I like a cooking challenge. Cooking has always been an activity I’ve enjoyed because it can be slow and contemplative, but it can also be fast paced, forcing you to think one or two steps ahead and move with lightning precision. I like when food keeps me on my toes. There’s nothing like the rush of figuring out exactly when to flip something, when to add a sauce, when to pull something from the stove, all while trying to execute those actions seamlessly.
The same goes for ingredients. I think I make some of my best dishes when I am challenged with a random assortment of ingredients lingering around the fridge. So, it is very exciting now that the large part of our food selection is at the whim of our farmer’s markets.
Because we can never really plan on what’s going to be there, I don’t go shopping with menus in mind. I just pick what looks good and let that be my first priority; good food will come naturally from good ingredients if you treat them right. And truly fresh produce doesn’t need to be dressed up as much as store bought stuff because its flavor is alive enough to speak for itself.
We often also face the limit of seasonality, but it is not our only gamble. Our off-the-grid electricity setup here is pretty bare bones and doesn’t allow for many of the usual kitchen amenities.
We don’t have an oven, so that eliminates a pretty wide swath of possibilities (no baking! no more frozen pizza! no tater tots!). We also don’t have a working freezer (a month after moving here I think our ice is almost frozen!), so we need food that we can either keep in dry storage or use quickly. This eliminates the possibility of a lot of processed and non-local or sustainable foods: frozen snacks, ice cream, etc.
We also can’t buy meat, because it won’t stay fresh; Karyn is a vegetarian and I am a flexitarian, so it’s not that big of a deal, but without a fridge that will stay on 24-7 it is not even an option. Last but not least is a missing microwave, which means nothing comes quick or lazy.
Luckily, the choices we are left with are pretty good. Fresh, local produce, fruit, eggs, and coffee from the local farms, in addition to local products we can find at the grocery store. Hawaii is notoriously expensive, but this is only true if you will it. As long as you take your time to find local products at the grocery store, you’ll be okay.
If you want an Amy’s frozen meal, you’re screwed, one of those will cost you almost eight dollars (the same price as a gallon of locally brewed soy sauce).
What I like most is that our food limitations bring us more in to touch with our surroundings. When we can’t eat a certain food, it doesn’t mean there’s been a delay in shipping or the grocery store is closed. It means that it just isn’t ripe or growing then.
We are forced to form a natural relationship with our food. Instead of seeing convenience and uniformity in our food we find Earth, the seasons, and the people who grew it into life.