It all started with our Instacart driver thieving a week's worth of Aldi groceries. We had decided as work demands amped us for both that the $12 convenience surcharge was worth saving two hours of grocery shopping time. I populated the online order with all the usual suspects from a weekly shop, and waited on a snowy Sunday for them to arrive. The driver marked it delivered, "left at gate", but there were no tire tracks in the snow and certainly not 16 bags of groceries at the end of the driveway. I called the company and decided to just have the order re-sent, but as we did this, J looked over my shoulder.
"Wait. We're going to get the exact same food? Isn't that the same food we got last week?"
I looked up at him and shrugged.
"It's the same food I get pretty much every week."
And that's when we realized things needed to change. Coincidentally, several members of our family stumbled on the #saltfatacidheat documentary series with Samin Nosrat, and inhaled her cinematic tour of international gastronomy, through the various titular mediums that make food taste good.
What we observed as a family, what we miss in our suburban Northeast life are some of the elements we loved about living and eating in our old island life of kneading dough and hanging wash.
And so a challenge was born: WHOLE FOOD ORIGINAL INGREDIENT CHALLENGE -- for a week, nothing prepackaged, everything purchased in elemental form, and made from scratch.
(*Note: this is not to be misinterpreted as the "Whole Foods" challenge, which, after calling Hayden and Max to stop at this store and replenish our aged parm supply, some basic flour and a 6 pack of paper towels to the tune of $40, we realized would not be factoring into our experiment.)
Let me underscore the rules of this challenge:
NO PRE-BAKED BREAD PRODUCTS
NO GRANOLA OR POWER BARS
NO TORTILLAS, PASTAS, CHIPS/SNACK FOODS
NO YOGURT FLIPS OR DRINKS
NO SALSAS OR SAUCES
NO JUICES OR ICE CREAM
Basically, nothing that was not in its original form when it came into our home.
The only concession we made, as we shopped, was that we were allowed to buy cheese, because ain't nobody got time for minimum four months aging, and chocolate. Because. Chocolate.
The other concession? My kids could buy lunch at school, because I'm not sure how well lamb-shank and shallot stew and rainbow roasted veggies goes over in the lunchbox on day two.
Our week's meal plan was inspired by some of the menu choices we'd seen in the SALTFATACIDHEAT documentary, and tied to our current season--warm, winter comfort food. I've hyperlinked where recipes are available--otherwise, we got creative.
stewed local lamb shank, raised and butchered from Jackson's Folly, our neighbor across the street
cold cucumber parsley salad
roasted beets over red kale with goat cheese and sautéed pecans
baby rosemary potatoes
homemade bagels (it was MLK day, and a high of 13 before the windchill, so we had a passel of cousins over to make our favorite bagels)
herbed egg salad with cucumber
slow-cooked red and kidney beans
roasted rainbow vegetables
simple aged parmesan omelettes
handmade corn tortillas
pico de Gallo
slow cooked pork shoulder
refried slow-cooker red beans
fresh, hand-rolled pasta (note: when she did it on the show, Samin did not use a pasta machine. Then her recipe has one and we don't. Luckily, my husband comes from good Italian stock.)
LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE ANTIQUE MORTAR AND PESTLE WE FOUND! That's an ordinary (shitty) bottle of red for cooking and comparison.
Ligurian foccacia (note: this requires a 14 hour rise and proof)
buttermilk chicken (also note: the buttermilk chicken brines overnight)
roasted Brussels sprouts (our usual family favorite, and in reality, I was seriously craving some simple green after such a carb-laden, meat heavy diet)
OMG WE STILL HAVE TO FEED THESE PEOPLE?!
(leftover focaccia as French toast, bacon, and eggs from our girls)
(Above: thankful for Hoffman's Happy Hens! The constant supply of eggs from the backyard makes schlepping warm water all winter worth it!)
we better use the brisket, the makings for the home made ragu and these 4 bags of assorted herbs before they go bad.
Stay tuned for a blog summary of lessons learned/take home from this challenge!
--This method costs easily twice as much as regular shopping and cooking, not only in the wallet but in time. We ended up going to two stores for our initial shop, and stopped at two others for missing or already eaten ingredients during the week.
Perhaps the biggest ingredient missing from my shopping list each week is time.