A Time to Cook

24 Mar

It’s kind of surprising to me… one of the things that I have enjoyed the most these past few years of travel and new experiences is… food!  As you may have noticed, I have been a super-budget traveler as I’ve made my way in Europe and now South Korea. While I enjoy restaurants and eating out, they haven’t been at the top of my mission.  My true pleasure has been connecting with and making my own meals, on occasion growing and harvesting the food, and often sharing it with other people.  Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to cooking I am still learning the basics.  I keep it simple and take it “one step at a time”.  But in general for me, it has been and continues to be a joy.  Who knew?

When I was in Germany in 2011-2012 living at the Seminar Haus in Wettenbostel I often helped out in the busy weekend kitchen as my host there prepared food for the visiting guests.  My tasks were usually simple ones – fry the onions in some butter, saute the mushrooms in balsamic vinegar (be sure to add plenty of garlic), chop the vegetables and make a salad.  On a good day I was asked to make the salad dressing or perhaps some humus.  During the week I would often prepare lunch for myself and the other staff around.  It was usually something simple like a stir fry using whatever food was left on hand.  Somewhere along the way, watching my host cook, helping him out often on weekends, doing my best not to cut off my finger as I chopped vegetables,  and cooking some myself during the week… my confidence in and appreciation of cooking began to increase.

When I left Europe a year and a half later and returned to the States to prepare my visa to teach in South Korea, I stayed with a family in the northeast for three months.  I did a work exchange with them through the website helpx.net.  The general idea is I do work for them in exchange for room and board.  Initially my new hosts asked me if I cooked.  I shied away from the question as I was hesitant to proclaim with confidence that I could cook a meal for them.  Soon after I arrived, there was a busy day, no dinner yet and they needed me to cook the family meal.  I have to admit I was nervous.  I don’t remember what I made, but it was something simple.  The good news was they loved it!  My confidence in the kitchen continued to grow and it became my mission to prepare the evening family meal.  I soon became the regular weekly shopper at their local co-op grocery, Weavers Way,  and shopped with the intent of preparing healthy, affordable meals for their family.  A new role for me.

Now that I am in South Korea the meal table looks a little different.  I am on my own without a “community” or family to feed.  My “kitchen” is a tiny countertop that came equipped with a sink, some cabinets, a refrigerator and a hot plate.  My kitchen table is my desk.  As I am very sensitive to refined sugar,  I can’t easily eat out in S. Korea. Koreans love to add sugar to nearly EVERYTHING.  And so, the mission continues to make good healthy food… now in a new setting.

After three months, my kitchen has a few added appliances – a rice cooker, a crock pot, and most recently a toaster/convection oven.  I am surprised at the pleasure I get with each new addition.   The excitement of cooking my first batch of rice in the rice cooker, so easily with just the touch of a button.  Then discovering the many exciting things the rice cooker can do – like cook quinoa, oatmeal, and even polenta! Within the limits of my modest living space, it is still my pleasure to prepare meals for myself, search for recipes and try new things.

My latest discovery in South Korea is Veggie Hill.  It is a wonderful web-based business (www.veggiehill.org) that sources organically grown food from an area in S. Korea called Dumulmeori.  All of the food they source is grown chemical free in soil that is high in nutrients.  Keep in mind that in Korea there is no Whole Foods down the street and most grocery stores have very few if any organic items.  Veggie Hill to the rescue! Their website is in English (hooray!) and it’s easy to order and then have your food delivered to your door.  They even have food items like chicken and eggs!  I ordered from them for the first time last week and recently received my order.  Their prices are comparable to regular grocery store items and the produce looks so much better its unbelievable. I unpacked my lovely groceries this week and when I opened my refrigerator door I felt a sigh of relief.  My refrigerator is filled with fresh, lovely food that looks, feels and tastes good.  How wonderful!

Some of my most recent meals this week have included preparing a whole chicken in the crock pot then making my own chicken broth and crock pot lentils accented with Indian spices served over rice.  I track the recipes I have tried or want to try on my Pinterest board “Healthy Eating“.

So it seems on this journey and in my life there is a time for all things.  There is a time to laugh and a time to cry.  A time to work and a time to play.  A time to be still and a time to wander…. and, yes, newly to me… there is a time to cook.

How about you, what time or season is it in your life?  Any interesting flavors or new experiences to share?

Bye for now from the not yet Spring, “still a little chilly for my taste” land of Paju, South Korea!

Top image is a sampling of the fresh fruits sand veggies I received this past week from Veggie Hill.

4 Responses to “A Time to Cook”

  1. maria 24/03/2013 at 09:29 #

    great blog nancie! you inspire me. keep rolling honey

    • nancieteresa 25/03/2013 at 03:42 #

      Thanks Maria!

  2. Jennifer 24/03/2013 at 17:00 #

    So glad you are learning to eat healthy in Korea. I am now learning to cook and enjoy Rabbit, Venison and Elk. It is fun. Miss you.

    • nancieteresa 25/03/2013 at 03:42 #

      Hi Jennifer! Wow, Rabbit, Venison and Elk. How is it? Thanks for the note. It’s good to hear from you. 😉

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