Shopping as Cooking

— a terrible activity becomes a good one

In the last episode of ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’, Samir Nosrat mentions how people consider cooking as an activity that starts when you turn on the stove. In the ‘Heat’ episode, she makes marinated chicken and soaks beans overnight to demonstrate that cooking starts way in advance.

I hadn’t considered the activities prior to heat as cooking. When I chop veggies I often think ‘I can’t wait to get this over so I can start cooking’. Many times I wish I didn’t have to go shopping. ‘Why can’t these ingredients arrive at my home without me having to pick them up?’ But chopping and shopping are part of cooking.

Shopping, when seen in the context as cooking, becomes far more of a respectable activity. It’s not just a chore.

This year, I’ve started to go to shops with a shopping list. When I look over produce, I select the best version of the vegetable available. The freshness affects the taste so I’m already managing how my dish will come out way before the ingredients reach my kitchen.

A couple months ago, I tried Amazon grocery delivery. You can’t see your veggies. For the dry ingredients, there aren’t as many brands to select from. I thought the service could replace my weekly trips to the shop but after four weeks of deliveries, I had enough. I couldn’t see how ripe my tomatoes were, my leafy greens were often smashed under heavier objects in the bags that arrived, and different brands of dry ingredients make a huge difference.

I’d love to one day have my own vegetable garden, like all renown chefs have for their own restaurants. If growing produce is such an important part of creating delicious meals, shopping and procuring ingredients should be just as important.

I think there has been less emphasis on shopping as part of glamorous food culture. Of course there are weekly farmers markets, but the farmers markets near me all have stands that each sell an identical selection of produce: purple carrots, swiss chard, kale, speckled peppers and eggplant… To be practical, the grocery shop nearby is where everyone gets groceries. But it’s not glamorous enough to be shot for Netflix specials (unless you’re in the Bay area, where the tv show is shot).

That’s why I’ve hated the process of shopping. No one’s glamorized shopping at a large chain supermarket. Part of the reason I cook so much is because I get excited watching people cook on tv.

Understanding my drives, I realize don’t need anyone to glamorize shopping, I can take note how important and special shopping is to cooking food. Shopping becomes glamorized when I see it as part of cooking.

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