It’s that time of year when we all want to start 2021 off right by upgrading our habits. So here are my 5 New Year’s Food Resolutions inspired by good habits I’ve observed among savvy French home cooks.
First of all, who could’ve guessed that last year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, home-cooking would become the new dining out?
Even in France, however, there seem to be new food services or home delivery apps coming out every month. But the objective is always the same: to convince you that cooking is difficult, complicated, and time-consuming. Best leave all that work to the professionals.
I didn’t think much about it until I did a few quick calculations: financially and quality-wise, even decent take-out food is a bad deal. (Trace your monthly take-out bill and you’ll see what I mean).
It dawned on me that for roughly the same amount of money – and a lot more organization and forethought- I could’ve made much better, healthier meals without being a gourmet cook. Even in France.
And I finally realized that even Parisian gourmet home delivery (whipped up by French cooking school grads, no less) tastes “blah” once it’s been strapped to the back of a motorcycle and whisked through traffic.
I can’t quote any science on this, it’s just my observation: cooked food traveling on the back of a French motor scooter is somehow transformed in taste and texture – and not in a good way.
So here are my 5 French-inspired Healthy Food Resolutions for 2021:
1. Plan meals to avoid last-minute take out
This isn’t really uniquely French-inspired, but it’s something savvy French cooks do that I need to work on: Though I don’t have a long commute to an office job (I work from home), I can still be tempted to hit the “take-out button” (phone) if I’m too tired to cook at the end of a long day.
My monthly take-out bill plunged last year when I tried a Saturday planning session for the upcoming week’s meals. I’m not yet at the meal-prep-on-Sunday stage, but it’s a start.
As a result, there was a lot less anxiety around what to eat, less food waste, and less of a need to buy in bulk.
Tip: I’ve bought a beautiful planner for 2021 that sits near my kitchen table. This makes planning a pleasure, not a chore.
It’s even become my Central Household Command Book: I put grocery lists, repair lists, and cleaning schedules in there. My life just got a lot easier, so I think this resolution will stick.
2. Make the dinner table attractive and inviting, not just functional
One thing I’ve observed in France for sure is that when it’s time to eat, an attractive table is not a frivolous thing. Gathering around the dinner table at the end of a long day may be the only quality time you get during the week with your spouse or kids.
So making the table look pretty means dinner is a pleasant, inviting experience for all. That involves clearing away all non-dinner-related “stuff”: sunglasses, the day’s mail, the kids’ homework or a spouse’s car keys and laptop.
I’m resolved to make my meals pretty and simple, so I’ll choose dishes with colors that go well together or use white. And I’ll add a nice table centerpiece: I can just pull something decorative off my shelves or use whatever flowers or small plant I may have. These little touches all add up to say “Le Dîner est Servi!”
3. Follow a tried and true structured meal plan: Starter – Main Course – Dessert
The French live by the Starter – Main Course – Dessert meal structure.
I’ve tried it and I find if you know the structure, it’s easy to run the plan: When I get to dessert, I know the meal’s over. No more wandering around the kitchen looking for a second helping of chicken after dessert.
Does this mean I’ll be having French pastries for dessert every day in 2021? -No. Simple fresh fruit – Yes!
4. Begin a meal with a raw vegetable Starter
Whenever I’ve tried to skip this step (ignoring resolution #3) and just eat one plate of food quickly, I end up being unsatisfied – even hungry – afterward: and then I return constantly to the fridge looking for something to eat well after the meal is over. So this resolution is written in stone for me.
Beginning your meal with a raw vegetable Starter gives you fiber -which is great for your health- but it also has benefits for curbing your appetite, according to science.
To make it easy: I’m loving a mix of greens with herbs, a grated carrot salad or thinly sliced raw fennel with vinaigrette.
5. Make salad dressings from scratch, now and … forever!
Since I started buying top quality oils (like olive or walnut oils) and vinegars (like red wine or raspberry), I haven’t gone back to buying bottled dressings. They’re disappointing in flavor and often full of preservatives.
But with great pantry ingredients, like a selection of oils and vinegars, I can’t go wrong.
This month I’ve added to my roster a new creamy dressing made with cashew butter, herbs, and apple cider vinegar.
I’ll keep building out my salad dressing “repertoire” in 2021 to keep my greens healthy and delicious.
Planning out my meals beforehand will keep the temptation to order take-out at bay.
And setting an attractive table for everyday meals, following a traditional French meal structure, and using great quality pantry ingredients will make dinners at home more “restaurant quality. ”
If I can stick to these resolutions in 2021, then home-cooking will be the new dining out!
And now you: What resolutions have you made around food for 2021? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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