Gourmari’s Culinary philosophy in twelve sentences
After my celiac disease I became increasingly health conscious, which has led me to favor some foods over others. My tastes have changed and so have my priorities.
I’m not a finicky cook and often eat simple dishes. As I eat with the seasons, I tend to eat a lot of the same type of vegetable in over and over again (albeit in different variations) until I’m done with it for a while. I go through phases with lots of cooking and baking, and times during which I can’t be bothered to prepare more than a few boiled potatoes with a dollop of cream cheese and steamed broccoli.
My interest in fresh food, new flavors and unknown ingredients will never change. I’m always on a learning curve and striving to improve my cooking skills, to be more efficient, knowledgeable and diverse.
While I have been increasingly critical of refined sugar and sweeteners and try to avoid empty carbohydrates, I don’t deprive myself of sweet treats or bread. I eat them occasionally and give privilege to the homemade stuff, which can be created in a healthier version, for example by using more wholesome flours or fruit-based sugar, something you’re going to be reading about here more often.
I also try to balance eating healthy with sinful treats, and save my calories for food rather than splurging them on drinks. On any day you will find me drinking water, be it at home, at work, at the restaurant or at a party. I may have an occasional homemade lemonade, a soft drink, wine glass or cocktail, but it’s rare and usually happens at celebratory events outside of my home.
My Culinosophical Influencers
There are a few people – some famous, some not – who shaped my food philosophy. Here they are:
- Oma. My German (paternal) grandmother celebrated food during every meal of every day throughout her entire life. She loved food and every little thing she made in her kitchen was proof of her passion.
She was a great cook, mostly because – like Julia Child – she didn’t care about calories, fat, sugar or carbs. She made whatever she considered to be delicious and ate it in copious amounts.Whenever she ate something at a restaurant that she loved, she would rush home and attempt to recreate it. She had a talent for recognizing even the most subtle ingredient in any sauce, dumpling or cake.I baked with her from an early age on – provided she let me. She was always a bit of a dictator in the kitchen and (like me) was a bit weary to outsource any significant effort other than peeling potatoes or chopping vegetables. Maybe it’s because once you reach a certain skill-level and have your routine anyone else will only slow you down – no matter how helpful they want to be. I thus learnt a lot by observing rather than doing it myself (a skill that comes in handy nowadays).I watched my Oma make many (mostly meat-based) meals throughout my childhood and youth. While she was never one for microwave dishes or low-quality restaurant food, she did have a good amount of canned vegetables in her pantry, symptom of her generation. It was considered to be high quality at the time, probably even better than frozen goods.Even though my grandmother frowned upon my vegetarian diet from day one, the tastes I took away from her dining room table have probably been most influential in shaping my palate. I cook very differently from her, but my high standards in terms of taste, texture and the look that food must have in order to be considered great are definitely all hers.
It always thrilled me to no end when my Oma ate something of mine and complimented it. She always encouraged my cooking, and gave me all of her cookbooks in the year before she passed. One of them was originally my great-grandmother Elisa’s, who worked at a school that educated young women in rural household management near her hometown prior to World War II. It’s a book about baking and slaughtering, and it was so dear to my great-grandmother, that she took it with her when she fled the territory that today is part of Poland.
Anyway, the book has a few of my favorite cookie recipes, so it’s still in use at least once a year. My husband and I still get a kick out of the book every time we look at it though. The instructions on how to slaughter, take out and process all sorts of animals are very detailed and so superfluous in this household.
Find my Oma-inspired-recipes here.
- My mother. My mom is a tiny, very skinny person with an amazing metabolism. She’s very health-conscious and meat-driven though, and taught me that you can make pretty much anything with less of any unhealthy ingredient or that if I can’t find an ingredient there is always a way to substitute, even if you end up with something entirely different. For my mom food is just food, which is why she also taught me that one shouldn’t engorge in one’s every desire, for one’s own sake and that smaller cake dishes and sharing food with others is not only a great way to socialize but a strategy for having your cake and eating it, too.
- Tamar Adler. Author and Cook. Through her book, an Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, she taught me that any combination of things in my pantry can be a meal and to see ingredients as parts of a culinary journey rather than solitary islands. She gave me a lot of freedom in terms of shopping and the selection of ingredients and instructed me on how to handle food with care. I also learnt to prioritize the eating of certain vegetables in terms of timing starting from their date of purchase (or what to do with them if I want to keep them longer), very valuable advice when you are trying to cut down the number of times you visit the supermarket (e.g. for budgetary reasons).
- Michael Pollan. I read a few of his books and recommend you do, too! (I recommend In Defense of Food or Food Rules. Pollan showed me that the way you eat is not only relevant for your own body, but important for societal health. He encouraged me to appreciate foods that have no commercials speaking for them, to mainly shop the periphery of the supermarket, to invest in high quality ingredients (e.g. healthy fats), to focus on flavor and to stick to eating meals at a proper table. Plus, he really got me into gardening. I was already doing a lot of these things instinctively, but I’ve been a lot more adamant about following them through.
- Melissa and Douglas Hartwig. In February and March 2016 I ran through the Vegetarian version of the Whole30-program. It’s a thirty day challenge during which you eat nutritiously dense food and examine your eating habits. While I probably won’t do a second run through the program (it was hard for me, probably because it’s not really conceived for vegetarians and I’m also somewhat critical of the program despite thinking it is a great tool), I did learn a lot about how I eat, when I eat and what I eat and why.I have a much better sense of what a healthy way of eating means and I am no longer scared of high quality fats (as they mean satiation, too). I am much more critical of empty foods and calories, which means they don’t show up on my table as often as they used to. I no longer have an issue of eating a meal that consists of vegetables and protein only and try to favor Whole30 approved ingredient for vegetarians such as kefir, yoghurt, nuts and pulses when seeking satiation.