These days the Urban Farmer is often plagued with KDS (Kitchen Downer Syndrome). Her culinary intentions are good, but her time is short. She makes difficult choices: pedaling to the store for ingredients or making do? Too often, she makes do, an option that often leads to QVC (Questionable Value Cuisine). In other words, punishment meals. Can one really expect a palatable minestrone when beets have been subbed out for the carrots, sweet potatoes for the potatoes, and split peas for the kidney beans? We think not. But the Urban Farmer remains a believer in the improvised meal. She clings to the hope that cooking-without-a-net will yield a thumbs up affair.
Disaster or no, she can count on Co-habitator to down “dinner,” in whatever guise it appears, without complaint. The Urban Farmer is blessed in that regard, although perhaps also cursed. If Co-hab exhibited stronger disinclinations for her kitchen flops, it is possible her more extreme “cooking-without-a-net” (and no, she doesn’t mean hair) tendencies would have been curbed long ago.
Also at fault: the Urban Farmer’s sister P. Too many times P has proclaimed that “a recipe is only a guide, no substitution for a brain.” Possibly the Urban Farmer has taken this statement with not enough grains of salt. She has twisted P’s well-intentioned words into a license for a no-holds-barred, anything goes kitchen style.
This morning she decided to whip up a batch of Marinara. The weather forecast for the next several days is 80s plus, temps at which the Urban Farmer wilts. Hence her attempt to defend herself against the coming heat by getting as much cooking out of the way today (when the forecast calls for a mere high of 79). Once the heat hits tomorrow, she wants to avoid oven and stove top use as much as possible and rely on microwave cookery. She figures to make a couple slabs of lasagna and over the coming days, nuke lasagna chunks for her and the Co-Hab’s dinners until the lasagna runs out.
Thus far, there’s been only one glitch. The lone onion she scarfed from the bottom of the crisper drawer has a good-sized mold spot. The thought of making a run to the story for a mere onion mars the Urban Farmer’s countenance with a frown.
She cuts away the mold; inspects. The remainder looks decent. Still, she wonders on the negatives. As far as she knows, no one has ever gone to the ER for mad onion disease. And it’s not like the onion was rancid. It didn’t even smell bad. It was just a little mold and she cut it away. No one has to know. And besides, the onion is going to be cooked. For hours.
She chops its up and starts her saute.
It appears she is out of tomato paste. She wracks the noggin, wondering what she might sub. She grabs a tiny jar from the fridge door. The label reads “sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil.” Yes. That works. Co-hab must have put it there when she wasn’t looking.
The third sub is of a spirited nature. Sherry. She ran out of it a few weeks ago. She searched Ballard Market’s wine forest high and low for a replacement. No luck. The Marketeers were occupied so she didn’t bother their pretty heads. Now, into the sauce pot goes a drop or three of Marcela (a sweet dessert wine according to the label). Not the dry sherry Moosewood calls for, but close.
All is smooth stirring until it comes time for the black pepper. The pepper mill needs filling. The Urban Farmer holds the mill over the bubbling sauce as she removes the screw top. The idea is for stray pepper specks to drop into the pot, not the counter, but the frisky top traipses free of her fingers and clanks into the pot. She tries fishing it up with a spoon, but the top is too wiley. She fears if she doesn’t get the top out now, she’ll forget it later and the top will get chewed up when she blenders the sauce. She settles on spooning the sauce into a sieve. As the liquid pours out the mesh, she unearths the top from the red pepper and tomato chunks.
Sauce placidly bubbling, her thoughts drift back to how she had to sleuth for the sun drieds. Wouldn’t it be nicer if the jar tops were labeled? Then she might actually use the items trapped within the glass. She wouldn’t have to spend nearly as much time hunting things down; figuring out what she has on hand and doesn’t have on hand. It’ll give her more time to weed the kale beds and sniff out snails from the strawberries.
It is a Martha Stewart moment.
She is in luck. Recently she acquired an entire spool of blank labels from P. So far she has just used them to label freezer items. Why not stick labels to the anonymous jar tops? Oh, the genius! Oh, the efficiency! Soon she is labeling away. All thought of the morning bike ride out to the canoe rental place and paddle on the still-shadowed waters of Lake Washington flies from her head. Labeling jar tops is far more important.
Here, Dear Reader, is a step-by-step photo guide of homemade label making and the triumphal results.