What’s on your Bucket List?

As a general rule, I don’t make resolutions.

Perhaps it’s all psychological, but I have never done well keeping them when they go by that name. However, I do like the idea of setting my intentions towards learning new things, polishing some already learned skills, and making improvements. I know myself well enough to realize that if I don’t put a specific deadline on those intentions, I’ll add them to the “Oh, Eventually” pile and they might never be accomplished. For me, 2014 will be very food/cooking centric. I’m starting culinary school, I’m renewing my focus on this blog, and I’m looking to make some changes in how I eat and interact with food on a personal level. So, I’m making a culinary bucket list. As with all good goals, these will be specific, measurable, and achievable. I’m writing them here because I believe in accountability, and the responsibility of checking in with you all periodically to find out how I’m doing with these goals will keep the Master Procrastinator in me under control.

1. Clear out all the unnecessary kitchen gadgets. Do I have two of anything? Do I have kitchen tools that only do one thing? Uni-taskers can be the enemy of apartment dwelling cooks with limited storage space. Do I need two cheese graters? Probably not. I know I can be a much more organized cook when I feel like I’m not crowded out of my own kitchen by all the extra “stuff” I’ve accumulated.

2. Re-join my co-op and/or join a CSA. On my list of food priorities, I’m a cook first, and a locavore second, so I will always have things like imported olive oil and cheese hanging around. Having said that, I really would like to give more support to all the wonderful folks in my food community. There’s a lot of debate about what “local” really means, but co-ops and CSAs are a pretty easy vehicle for sourcing food more locally than what you can find at the regular grocery store. 

3. Replace at least three store-bought staples with their homemade versions. The lowest hanging fruits for me with this item are bread, almond milk, and jam. I’ve been making my own jam for awhile now, but I’ve been putting off the other two. Not sure why. I drink almond milk exclusively (vs. animal milk or soy milk), but I don’t drink enough of it to ever justify the amount I’m buying from the store. Same goes for bread— I do use it, but not often enough to warrant the giant loaf of store-bought styrofoam I end up grabbing purely out of habit. Making my own means I can produce enough to be useful, with better quality, but not so much that it goes to waste. 

4. Master my knives, and the basic knife cuts: dice, julienne, brunoise, baton, and chiffonade. If you ever saw me with my chef’s knife, you’d probably recommend that I put the local Emergency Room on speed dial. I get the job done, but I would imagine it’s pretty hard to watch. My fingers are always in the way, my knives aren’t sharp, and when I get frustrated over those dull knives I often resort to General Half-Assery and Hacking. However, I feel like this one will probably be accomplished fairly quickly. Rolled into the cost of my first quarter culinary tuition is a brand new knife kit. On top of that, my first two classes are fundamentals courses, during which I’ll be taught knife skills, and will even have to complete a practical exam demonstrating that I’ve learned said knife skills. If I can manage to get through it all with an A, and no stitches, I’ll consider this one DONE. 

5. Master Bouillabaisse. I’ve wanted to do this since I experienced Mizuna‘s bouillabaisse a couple years ago on my birthday. It seems to me to be one of those perfect examples of how to layer flavor using some pretty humble ingredients, a skill I think every good cook should have. 

6. Quality over Quantity. I have a pretty definitive health/weight loss goal for 2014. I also have a pretty strict food budget. However, I very firmly believe that nothing should be off limits. That sounds contradictory, but I’ve noticed that when I’m happy and satisfied with what I’m eating, a little goes a long way. Instead of cramming my face with lots of cheap, low quality food, I lose weight and, more importantly, feel so much better when I’m eating smaller quantities of the good stuff. It’s not about counting calories, or fat grams, or carbs. For me, it’s about making sure I’m eating the very best quality food that I can afford. The smaller portion sizes are dictated by my budget, not by my “diet,” but I’m still happy with what I’m eating (and how much of it I’m eating) because it’s Really Effing Delicious. I don’t feel deprived. I know that sounds like a no brainer, but for me it’s a lesson I feel like I’m having to re-learn constantly. This year will be the year that the lesson sticks.

So, that’s my list, folks! Feel free to share your own. 

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