The Minimalist Pantry – Cooking in Calgary
Adventure is exciting.
You see and do new things, meet new people, and see a new part of the world. While all of that is awesome, there are also anxieties, things you worry about, and fears.
Currently I am working in Calgary. I will be here for 3 months. I had a great opportunity to do a really fun show with some amazing people. So, I grabbed opportunity with both hands and hopped on plane.
Working in different cities doesn’t faze me. I’ve worked all over Canada and even in Europe. I am comfortable with that. But what freaks me out, what really freaks me out is wondering “how the hell am I ever going to be able to cook anything!!!”
A confession…I don’t really like eating out. Don’t get me wrong, an amazing dinner in a fancy restaurant is a welcome experience once in a while, but eating out every day, for multiple meals makes me nuts.
There are two issues. First, I like to know exactly what I am eating. If I make it myself, I know what went into the dish. I won’t feel bloated and uncomfortable later because the dish was full of dairy or sugar I didn’t know about. Second, the act of cooking is calming for me. And rewarding, too! If my head is full of new information, using my hands to make something delicious and satisfying is therapeutic for me. By the time I am done cooking, my head is clearer. Cooking makes me focus on one act and helps to filter out brain clutter.
When I arrived in Calgary, it was almost 8pm. But the time I arrived at my billet it was getting close to 10pm. I didn’t have time to buy any groceries, nor did I have any idea where a grocery store might be. I had stuffed my knapsack with pouches of David’s Tea at the airport, but other than that, breakfast was mystery. Luckily, my landlady offered toast.
The next day, my search for a convenient grocery store fell flat and I got to sample the best the Mac’s Convenience store had to offer.
It took 3 days before I could find a grocery store near my lodgings, and by near I mean I had to walk 30 min with all my bags, so I couldn’t do a big shop. (In retrospect I should have taken a cab).
Cooking at home
In my kitchen at home, I have built up a substantial pantry. There is pasta, rice, flour, sugar, cans of beans, cans of tomatoes, Sriracha , molasses, onions, garlic, ginger, different oils and vinegars, grainy and smooth mustard, and practically, every spice you could imagine. When I run low, I buy more. These are staple items that are always on hand. Suddenly, I found myself in a kitchen with none of my staple items. Even if I had a car to go and buy them, it doesn’t make sense. That stuff is expensive and I can’t fit it all in my suitcases on the plane. No. The thing that has to change is me.
How to be a minimalist
It is a very different mindset you have to adopt when you are trying to fill only a small shopping basket, while also buying great ingredients that make awesome meals. I decided salads and stir frys were a sensible place to start. I bought rice, veggies, and a big steak that would last for several meals (and I’m in Alberta – steak is the way to go!). For pantry items I had to make tough choices. I couldn’t get everything. I has sussed out the spice situation in my billet and determined there were a few options there and even if I couldn’t guarantee freshness (there were a few jars with labels from the 80s!) I had some basic options. I grabbed a small bottle of olive oil and chose my vinegar based on the bottle that weighed the least. That wound up to be a plastic bottle of apple cider vinegar. I grabbed a couple lemons, a plastic squeeze bottle of grainy mustard, and a small container of honey. I figured those ingredients would make salad dressing but could also work for marinades and seasoning.
It’s now been a few weeks. My meals in Calgary haven’t been terribly artistic or inventive, but I am impressed with the fact that they are healthy, colourful, and pretty darn tasty. No matter what, they are better than what I found at Mac’s Convenience store.
So, adventure is great! I have met new people, seen different parts of the city, and am looking forward to day trips to the mountains, but I am also having kitchen adventures. I am shaking up my mindset and trying to create delicious meals with less. I am trying to be a minimalist in the kitchen. Wish me luck!