The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

"Cooking Joyfully" from the Pantry

By Vicki Lopez-Kaley on Monday, January 16th 2023

After turkey leftovers were gone and cookies put away in one way or another, I thought about Cooking Joyfully, the subtitle of this recipe swap. In mid-winter, Cooking Joyfully can be a challenge for me. I no longer have fresh summer tomatoes or just-picked winter squash. There are no holiday feasts to motivate me day after day and meal after meal. There is Easter, but until then, the meatless meals of Lent can get boring. “What can keep me Cooking Joyfully at this time of year?”

My conclusion was this: I have more than plenty of meal options in my cupboards, fridge and freezer which I call the pantry! And…I have to use what I have! This means rethinking my pantry. Can I consider the PANTRY as a tool (dare I say SKILL) to foster Cooking Joyfully? Even a small area to store snacks is a pantry and a privilege. Why a privilege? Here are 3 examples:

1.) If I am unhoused, food storage may be my pockets or a backpack for high-calorie food to keep me going. A church or school food pantry may sustain me, but it’s not my own. 2.) When transportation options and cash are limited, I may choose high-calorie convenience foods to satisfy the family. No time to plan out a healthy menu! 3.) American grocery stores are examples of abundance. In fact, a common source of culture shock for immigrants or for missionaries returning to the states is how much food we have. There is enough to feed a small country in one store! In our privilege, we take that for granted. Is my pantry OVER-full?

Consider how creating a more mindful and sustainable pantry can support Cooking Joyfully. If you're privileged to have a stocked pantry as I am, let's shop in it and cook from it with that in mind. It may lead us to live more simply and be more generous. We can start by asking ourselves a few questions.

For example: Do I know what’s in my cupboards? How many meals would I find there? What pantry items, (including fridge and freezer) do I use frequently? Which help me cook healthy food with some ease? What items are inexpensive and versatile for healthy meals and enjoyable snacks? How could I improve meal planning? Do I make a shopping list? Which grocery aisles would I like to avoid more often...snacks, soft drinks, processed foods, red meat?

Our answers will be as different as we are and, hopefully, will lead to some insight and action. We may create more JOY in the ways we interact with food. You are welcome to share your “from the pantry” and “Cooking Joyfully” recipes and experiences.

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