The first thing you need to know about me is that I LOVE seasons. It’s a wonder I’m so happy in Houston after a lifetime of beautiful seasons that I would await with anticipation and then throw myself into with abandon.
Without the obvious seasonal reminders – think falling leaves, snow, and trees resplendent with spring blossoms – I’ve had to work a little harder to bring the seasons to my home. Aside from decorating, I’ve found that the changes that bring me the most pleasure come from seasonal cooking.
Seasonal cooking involves buying food items that are naturally at their peak during a specific season and cooking them up with spices and herbs that immediately make you feel the season. But it’s not just the feelings this cooking brings about; there are actually a number of great reasons to cook seasonally.
First, buying produce when it is actually in season (versus cultivated in a greenhouse for year-round production) is always less expensive. Think about the 10-ears-of-corn-for-a-dollar signs in the dead of summer. Naturally, if a fruit or vegetable is at the height of harvesting, the spike in production leads to lower prices. So every time you buy produce in season, you are saving money.
Just as important as the cost, however, is the taste. And the taste is always better when a fruit or vegetable is in season. My family eats a ton of asparagus in the winter, which is when it’s at its most bulbous and delicious. Avocados ripen naturally just in time for Superbowl guacamole, thank goodness. And root vegetables like turnips, rutabagas, and carrots are just about perfect for roasting in the fall, topped off with your favorite spices.
Now, I’m not one to eat a lot of root vegetables in my daily diet. But for a couple months in the fall, along with roasted apples and served aside a pork chop? Well, all I can say is More, please! That’s because swapping up your recipes makes dinner a lot more enjoyable, and matching them to the seasons is even better. Last week, I bought a pumpkin for $3.50. First it was a decoration. Then I removed the “meat,” roasted it with chunks of apple and those root vegetables I mentioned, and voila! I had a delicious and healthy salad topping. Not to be undone, my husband cleaned out the seeds, doused them in salt, and provided us with a fall snack that took me right back to my childhood. Then we carved the pumpkin, and now it is serving as a Jack o’ Lantern. That’s a lot of bang for your buck, a lot of healthy food, and some major variety in our menu.
Speaking of variety, cooking seasonally will positively push you out of your comfort zone. I seek out ingredients now that I had never heard of a few years ago. I now know what spices smell and taste like fall. I know what aromas are divine in a slow cooker in the middle of winter. I discovered that I really, really love homemade soup and it is the best comfort food in the world during our (somewhat) chilly winter months. And in the summer, I break out the salads in every iteration: tropical chicken, mango, shrimp – you get the picture.
And finally, I will say this about seasonal cooking: It makes cooking fun again. Trying new recipes, experimenting with new ingredients, and watching your family’s faces as they taste their first bite, all make cooking less of a chore and more of an adventure. My husband, who mostly grills, has transferred seasonal cooking to his grilling station, as well. He changes up sauces, marinades, and sides to add different flavors to traditional meats. His most recent attempt at a hot buttered rum was a hot mess, but rather than ditch it, I’ve been using it to baste my roasted vegetables. I didn’t tell him, just watched his face as he took a bite of turnip. “Hmmmm,” he said. “This is different. I like it!” I loved telling him that I repurposed his failed concoction. We both smiled. So it appears this type of cooking can even be good for relationships.
See? Seasonal cooking is always a good idea.