Summer is here in the desert and it’s what I imagine the dead of winter is like in the Northern part of the USA. Everything slows down, people get a little cranky and lazy and if we do gather, we linger together until the middle of the night when we hope to enjoy the air cooling off to below 100 degrees. It’s not a big time for projects, or maybe I should say it’s not a big time for lots of little projects. If you are going to expend time, you commit, taking on something big and “worthwhile” to justify the time, energy and honestly sweat. (The term “sweat equity” totally could have been created here.) So, hopefully I won’t gross you out when I say that our project involved food.
I’ve been fascinated lately by trying to understand what goes into making food items that I often use. Food like nut-milks, cheese and tomato sauce. Part of my fascination is how energy-consumptive it is to make these things. Another part is my fascination with how it actually works to make it. I am not a great cook, but I’m a person who will watch endless episodes of “How It’s Made”. I get fascinated with the “how” but the “doing” is always a crapshoot.
This to say, when my partner told me we could buy 15lbs of heirloom, organic tomatoes from a local farm at a great price, I immediately agreed. We didn’t really have a plan, which in hindsight may have been a bit more responsible. However, when we were confronted with the boxes of tomatoes on our table, we had a brilliant flash – to make homemade tomato sauce. (We did briefly discuss canning the tomatoes, but as I have a fear of poisoning myself and people I love, we settled on cooking and freezing.) I mean really, how hard could it be??
I scanned a couple of recipes and assumed I had it figured out. We started chopping, and chopping, and chopping… everything (the counters, us, the floor) was covered in tomato juice and I was a little worried what would be left to cook. We only have two pots, so we decided to make several batches of sauce.
We started with sautéing about 2 cups of onion in each pot along with a clove of garlic in 2tbs of oil.
Chopping, chopping, chopping tomatoes continued. When the onion and garlic were turning clear, we added some of the tomatoes (enough to fill the pots).
At first I had it covered, not realizing that for it to reduce, it needs to cook uncovered…Did I mention it was 108 outside? So, the mix cooked and cooked. After about an hour we added ¾ cup of unsweetened Coconut milk in each pot to give it a slight creamy taste.
And it cooked and cooked...
After about 2 and ½ hours we realized that we were only going to be making 1 batch, 2 pots worth of sauce. Hot, tired, very sweaty and crabby I was tempted to pelt the remainder of the tomatoes at my partner who was giving me a hard time for not closely reading the recipes. However, he then delicately saved himself from my fantasy when he suggested making Gazpacho. He’s really the cook in the family, intuitively whipping it up in the blender with jalapenos, onion and cucumber. (If you’re curious why I’m the one doing the cooking, visit my earlier post)
Four hours later, we settled for a chunky sauce. It’s supposed to “cover the back of the spoon”, but it was more like a chunky tomato soup. Yet, the most important thing was that it tasted AMAZING! Sweet, fresh and creamy.
It was wonderful when we made it the following week over gluten-free pasta. We froze about 5 mason jars for future use.
Not being a great cook, is something I’ve never apologized for. We have to eat, I do my best, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What I do think is important, is to look at what we bring into our bodies and understand what’s in it or how it’s made. This is a lofty goal for me. As a physically Disabled person I’ve ate and used my share of quick (sometimes processed) food. I don’t apologize for this because it was often what I needed to feed myself. In my current endeavor, I’m finding that it’s difficult to bridge the world of “instant” with “self-care” because, if we are honest with ourselves, good stuff for our bodies generally takes some time to prepare. This doesn’t mean that we need to sit around and beat ourselves up for quick choices either. My perspective of late is to do the best I can and then let it be good enough. I’m done with the shame game around food.
So part of my life-long goal in healthy eating/cooking is to try and understand what I’m putting in my body, not in a judgmental way, but in a curious and fun way. Not sure cooking for 5 hours in the dead of summer will be a repeat event, but it makes for a good story, and now I know how it’s made!