on seeking simplicity

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I want to go back to the way things were before Food Blogs, Cooking Shows, and “Foodies.” When food was for filling pie holes and nourishing my family, instead of trying to wow them with fancy to the point of frustration and confusion.  “Bring back comfort foods!” they proclaim, “Something we can recognize and pronounce.” They don’t want seared tuna over a bed of gingered rice, “give us grilled cheese!” I admit, I do try to slip in the fancy and they balk at every try.  So light on the fancy, heavy on the simple.  I also want to go back to when I planned my menu for a year and stuck to it, eating the same soulful  meals week after week- it was the best year of my life. Ma told me how she grew up with her mother making soup on Mondays, Lamb on Tuesdays, Pasta on Thursdays and Sundays- sure it got mundane but it was all whole foods, wholesome, budget friendly, and reassuring to know what was coming. Can I go back to that, please? When food was comforting and routine (although the routine of packing lunches can be a drag.)

“But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”
After 5 years of food blogging there’s really not much new under the sun, a bit of rearragement and fusion, but nothing all that new. Except maybe cake pops. I take a piece of that back, there is new and more nutritional science out there that has evolved our eating style, so I won’t be going back on that. So why does the food world trip over each other trying to reinvent the wheel, the next new thing, when really it’s all The Emperor’s New Clothes over and over again with the world gushing approval, and me wanting to shout like the wee child in the crowd, “It’s just a bloody avocado, pomegranate seed, or smoked paprika?!” Would practical and simple sell on a blog? Yes, I must say yes, because while we all love to gawk at beautiful foods from faraway lands, we still face a family who is hungry 43 times per day, and shouts it 57 times. Here I am trying to feed a family of five with different food likes and dislikes, food allergies, varying dietary practices (Himself and I are Paleo/Primal- conforming to labels, the kids are not and according to some, will die by the age of 20 for not being so), all on a budget, and trying to figure out which foods to buy organic, all the while the world waxes poetic over ramps and pomegranate arils- when did they stop being called seeds? Run on sentence. Take that!  I do really like smoked paprika by the way.

Food is a Religion where there is a heaven and a hell…
I laugh at myself, all of it really. How food has become a religion of sorts. It’s almost as sensitive a subject as religion itself. Just as fierce as politics.  I’ve witnessed arrogance and snobbery, extremism, judgement. Many times on the receiving end of it.  The meanness of it all. Laughing? I should be crying. But oh the creativity, wonder, togetherness, colors, aromas, friendships, memories and traditions created through food is such a blessing, and I love expressing myself, my gift,  through food with style, flavor, and spice.

“I hate cooking!” Say what?
I shocked my dinner guests the other night when I publicly proclaimed my aversion to cooking. I mean, cooking is great, but it’s keeping the kids full and happy that is nearly impossible.   Such a fine line there.   Art versus reality. My art will continue, my reality will continue, but somehow I must merge the two and practice seeking simplicity.   While in Germany last October, it all came back to me from the time I lived there; the simple soups made from using up all the vegetables from the tiny refrigerator; a simple lunch of a poached egg over a tomato and wedge of cheese; a piece of ham, a sprig of basil, a pat of butter, a chunk of bread and breakfast was served. Bits of this and that, to market daily to only buy what one needed for the day, no waste, overly simple, but all still so marvelous, comforting, and completing. Less really is more.

More Mason Jar Meal Physiology coming your way…
My Mason Jar Meals have been a lifesaver for us and our lifestyle and I will continue to share them here. Mason Jars- trending since 1858, remember, nothing new under the sun here, only re-purposed- sort of. There are so many MJM ideas that I have not shared because I thought they seemed dull, too simple maybe, but really they may just help other productive (hate the word busy) families  as much as they have helped my own. Like my jars o’beef, jars of fresh roasted veggies and the bazillion things I have made with them, one baking dish 3 salads plans, my Mason Jar Energy Bars, and a few other lifesavers along the way. Ma asked me a long time ago what the purpose of BRK was and I told her to help people get dinner on the table. Have I helped? Maybe. I have provided recipes but failed in the “how to” department. I supplied the anatomy without the physiology. I see that there is so much more I can teach. So this is the year of simplicity. Getting back to the old tried and true meals, better menu planning, ideas on how to make things simpler, faster/slower, and healthier- with some sweets and treats thrown in for good measure, all the while I wonder, “what the heck is a ramp?”

Happy New Year! What are you seeking this year?

35 Comments

  1. Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    I look forward to seeing your simple – I’m sure it will be “Simply Divine”! 2013 here we come!!!!!

  2. Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    Happy New Year Robin Sue and let me tell you that you have made my day!!! I have been thinking the same thoughts but not smart enough to put them on paper. Your comments about eating in Germany remind me of how I grew up. It was simple, good, and frugal. Onward in 2013 to simplicity. I hope to follow your footsteps. You are on the right track. Susan

  3. Amanda H
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:39 AM | Permalink

    Bring on the simplicity!! :0)

  4. Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

    Robin, very well written and said. Me, I am going to spend the year cooking Italian… Usually only a handful of ingredients, all the techniques are meant to highlight the best simple tastes. I may toss in a fancy unpronounceable French sauce every now and then, but really, I want to taste a tomato.

    Best of luck with your year, I whole heartily agree with what you said and look forward to following you more… Will be back (I simplified my blogger list to make it manageable to visit favorites… one of my New year’s simplification goals).

    I did take a second and “pinned” your gentle rant.

    Dave, who used to be Year on the Grill

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

      Hi Dave! Happy New Year!
      A year with Italian cooking sounds wonderful, such a great journey to take! I think we are all going through trying to find a way to be more simple. The world is moving so fast and we are losing so much of our time to it. Cheers to simple!

  5. Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    Yeah! I found you bc of the mason jar meals, I think. I was started my first whole 30 and you inspired me. I enjoy your ideas and writing. I am glad to see what you’ve written. I am needing to simplify. I have lost the taste for fancy.
    Here’s to more paleo/primal jar ideas!

  6. Cara
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

    A thousand times yes! Love this.

  7. Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    Interesting piece, Robin. I kept thinking as I was reading down “but what about the mason jars?”

    I get what you’re saying but I don’t totally agree. We’ve gone too far down the road to go back to lost eras. Simple and quality non-processed ingredients are good and I’m all for that! But, like the mason jars, presenting traditional meals in non-traditional ways is an expression and test of creativity, as well as being a learning tool for the kids about how to see things in different ways. Don’t give up!

    Happy new year to you and everyone in your BRK!

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 2:15 PM | Permalink

      I will still be creative but I am finding my family is enjoy my more simple meals than ones that I try to be too fancy or introduce them to too many new foods at once- many tears that way. Then the waste becasue they wont eat it. I do wish we could go back to lost eras in some ways, not all. It is nice that everyone is a foodie now, but sadly there are some mean people out there. Some bloggers have been critiqued so harshly because their cake was not completely from scratch- this is what is so sad about the food world- people picking on eachother over food. So let creativity live! But some of that other crazy stuff can go away.

  8. sharon
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

    Robin~ Love this idea! Have you ever seen the PBS show, “Alone in the Wilderness”? It’s about a man, Dick Proenneke, who lived alone in remote Alaska and lived off the land, simply. Made his own log cabin from basic hand tools, made sourdough biscuits from a starter many years old, caught fish for dinner, etc…. Your husband and boys would most likely really enjoy it. You would enjoy it too, I found it fascinating. Anyway, here is one of his quotes, which our family has adopted, “Simple food seasoned with hunger”. Rock on with the keeping it simple, sweetie! Blessings, Sharon

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:36 PM | Permalink

      I have not seen that Sharon. That is very simple indeed to make everything from the land. I may not go that simple;-)

  9. Posted January 1, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Permalink

    Happy New Year!! Loved your thoughts on this subject. We overly complicate things in this day and age, and then we end up longing for simple. 😉

  10. Posted January 1, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Permalink

    I am all for simple! It is hard to feed a family of 5, make everyone happy, with likes and dislikes without being a short order cook to appease everyone.

    My Mom would make one trip to the store, the menu was posted on the fridge and we knew what was for dinner the whole week. I mostly do that, but need to get back to that

    Looking forward to more mason jar meals! Happy new year Robin Sue!

  11. Barbara
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    I had to laugh at your last sentence. I once asked that at a very chic New York “Kitchen” site where ramps were called for in a recipe. I’ll bet 99% of us have never seen one in a market. I sure haven’t, and I’ve lived in 10 different states, nearly all of which were near big cities. The answer I got was, “if you have to ask you shouldn’t be on this site; go find Pioneer Woman”. Food snobs like that not only bore me, but they are nasty and cruel. I haven’t been back there since. I love my mason jars for canning “Mom’s Meals – Ready To Eat” – a takeoff on the military’s MREs – and salad in a jar that’s just for my lunch, leftovers and storing simple but tasty food that makes you really feel satisfied after eating it, and doubly so if your mate smiles and says, “great dinner, honey.” My sons are grown and gone, but they too still say that mom’s a great cook. When I get the urge to do fancy, hubs is always willing to try anything, and that’s fun, too, but when you get right down to it, don’t we all just want to enjoy what goes in our mouth and to feel warmly satisfied after eating it? I get my food jollies from having great cooking tools from hand to electric, and I’ve just rearranged my kitchen so I can be more efficient. Life is good when there’s good food, enough of it to go around, and good company, and your hubby always does the dishes.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

      Oh my word about the site who sent you to pioneer woman over a ramp! Goodbye to snobbery and hello to compassion. We are in a very divided world, but it shouldn’t be over food. My hubby does the dishes too- a great man indeed! MRE’s in jars are so much better than real MRE’s!

    • Holly
      Posted January 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

      I had to look up ramps, and I learned that they are a vegetable. Apparently the “it vegetable” of spring 2012. How did I make it to 2013 without knowing that? Probably because I am happy to admit that my family and I watch Pioneer Woman occasionally. I have even made a few of her recipes. Love the idea of MREs in jars. We like a lot of different kinds of food, and we don’t have time to judge you if you don’t know something.

  12. Posted January 1, 2013 at 4:42 PM | Permalink

    Happy New Year, Robin!

  13. Joyce Kinsey
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

    Well said! My chaotic kitchen and overcrowded pantry are the result of trying to get creative with many ingredients. I didn’t need all those things to be creative-I just needed to know how to put together basic ingredients to keep my kids wanting to come to the table. Basic and simple is what we need! Happy New Years!

  14. Carol
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    This post is a perfect example of why I read your blog. (Am really looking forward to the MJM recipes!) I’m a ‘lurker’, but I felt compelled to say it’s heartwarming to read your thoughts on simple food. I thought I was alone out here! Yes, I love to cook – even crank out the fancy stuff on occasion, yet the best meals are always the ones made simply, with love. Cheers! and Hooray! to the upcoming years’ blog feed full of your “simplicity” … it’s going to be fantastic!

  15. Posted January 2, 2013 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

    I am definitely looking forward to many more MJM’s! That is what brought me to your blog in the first place. I need more simple ideas and things I can easily take on the go, since I am now gluten-free for health reasons. Just stopping and getting something to eat is not convenient anymore… which is actually better for the waist and budget, but I still need more ideas. I do have one question though…. Where is the recipe for the picture at the top of this post? YUM! 🙂

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 2, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Permalink

      Hi Stephanie,
      There really is no recipe for the photo. A big slab of fresh tomato with some fresh mozzarella topped with a poached egg and drizzled with olive oil. I had a few leaves of basil to use up, so this was a simple way to use what I had and create less waste- which I really need to get better at too!

  16. Coconut
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

    Happy New Year to All!

    Simple has always worked best for me. I have tried some fancy dishes in my time, but I tend to stick mostly with simple.

    That is even more the case since moving 3+ years ago to a house with what barely passes for a kitchen. ;-P 🙂

    The biggest plus now in terms of food/cooking is easy access to food fresh off the farm.

    I’m a member of a local CSA, and then there are farmers’ markets even in the winter, and so on.

    There have been some ramps in my CSA box, but up here (NYS) we call them spring onions, or wild leeks. Back when I first heard the term ramps, I had to look it up. :-0 😀

    Shame on the person(s) who directed the reader here to Pioneer Woman instead of answering her question.

    Pomegranate arils. Sheesh. I’m all for an extended vocabulary, but not when used falsely.

    Yes, I have seen the snobbery in various blogs, but it is nothing new, nor is it restricted to food topics.

    There are so many others, like this one, where all are welcome, and those unfriendly blogs will likely soon fall by the wayside.

    Your description of shopping in Europe reminded me of when I lived in a tiny studio apartment in NYC. I used to shop for the day then, as well.

    Cooking for two of us here on a budget is sometimes daunting–and always time-consuming–due to my current dietary restrictions, and aforementioned tiny kitchen. It is still a creative outlet for me, but I admit that there are parts of it that are drudgery.

    I recently joked with someone that keeping watch, and stirring four pots on my stove at once was just above the excitement of watching paint dry.

    How you do it all for five, and still have time to for anything else is quite a feat. 😀

    Viva le simple in 2013!

    Coconut

  17. Barbara
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Permalink

    I bought myself a gift, and it arrived (I love Amazon!) right at dinner time yesterday. I first saw it on Marisa’s site – Food In Jars) and I already know how much I’m going to love it. It’s called a 4th burner pan (from Kuhn-Rikon), and it looks more like a stove-top coffee maker than anything. It’s red, and pretty! It’s tall, has a spout, a basket with a handle inside its non-stick interior, and a glass lid with two sections that strain liquids. It is large enough to hold a pint jar and can be used to water-bath can whatever one desires. Being seniors, Stud and I don’t 1) have room for a lot of canned food, and 2) don’t buy in bulk anymore. I do like to make some extras of several things, though, and often have a left over amount that can be canned quickly and easily. I have been freezing these things, but now I’m going to can them without having to get out the huge pressure canner which has been put away for the winter anyway. When I find a special on something I will get enough for two, plus a pint, and pretty soon I’ll have a nice stash of MMREs to have on hand on days when cooking is just too much after a difficult day. Being in Florida, and living in a small city that is dedicated to helping our local farmers by having a Saturday market on the town square every week, I can easily buy just what I need to do that little bit extra and have my own “fast food” that not only tastes great, helps out local farms, is just-picked fresh,and is much lower in sodium and has no things that people can’t pronounce or understand in it. That too, is comfort food.

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

      I have seen these pans and they are so cute! Sounds like you have a good handle on simplifying. I want to prepare more foods in jars when I have time- in the morning while the kids are at school, so that later in the day when time is short we have “fast Food” in the fridge all ready to go. I would love to be in FL right now, it is so cold here!

    • Coconut
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

      Great idea, and thanks for the tip, Barbara.

      This would do nicely in what I laughingly, and lovingly, call my toy kitchen.

      It could come in very handy for regular cooking, as well as canning.

      I am over on Amazon looking at it now. Love the red, and also saw a blue one, too.

      Cheers,
      Coconut

  18. Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

    I loved reading this post Robin! Even just cooking for me and my hubs, meal planning is key for me – he just doesn’t get it. I’d make the menu for the week, and ask him “how about pork chops on Thursday?” He’d reply “how do I know if I want pork chops on that day?!”

    Gah! So now I give him choices from my meal plan, he picks what he wants, which is already on the “menu” and it works out just fine.

    Happy New Year!!

  19. Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

    AMEN!!!!

  20. Posted January 4, 2013 at 6:06 AM | Permalink

    After soon to be 38 years of marriage, if I don’t have a meat, tater and a veggie on the plate I might as well head back to the kitchen. My meals are simple also, but filling and come from the garden we grow, and the cattle we raise.So I agree with you..

  21. Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    Well said Robin Sue – just keeping stopping by myplace for the unelegant, simple food – often with an egg on top 🙂

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:43 AM | Permalink

      An egg may be better than a cherry on top!

  22. Posted January 8, 2013 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    I crave simplicity each year at this time but this year I am striving to obtain and keep it.

  23. Needful Things
    Posted January 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Permalink

    Just came across your blog through this post.
    Simplicity: amen to that! My goals for this year are to keep things simple. I intend to cook and bake a lot more but my emphasis is on making simple meals, simple desserts, get away from the fads and put my collection of cookbooks to good use.
    Happy 2013!

  24. Cat
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    So glad I found your blog. I would be ever so grateful for good, old fashioned recipes my family will eat, won’t break the bank and don’t take me hours to prepare. I agree that while those fancy, schmancy meals have a time and a place they’re mostly not practical for the average family.

  25. Cat
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    P.S. i thought you’d like to know that I found your blog after Pinning your Baked Pancake recipe. A recipe I felt certain my four littles under six would enjoy and they did. Thanks so much m

    • Robin Sue
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

      Thanks! Glad they all liked the pancakes!

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