More than five years ago, I read an article in McLeans (I must’ve been waiting on a doctor and desperate for entertainment) that said the average Canadian family has five meals that it prepares regularly. I took this to mean supper standbys–the things you can whip up quickly, without looking at a recipe. Things everyone in the household will eat. Either you almost always have the ingredients stocked or you can buy them handily in a nearby grocery, on autopilot, forgetting nothing even if you’ve just had brain surgery. You know what I’m saying.
It seemed like a shockingly low number. I went home and my own pile of standbys exceeded it by a factor of three, I’d say–there were about fifteen things in the three-ring binder of Alyx recipes that were the real deal, as opposed to things I’d printed out, cooked once or twice, and then left to accumulate little food smudges as their pages drifted to the back of the recipe binder.
The magazine article inspired me to make an ongoing effort to expand the standby roster by at least a few recipes each year, and also to periodically back-burner recipes so Kelly and I don’t get too tired of them.
It works pretty well, but even though I’m paying more-than-average attention to this little element of our quality of life (average as determined by McLeans, you understand) little ruts still develop. I gravitate to certain kinds of recipes–soups and stews, a lot of the time, high on the veggie content and nutritional virtue, things that make extra freezable portions for those nights when all I want to do is make a salad and boil something. They’re hearty and warming and especially good in the winter, recipes that aren’t fussy, whose components aren’t too pricey.
I am in one of these expand-my-repertoire phases now, and I’m trying to push my boundaries at least some distance outward from the above stews–hence the pumpkin shrimp curry not long ago. But my second discovery was, even so, a hearty winter stew. But man, what a stew!! Seriously, this is too-good-to-be-true delicious.