Thursday, February 3, 2011

Create your culinary closet

All those childhood summers over bunsen burners and telescopes at "science camp" taught me loads about the way the world operates (maybe not so much about the way normal kids operate, but that's a story for my future therapist). So trust my authority when I tell you that, over anything Einstein or Newton observed, my mother's law of the universe reigns supreme: If you are trying to buy an outfit for a specific upcoming occasion, you will fail.

I curse her wisdom any time I go "day before" shopping, when I spend an hour patrolling the rayon-polyester jungle otherwise known as Forever21 for something to wear, only to abort the mission in the fitting room. (Writing this is like going back to 'Nam.) I end up wearing some just-fine black top that I've worn a thousand times, and after I have a just-fine night, I wonder: If I had turned out in something new, something different, maybe the night would have turned out that way, too?

My mom's law holds true in the kitchen as well. If you don't have an arsenal of new and different recipes, when a friend asks you to bring a dish to a potluck or you decide to throw a dinner party, you'll end up making the same just-fine things you've made a thousand times. Instead, when you stumble across a recipe that looks appealing, make sure that you have a closet where you can save it for some unknown future occasion.

Almost all of my recipes are from the Internet, so I created a few folders in my bookmarks and dump promising links into them. For example, while reading this article about the Egyptian protests, the Times sidebar recommended this delicious-looking recipe, which I'll definitely be making within the next week (I'll let you know how it goes). If you struggle with finding the right thing to cook, the best way to get started is to have a place for your ideas. Once your closet exists, you'll find it fill up almost on its own.

Notes for the Naked:
  • I've always been the type to dump sloppy piles of clothes on my bedroom chair. If you're better about hanging things up, sites like Yumm.com may be for you. Yumm will create a neat and searchable database for you, but it requires a little too much work for my tastes. 
  • If you go with my bookmarking approach, download a plugin like Xmarks Sync so you can access your recipes from any computer. That way if you bookmark something at work, you can pull it up quickly from your kitchen that night.

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