Florentine-StyleWritten by Skip Lombardi
I owe my history teachers an apology. You tried your best to ignite even a glimmer of emotion in me for your subject, but I stymied you at every turn. Well into adulthood now, I'm reduced to making muttered comments that history is not my strong suit, when in fact, I made certain it was preordained.
Now, at this advanced age in my life, I'm looking into some ancient Italian recipes, and my research is taking me to some fascinating places I probably should have known about all along. For example, I've known-seemingly forever-that it was Caterina de' Medici who taught French to eat with a fork. But I recently stumbled onto some information about her other culinary contributions that I've found to be enlightening.
For readers who may also have been in back of classroom reading "Mad" magazine during Renaissance, Caterina de' Medici was one of those Medicis. You know; ones from Florence. The same Medicis who had a second story built onto Ponte Vecchio so they could cross Arno river without mingling with hoi-paloi, even if they had to climb a set of stairs at each end.
Sometime around 1533, Caterina's uncle, Pope Clement VII, arranged for her to marry one of King Francis' kids, Henri, a.k.a. Henri of Orleans; later, Henri II, King of France. She was fourteen at time.
It must have been tough going for a young lady who was, by-and-large ignored by Royal Court. But it left Ms. de' Medici with some time on her hands, and she seemed to use it productively. (Of course there was that tawdry business about St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, but that was later in life). When she wasn't engaged in eating, say, a "ragoût of cockscombs, kidneys, and artichoke hearts," she apparently spent a lot of time thinking about food. It goes without saying, that this qualifies her as my kind of Regent.
Calling All Singles - Cooking for Busy Lives Written by Marybeth Gregg
“If you have lifestyle where you eat out or order take-out every night, you can really get tired of it and it’s so expensive”, says cooking expert Marybeth Gregg, “so why not learn to cook with ease, and actually enjoy it?” “There is more to life than pizza and popcorn. Be a little adventurous. With just a few simple secrets, you can create a great meal for yourself and others.”, say this active business owner who offers tips to making cooking easy for a single person or smaller household. Many people with active lives think that cooking for one, or two, is just not worth time, or they simply don’t know how. Be a little different - your skills may make you stand out in crowd!
Marybeth, owner of Cook-with-Confidence Cooking School, has found out that there are major benefits to cooking – you eat healthier, it costs less and you get to actually create something on your own. Many people with hectic lives usually snack, skip meals or grab a quick fast food or other take-out meal. Skipping meals or eating high-fat foods deprives your body of energy and can make you feel tired. And a lot of people are in jobs that offer little creativity so cooking is a wonderful way to jump out of box and be inspired and use their imaginations for a change!
So what's a body to do? Marybeth offers some tips and techniques for making eating alone an easier, more enjoyable experience by learning to shop and cook quick, delicious meals for one or two people.
There are a few strategies are essential for smaller quantities. 1.Plan ahead - using a written or mental menu. You don’t have to cook everyday! Just start with one or two times a week – select an easy menu, organize your ingredients and shop on weekend when you have a few extra minutes. Organize your list by stores (grocery, specialty Italian, etc.)
2. Food Shopping - Make a list and stick to it. It may be difficult to resist temptation to buy more food than you need or frozen ready-made dinners. But keep to your plan. Ask produce manager to halve heads of lettuce, or other produce to meet your needs. Just but one leek, not a big bunch of three. Buy smaller cuts of meat or ask butcher to cut beef or chicken into pieces big enough for one meal.
Look for foods that can be portioned with ease into smaller serving sizes such as rice, pasta, or fresh vegetables like a broccoli crown or pre-cut carrot and celery sticks. Buy fruits and vegetables by piece, not by package.
3. Time to Cook –Cooking need not be a dirty word and cooking for one has many solutions. Cutting Recipes or Freeze It - Many recipes serve 4-8 as a rule. So you can either reduce quantities, if they lend them selves to division, or make whole recipe and freeze it. I recently invested in one of those vacuum- sealer appliances, and find it really useful. I put in a smaller quantity, seal it, mark it and freeze. You can also use those zip-lock bags which work just as well. This way you can also have a great meal you can thaw out in microwave – make sure to remove food from bag when you do nuke it- and then just sit down and eat a fine meal after a tough day at work.