This is the second installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
You can't swing a sack of raw kale without seeing a food pundit hold forth about their culinary resolutions for 2013. Sorry for adding to the din, but I promise that none of mine are about encouraging deprivation, Paleo diets, eating weird animal parts (I want all those for myself) or any manner of "cleanse."
This is all about amplifying your level of delight and confidence in the kitchen or at the restaurant table and freeing yourself from expectations of perfection. Perfection tastes boring – kinda like raw kale. Luscious, lopsided, lumpy joy is where it's at.
1. Screw Pinterest and Instagram
Martha has a team. The mortals attempting to emulate her ethos on social media have time, lighting, excellent cameras, Photoshop and filters to mask any visual imperfection in their dishes. Even in the hands of civilian bloggers, social media offers a highly edited, carefully crafted and idealized version of what's really going on in people's kitchens.
You're not a failure if your cake is raggedy or the late afternoon sun doesn't stream through your freshly laundered cafe curtains in a way that flatters your organic homemade granola. Are you cooking? Cooking anything at all? Not just heating up a pre-made food block or pouch in the microwave? You're doing great. Don't sweat how it looks on the internet.
2. Explore unfamiliar produce
This month, consider chicory, celeriac, sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) or whatever winter squash, green or root vegetable looks weird and wonderful at the grocery store. When in doubt, roast it at 350 degrees if it's solid or sauté it with a little stock or oil if it's leafy.
What's the worst that can happen - you don't like it? Fret not; February brings fennel and a billion ways to enjoy bok choy, March rings in especially excellent endive, and before you know it, it's lychee and jackfruit season. The world is your oyster plant. Open wide.
3. Sharpen your knives
Our favorite knife maker Joel Bukiewicz advises:
You heard it here: sharp knife, delicious life.
4. Use the good stuff
No matter how schmancy the ingredient or utensil, it's infinitely more impressive that you woke up that morning and continued to draw breath. YOU are the special occasion, so commemorate that. (This all goes double if you're eating by yourself.)
5. It's all you
Got someone you want to hear from? Let us know in the comments and we'll try to track them down.
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