Put the “Rustic” in Supper

What does rustic food mean to you? What it means to me is the sense of home. The warm feeling I got from eating at my grandparent's home on the weekends. It means simpler food. Food, that does not sacrifice flavor. It just uses it in a different sort of way.

My grandmother loved to bake bread. It wasn't a hobby for her it was one of her passions and it was also one of my passions as well. The eating part. Great homemade bread is the type that is most delicious when it is eaten warm. The type of bread with a crunchy crust and soft steaming insides. She used to bake a honey wheat bread which I can smell even to this day.

It makes my mouth water even now.

Soup is another down to earth meal. The thought of thick warming soups that have a hearty flavor; Chili's and chowders are another family favorite, a classic of home cooked meals.

If there were desserts, and with my grandmother there often were, you would get a steaming cobbler with vanilla ice cream or such.

My grandmother would cook all day though it never appeared to her to be a chore. It was a wonder and a delight when I got the chance to help her. And to me, it did not feel like work. The food was both simple and amazing (her meatloaf was simply amazing) and the time was well spent.

But if it all sounds perfect where does the rustic aspect come from? Why would I use that as a way to define it?

The reason is this – the ingredients are cheaper, yet wholesome food: the cuts of meat were cheaper but they were delicious because they got roasted all day. She didn't cut things small. Even as children she expected us to use a knife and fork properly. That equaled larger, rougher cuts of vegetables.

This all adds up and that is why when I say rustic – for me personally it is not about lack of presentation or the use of specific cooking utensils. No, it isn't any of that. If this same type of food is served in a restaurant – they are describing their cuisine to draw guests in. This also means that it comes served in such a way to make it feel special. Boards instead of plates with steeply marked up prices.

For me it is this: Simple home-cooked food that tastes good and makes you feel good. It is filling, but not fat. It is savory and healthy.

Nothing fancy, no big events, but wholesome.

Burgers Under the Clouds

I don't know about you, but burgers are such a common food that it is hard to find one that really stands out. I have eaten burgers from the dollar range to well over $20 and I haven't encountered one that really makes me thing, "wow, this is better than mine." Don't get me wrong I have had some good ones, just never and great ones.

And fries are on the fence. I have had some great ones when eating out but I can also make some great fries with my air fryer so it is split.

When I make burger patties I will season them to my taste and then to ensure that they are going in the right direction I'll take a bit of it and make a small ball and fry it. If I need to re-season I'll do it until I am happy, then they go in the frig. The longer you let them sit (within reason) the more they will have a chance to develop a flavor regardless of the type of flavoring you use.

When I was growing up the summers saw us eating a lot of burgers, chips and baked beans with bacon on picnics. It was a nice way to get out and enjoy nature and one another's company. Then I would go and play in the fields, meadows, or forest. It was great fun in the country.

Keep It Simple

I was a foodie for years. Actually I am still like that, but eating at home has become a more important part of my life. And for a while I tried to compete with the food that I was eating in the restaurants.

But here is the thing.

You can't.

You can do better.

In the restaurant you are eating a meal that hits the 1500 calorie mark rather than 600. Sure it tastes good, but you are eating: Butter, oil, and salt. And more butter and while we are at it a little more salt. Restaurants are not know for their health benefits unless that is their angle.

So sure you can do it, it is easy to make your home dish restaurant quality – add a stick of butter!

Of course you can't say that it boils down to just that. But it is a big part of it.

They cook with gas. I don't know about you but it takes time for my stove to get hot. Their stoves get hotter than yours by like a factor of three. That is hotter and faster. And the whole environment is made to make food the center of their attention. When they are working on one meal they can have multiple other meals on hot burners. Something comes out or off while another meal is going in the oven. I would love a gas stove (but it isn't possible), but I would have a nervous breakdown if I had to prepare that much food.

Another thing, you are paying for this space. Cooking high quality food takes space, space that they have to make prepare food in advanced. As you surely know most aspects of cooking that take time. They have the time to cook beef stock, at home you don't have the time to reduce it for days and days in progressively smaller pots.

But don't get disheartened there are things that you can do to improve the experience.

Lately I have been working my kitchen in a number of different directions. Thai on Tuesday? Sure. Welsh Wednesday? If you really want to I'm game.

Country home cooked food has been making more of a showing lately. Mainly because it tastes great when done with love and it is easy.

But you don't need to go all rustic if you want to make it a stress free kitchen. There are some techniques that make the process easier and more fun. My biggest secret is to turn my stove as hot as it can go only once all my ingredients are ready. Until then don't even bother to turn it on. My grandmother taught me that. She always made sure that all of her onions were chopped and shallots minced and all that other veggies done well before things start getting hot. If not you're in big trouble.

Another thing that will keep you sane in the kitchen is not to cook from recipes posted online. That one is pretty handy from time to time.

And keep this in mind when you are looking for recipes: In a restaurant someone else gets to do the prep work and another person does the dishes. If you make a complicated meal you get to cut everything and when it is done you get to wash every dish. The food work ratio doesn't balance out in that case.