If you ever watch cooking shows, they can't stop talking about using the freshest ingredients to make the best dishes. I do agree... somewhat.
As a cook, I have this thing about using even the not-so-freshest ingredients. I think part of it stems from being so poor at one point in my adult life. What about that limp half-bunch of celery in the crisper? Or those so wrinkly carrots next to that celery? What about that two-week-old chili? I hate throwing away food that is still usable. I feel that it deserves to be enjoyed. So, I tend to find ways of using it.
Those old celery and carrots? Well, use them to make a marinara sauce. That still-usable chili? Bake some Idaho potatoes, split them, top them with chili and some cheddar. Mmmmmmm. Dinner is served.
Part of it could be the fact that I grew up in Nigeria. Don't get me wrong, we always had food. Not the best food but we always had something to eat. I am not sure if I felt that way because my Mom made sure that there was delicious food on the table. Regardless of what ingredients she had. I remember going to stores with empty shelves. Or shelves with passable products. From her, I learned how to not waste anything. Rotting vegetables and bruised fruit was often trimmed. I wish more people would understand that.
Sometimes, when I hear TV cooks blather on about using the freshest ingredients, I roll my eyes. The truth is, most of us don't always have the freshest ingredients. Sometimes, all we have is that three-day old bunch of scallions, that pack of tofu that's been in the fridge since last week, and frozen peas. But if you stop and think, you can thaw the peas, chop and saute those scallions, toss in the cubed tofu, season with any flavorings you have on hand, toss in the peas, and serve it over some rice. Voila. Dinner.
Maybe this isn't about having the freshest ingredients. Maybe what this is really about is making the best of what you have. No matter how old it all seems to be. Later.