Welcome to the first of what we intend to be a series of monthly interviews with people we believe practice inspired everyday living!
We have been inspired by our friend and cooking/nutrition guru, Pamela Salzman of Kitchen Matters. Since becoming a mother, one of the ways I have managed the time pressures of young children, work, and life in general is to cook less so I would have more time with my children in the evenings. Now I have come to realize that perhaps one of the most significant ways to nurture and care for my children is not only to make sure they have healthy, nutritious meals, but meals prepared by me! As Pamela would say, to serve food imbued with my love and energy. I’m grateful to Pamela for getting me out to the Farmer’s markets and back in the kitchen—the heart of the home.
Below Pamela shares a few simple kitchen tips as well as her invaluable wisdom.
What inspired you to start your company Kitchen Matters?
I have always enjoyed cooking since I was a little girl and I was taught from a very young age the importance of eating natural, fresh, whole foods. I was in a cooking group with some friends for fun and we were learning recipes that were inconsistent with the way I like to eat. I was on the verge of bowing out from the group when a friend suggested I teach the class instead. Everyone was really interested in learning how to cook more healthfully for her own family, but without the stress. I have been teaching that same group for the last few years and many others just like it. I love helping other people find joy in nourishing themselves and their families.
What are the best (simple) things you can do to make meals more healthful?
• Keep it simple. Our bodies actually prefer to digest fewer foods that have been prepared more simply. If you start out with fresh, in-season food, you don’t have to do too much to it for it to taste wonderful.
• Sit down and relax. It is much better for our digestion to eat when we are calm and relaxed, as opposed to eating on the run. This rule also applies to cooking. The cook imparts her energy into the food she is preparing for herself and her loved ones. We don’t want to transfer anger or stressful energy into our food.
How do you cut down on kitchen waste?
• Be organized and plan your meals. I don’t usually buy anything unless I know what I’m going to do with it.
• Cook from scratch. You would be amazed how little waste you generate when you avoid processed food.
What are the top three things you can do to make your kitchen greener?
2. Grow your own herbs or vegetables
3. Use non-toxic cleaners
What are a few essential kitchen tools that you feel everyone should have? What are some tools people think they should have, but are unnecessary?
The most important tool in any kitchen is a sharp knife. Cooking is more enjoyable and more efficient when your knives are good-quality and razor-sharp. After that, I couldn’t live without my food processor. I also love tools that are useful for more than one job, such as a fine mesh sieve, which I use to sift dry ingredients for baking, as well as for rinsing small grains like quinoa and millet. No one needs a double-boiler since you can do the same thing with a saucepan and a heat-proof bowl, and I would never give up precious storage space for things like an avocado pitter or a garlic press.
Would you please share some tips about how to organize your kitchen?
You should organize your kitchen so that it makes sense to you and makes it easier (and more pleasurable) to cook. I group likes with likes. For example, I have two drawers for gadgets and tools. One is for baking items, such as measuring cups and spoons, small whisks, a ruler and small spatulas. The other drawer contains separate compartments for bottle and can openers, ice cream scoops and vegetable peelers. There are certain things that are helpful to store close to the stove and oven, such as oven mitts and 2 containers with my collection of wooden spoons, large whisks, tongs and the like. I also keep a large salt cellar next to the stove for easy access. I prefer to keep oils in the pantry so they stay protected from light and heat.
How do you simplify meals and cut down on preparation time?
Every Sunday I sit down with my calendar for the week and look at who will be home on which nights for dinner and what kind of time I have for meal preparation each day. It helps me be realistic about what I can and can’t do for dinner each night. Then I plan my menu for the week and I try to find balance and variety with all the recipes I will make. Since I know well in advance what I am making each night, I usually do a little prep in the morning before I leave for work, even if it’s just chopping a few vegetables for a stew or washing salad greens.
How do you engage your children in the cooking and/or cleaning up process?
I love cooking with my children, especially one-on-one, and I usually just ask them nicely to help me – no formal announcement. Not only do I think it’s important for kids to learn how to cook, but it really connects them to the food they are preparing and they are absolutely more encouraged to eat what they have helped make. Best of all, I have had some of my most memorable heart-to-heart talks with my kids while shucking corn or trimming green beans.
There are certain expectations that we have for the kids at mealtime. Everyone needs to help clear the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. If we have guests and there’s a big job waiting in the kitchen, everyone needs to give me 20 minutes. The kids can put on whatever kind of music they want and set the timer, but in general, the 5 of us can finish the job together and it’s actually kind of fun.
What is the meaning of home for you?
For me home is a place where I live my private life and where my family and I feel safe. There should be a feeling of comfort about one’s home. Although mine may not be big or fancy, I know I can count on my favorite throw when I want to curl up with a book and a cup of tea. You should love your home and your home should love you back.
What is your favorite spot in your home and why? How do you feel there?
Would it surprise you if I said my favorite spot is the kitchen?? I love cooking, being with food, feeding people that I care about. I love that after a stressful day I will meet my family at the kitchen table and we will reconnect over a meal. My kitchen gives me a sense of comfort and also brings back a lot of memories of happy times that we have shared with family and friends.
If you can, please name one change you have you made in your home that has transformed your life in some way.
I recently decided to remove anything in my home that I didn’t absolutely love or find beautiful. It’s amazing how the energy changed!
To learn more about Pamela and Kitchen Matters please visit: pamelasalzman.com