Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Exactly Is the Pantry Cookbook?

Check out the new digs! Things over in the garden blog were getting too cluttered up with recipes and rough drafts, so I have opened up shop here. This blog is not meant to be anything final or fully organized or complete or pretty. It's just a staging area, so that I can get feedback on what I am doing, and so that the folks at Franklin's Food Pantry can keep an eye on things.

So what is the Pantry Cookbook? In case someone new wanders in here, let me explain. There are people who need the services of food banks who do not know how to cook. If you get all of your meals from fast food and heat-and-serve prepackaged foodstuffs, that's a surefire way to A. not get enough nutrition, and B. become obese, since the cheapest of premade calories are refined carbohydrates - empty calories.

Most frequently it is families with children and the elderly who need the services of food banks. But it can also be college students, or adults who have found themselves in between jobs.

This book is primarily going to be a collection of recipes that follow these guidelines:

1. The ingredients are all "whole foods", meaning as unprocessed as possible, with the exception of such things as bread and cheese.

2. The ingredients are as cheap and readily available as possible.

3. The recipes are as simple as possible.

4. The recipes are designed not just to help someone cook that single dish, but to teach them the fundamentals of how to cook. Thus the cookbook includes instructions for making things as simple as fried eggs or sauteed greens.

5. The recipes are divided into quick recipes, longer-cooking recipes that can be made in advance, and recipe components that can be made in advance.

6. The recipes require only the most basic of kitchen equipment. No electric gadgets, with perhaps one or two exceptions.

Friends and kind strangers have generously made contributions to this collection - thanks! Please do continue to pass along recipes that you would like to share! I can't promise that they will make it into the cookbook, or that they will remain unchanged if they do, but even the ones I have to discard inspire me.

Would you like to test recipes for me? I do need feedback particularly from people who aren't already good in the kitchen. I want to know if my recipes are easy to follow, and if they result in a tasty outcome.

The cookbook currently has about 60 recipes, and needs at least another 40 to be fully rounded. The book will also contain a list of the whole foods that the recipes are based on, including nutrition and basic storage and processing information. It will also contain a section of other information, such as general food and kitchen safety, and examples of how to plan a week's worth of meals.

Thanks to some terrific feedback from friends about how people use their cookbooks, I think I have an index scheme that will help to guide new cooks through all of this. It will go something like this:

Part 1: instructions on how and why to use the book, table of contents.

Part 2: an organized list of common, inexpensive whole foods, including nutrition, basic cooking, handling, and/or use instructions. Each food item will be followed by a list of the recipes it appears in, with page numbers.

Part 3: recipes, divided up into entrees, side dishes, desserts, etc.

Part 4: miscellaneous information on food safety, basic kitchen equipment, planning for a week's worth of meals, etc.

Part 5: index.

My first goal is to get all of this written and compiled into a format that can be shared online as a document, and cheaply printed. Printed copies can be made available to food bank users, and also used as a fundraising tool.

Franklin Food Pantry Steve Sherlock also envisions this becoming the start of a wiki, complete with glorious hyperlinks!

My basic goal is to get this up and running for the Franklin Food Pantry, but I dearly hope it will be good enough that other food banks and nutrition programs will want to use it.

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