I love crisp, smoky bacon, perfectly roasted chicken, plump briny shrimp and scallops, but a few years ago on vacation with my husband, daughters and son-in-law, I realized I needed to make a change. As we sat around the dinner table picking at the last of the sausage, chicken and seafood from our paella our conversation drifted to factory-farmed animals.
Like it or not, the way we eat — that is the way our meat, poultry and seafood is produced and transported in order to be sold at prices we'll tolerate — is not sustainable.
After that conversation I realized I needed to make the change I had avoided for years. Although I wasn't ready to become a vegetarian — doubt I ever will — I knew I needed to cut back on my meat, poultry and seafood consumption. That night my husband and I decided to eat meatless two days a week so we could afford better-raised meat. And that's the way it's been the last two years. Less meat, better meat.
Sounds good, right? I came home from vacation fired up to eat meatless two days a week, but after a few weeks of pizza, pasta and hummus I realized I didn't really know how to cook as agilely without a big hunk of meat anchoring the plate.
I found myself exactly where I was in the early 1990's when I'd come home from work, open the fridge and stare in despair as I struggled to get dinner on the table quickly for my husband and two young daughters.
It wasn't that I didn't know how to cook. I had learned from my mother and grandmother, who had a set of techniques and formulas they had internalized. On any given day they'd match the ingredients they had to the formulas they knew, and that's how dinner got on the table. But there were two big differences between them and me: I had less time to cook and more ingredients to choose from. Like them I needed a set of techniques, but ones that would work for my limited time and vast array of ingredients.
Published in 2000, How To Cook Without a Book was my solution to the weeknight dinner dilemma. Internalize a few techniques and formulas and you can, indeed, cook confidently without a recipe.
But here I was again, needing to find a new way to cook confidently and effortlessly. It was time to head back to the kitchen and figure out the formulas that would work for the meatless lifestyle. And that's exactly what I did. My latest book — Cook without a Book Meatless Meals, out just last week — offers techniques that'll help you eat simply and sumptuously year round.