreciate your sense of humor and your beautiful family. Anyways, I wanted to leave a quick note after I read that your husband was diagnosed with diabetes. We have also dealt with some similar issues and some very serious heart issues and I wanted to let you know about a book that changed our lives. I kid not. It was recommended to us by the head cardiologist at the UW hospital and it’s called “The Schwarzbein Principle: the truth about…” It is written by a Dr. who gives amazing first hand experience working with diabetes and a revolutionary diet. I don’t mean to sound corny, but it truly turned things around.
    I must run, as someone little is eating something they probably shouldn’t eat.
    Thanks for your sweet writing.
    Laura

  2. Can we have the chicken-walnut recipe, pretty please :)? It looks and sounds delicious!

  3. you have given me a lot to think about and I am excited to try this way of cooking! Thanks!

  4. First…your crew doesn’t love cilantro!!!!! The shock! The horror! But interesting what Blair said about it being an allergy.
    Second…Adam bought me the Julia cookbook for Christmas. I must admit that we haven’t cooked from it yet, but it’s great to look forward to it. I’ve been reading Always, Julia that he got for me too. What a seriously different way of thinking about food. I cook for 8, casserole dishes are easy, but they are just so unappetizing. Very cool that you are doing what you learned in your class. Can’t wait to read more.

  5. We were able to get in on the live streaming for the conference, and I saw you on your session, Kim:)! That was fun, and I need to go back before the end of the month and make note of the suggested resources. I loved the sessions by Joel Salatin, and the second ladies’ panel, too.

    One comment about Americans and food–I guess I see that we may not be like the French, but we actually pay a lot of attentioin to food in a different way. Any holiday celebration or special occasion usually centers around food—and lots of it. Celebrations are typically license to overeat. We really don’t need as much as we think to be truly nourished and also to truly enjoy the food itself.

    My daughter is trying to grow mint again–I know people say it’s really hard to kill, but I’ve done it several times (not on purpose!!). I think it’s because of our microclimate and soil. I’m hoping she’ll succeed where I didn’t:).

    I love your food photos–their presentation is really nice. I love to hear testimonies of people who were willing to make changes with their lifestyle or food and reaped great benefits. I’m sure you will be able to do that as well!

    Krista

  6. That all sounds so lovely!

    You will have such an easy time growing mint. The main problem (if you plant it in the ground, that is) is stopping it from taking EVERYTHING over. You might want to move on to basil (look up how to trim it for maximum growth), rosemary, and sage as easy herbs to grow next. Parsley and cilantro bolt notoriously quickly, especially in heat.

    • JCF, thanks for the warning and advice. I’ll definitely skip right to basil if I have a better chance of success. Can’t wait to have fresh basil on our pizza, anyway!

  7. Home grown rosemary and bay leaf are wonderful too. I would imagine that many of the herbs that originate from the Mediterranean would survive well in Texas. I think they are fairly adaptable. I can grow them in soggy Britain.

  8. Thank you again for a little nudge in the right direction. I was a slow eater before college, at which time I always felt rushed. My first year of college was when I REALLY started to struggle with my weight, and I have recently begun to attribute that to my changed eating pace. I am now trying to learn to slow down. A trip to Olive Garden in April taught me the value of a good appetizer and salad in decreasing the appetite for the main course–I took more than half my entree home, and hardly had any breadsticks (though if they had a good bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead of cheap breadsticks I might have had a harder time!). I’m going to work on slowing our meals down at home.
    And I’m jealous! 28 cents for cilantro? I have never seen it much below fifty cents anywhere I’ve lived, even with a large Mexican population. I guess we will have to move to Texas sometime…. ;)

    • Actually, I guess I shouldn’t complain. I can get cilantro and parsley pretty cheaply, and I have a ditch across the road that is FULL of mint–good wild mint, that tastes more like peppermint than spearmint, but has a flavor all its own. The house I’m living in right now (we’re in the process of finding a house in our new hometown) has an herb garden with rosemary, dill, parsley, basil, and oregano, so I really have all the herbs I need. Oh, and basil is easy to grow from seed, and does beautifully in pots. Thyme is also easy (and savory, too, which tastes similar but more peppery) and once it gets established it will keep you supplied forever because it’s a small perennial shrub.

  9. Basil is very easy to grow from seed-and I kill most plants!
    The conference sounds inspirational.

  10. I am excited for you and your family. What a great thing to learn at a young age. :)

  11. Fun little fact…. those who do not like the flavor of cilantro are actually said to be allergic to it.

    • So interesting because I absolutely HATE cilantro and won’t eat anything that has it unless it’s heavily disguised.

  12. Kim,

    Have you come across ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com ? Mastering the Art of French Cooking was Leila’s first cookbook as a new bride. She has a great blog.

    Love your new approach.

    In Him

    Meredith

  13. I became a fan of the French way of eating after reading the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, and those ideas are reiterated in Bringing Up Bebe. I don’t serve multiple courses necessarily because I don’t want to fuss with all those extra dishes! But many of the principles I try to apply in my life to manage my weight and put food in its proper place. Americans have no rules or culture around food, it’s anything goes – and that’s why we, more than other societies, have struggles with obesity and pickiness. French women are typically thin, live longer than any other group save the Okinawans, and they derive real pleasure from their eating, so they must be doing something right!

    • Just a word to the wise, take what you read (especially in “Bringing up Bébé”) with a grain of salt. I live in Paris (though I’m American) and most of the women here are horrified with the author’s description of French parenting. Children are raised a bit closer to a bygone era, (as opposed to the current the-world-revolves-around-the-kids trend) and that’s definitely something for American parents to aspire toward, but don’t believe everything you read in that book.

      For instance, most French women would be horrified by her portrayal of breast feeding in France.The idea that women are forgoing the most traditional (and beneficial) way of nourishing an infant in order to resume their social lives or lose weight faster is hurtful, not to mention patently false. Breast feeding is no more or less prevalent in France than it is in the United States.

      Oh, and for the record, some French women do, in fact, get fat. ;)

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