This is the first of a three part series on frugal cooking. Want more frugal cooking content? Sign up for our monthly newsletter for one highlighted frugal recipe a month!
So you want to improve your frugal cooking. (Or maybe just your cooking). In a break from tradition, I am not going to wax long about the benefits of home-cooked meals, their frugal nature, and how much better they are for you - you already know that, or you wouldn’t be reading this post. In this introduction to our 3-part cooking series, we are talking about one thing, and one thing only - adjectives.
An adjective is a word that describes a person, place, or thing (e.g. red, tall). In cooking, adjectives are king because they allow us to compare types of foods to each other and create ideal pairings.
Let’s take a minute and list some adjectives that list only types of tastes (we will get to textures in a minute).
With this sample list, we’re going to do a few exercises. You will need a piece of paper (or a spreadsheet that you can save, modify, and fine-tune to your heart’s content).
Defining Relational Adjectives
Organize this list (and any other taste-focused adjectives you can think of) into like things. For example, bland will be in its own category because the point of bland things is that they take on whatever they are with. They don’t have much substance on their own - at least, not in the taste department. However, acidic things are also intense, but spicy things are intense too - and they belong in two different sections. Play with your adjectives until they feel like your groups belong together. These groups will form the foundation of your experimentation.
Now list various foods under each group. For example, rice is bland, potatoes are bland, beans are bland, and habanero peppers are… not bland. After you’ve exhausted your brain of common foods, walk into your kitchen, open your fridge, freezer, and cupboards, and make sure you’ve categorized the foods you already have.
Once you’ve categorized your foods, go to your spice rack and categorize those. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, spices make or break your cuisine, so don’t skip this step!
Now that you have your tastes organized, let’s talk about texture for a minute. Make your own list of adjectives that describe texture and associate 2-3 foods with each adjective. (In case you need inspiration, try the following: smooth, lumpy, mushy, granulated, crisp. That should cover most of your bases).
Now let’s step back and use a common concept - the color wheel.
Fear not, this is not an art class, nor are you graded on your ability to remember how to use a color wheel. Also, I am very sorry if you are colorblind.
Just in case your art knowledge is a little rusty, here is how to use a color wheel (pick one):
Numbers 1 and 3 are the most difficult to do well in the world of cooking, so we are going to ignore them for right now. Let’s focus on complementary flavors, since that is the most straightforward, but triadic pairing works similarly.
Let’s say you want to use brussel sprouts in your meal, but you aren’t sure what to make with them. If we reduce brussel sprouts to its taste and texture adjectives, we would probably come up with:
So, we want to pair it with something:
What do we have that is sweet and mushy? Why, I think mashed sweet potatoes would be the perfect complement to brussel sprouts. Think you’ll still be hungry, or you just like to see more than two things on your plate? Kale is also bitter, and carrots are also sweet, and that last half cup of frozen walnuts in the back of your freezer are just begging to be thrown in to a kale, carrot, and onion stirfry. Since kale is chewy and walnuts are crunchy, another complementary dynamic was thrown in. (Carrots and onions both fall under the already existing mushy category).
Now that you’ve completed your spreadsheet, make 10 more meal plans by reducing all foods to their adjectives. Don’t forget that “bland” is the black and white of cooking - you can add in anywhere, at any time. Feel free to show off your creations in the comments!
Read part 2 of the series here.
What is the most unusual food combination you have enjoyed? Do you have a favorite food adjective (or pairing of adjectives)? Do you put flavor or texture first in your meal planning and why?
I spend most of my spare time playing with spreadsheets, my violin, or planting vegetables in my garden in hopes of bringing new insights into frugal living. Please enjoy, and don't forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter here.
Disclaimer - Mrs. FB is not a financial advisor. Nothing in these articles should be construed as investment or other professional advice, but rather personal opinion. Some links in these posts may be to affiliate sites - no products are advertised through this site that have not been personally used by the FB family unless expressly labeled.