So, it dawned on me that I have written about foods that annoy me, foods I won’t touch, and foods that are “guilty pleasure” foods (which clearly I try to live without most of the time)….but I haven’t told you guys which foods I simply. Can’t. Live. Without. So, here they are…these are the foods that are in my kitchen at all times. If they are not in my kitchen….then they are in my shopping basket. Period.
1. Whole Bean Coffee
I don’t remember the last time I bought ground coffee, but it’s been at least four years. Maybe more. I bought a coffee grinder way back when…just a dinky little blade grinder, but it got the job done, especially since I only ground my coffee maybe once a week (we would drink whole bean coffee on the weekend and I would drink pre-ground through the week, since Philip had his weekday coffee at work). Now, we drink a pot of freshly ground coffee every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon…and I’ve moved on from the blade grinder to a mamma-jamma burr grinder. Velo coffee is my favorite, of course. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s the best coffee I’ve ever had. If you live in Chattanooga and you haven’t had it….you should. Seriously.
I know, duh, right? Honestly, I couldn’t decide whether bacon or coffee should be first. Both hold very important places in my kitchen. Coffee, though, is a daily thing, while bacon is a couple-of-times-a-week thing, so coffee got top billing. I’ve always loved bacon. BLTs are my favorite sandwich, and I would pick bacon over sausage in any breakfast situation. I married someone whose love of bacon is probably even greater than my own. Last year he had his gall bladder removed and heard all kinds of horror stories about people who couldn’t eat various foods after their gall bladder surgery. He was terrified that he would not be able to eat bacon again. Luckily, this was not the case. Thank God. Of course, Link 41 bacon is my favorite…but I’ll pretty much take bacon anyway I can get it (except turkey bacon. No way, no how).
When I first started buying raw whole milk from Fall Creek Farms, I stopped buying half-and-half to pour in my coffee for a while. Like, two months. I made a valiant effort…but eventually I decided I needed my half-and-half. It’s creamy flavor in coffee is unrivaled (unless you like heavy cream in your coffee…which I do, but I can’t justify that one!). I buy the two pint carton….yeah, we drink a lot of coffee.
All right, so it’s not something you buy at the grocery store. Water probably should have been number one on my list, though. If you have spent much time around me, you know that I don’t drink much of anything else (besides my cup or two of coffee a day). It didn’t used to be like this; in fact, prior to my first big-girl job, I probably had plenty of days when I didn’t drink any water, and even after starting my job, I probably only drank about one big cup a day. Until 2006. Philip had surgery and had to drink a ton of water to prepare for being under general anesthesia, and I decided to do it along with him. An amazing thing happened….we realized how dehydrated we had been pretty much our entire lives. Ever since, we’ve been obsessed. And if I don’t have my water, I can tell. It’s not pretty. I love my Klean Kanteen and take it just about everywhere.
Hoo boy. Bacon, half-and-half, butter…..I sound like a heart attack waiting to happen, huh? Nah. I mean, I’m not putting bacon on top of bacon (well, with one exception…and that was just one time) or pouring glasses of half-and-half or eating butter like a candy bar. Seriously, though. Butter is gooooooooood. If you can believe it, I used to buy Blue Bonnet. I’m not lying. I couldn’t tell you when the change happened. I don’t really remember. I just remember that I started buying butter and stopped buying margarine. I’m so glad I did. Margarine is a manufactured item. Butter is food. End of discussion. By the way, I buy unsalted butter. Sometimes salted butter is the lower quality butter and it’s salted to cover up the flavor, and even when that’s not the case….I prefer to add my own salt.
6. Speaking of Salt….Kosher Salt
Kosher salt lives in four places in my kitchen: (1) a box in my pantry for refills; (2) a covered ramekin by my stove for grabbing pinches to sprinkle; and (3) and (4) two salt grinders, one on each side of the stove, so Philip and I don’t have to reach over each other if we’re both cooking. I am not kidding. I also keep a container of sea salt in the pantry, but kosher salt is pretty much the gold standard where cooking is concerned. By the way, if you are a salt-shunner….just know that most of the sodium in the Standard American Diet comes from processed foods, not from salt added during the cooking of fresh, homemade foods. Just look at the labels on the back of those boxes. You might be surprised. I’ll happily keep salting my food to taste (I never salt at the table because there’s no need) and avoiding bags and boxes as much as possible.
7. Local Honey
I used to sweeten things mostly with raw cane sugar (it’s basically granulated sugar but less processed than white sugar), but these days I only keep granulated sugar around for baking. On a day to day basis, the only thing I sweeten is coffee. I put two spoonfuls of local honey in each mug of coffee. It makes me happy. I love the flavor of honey, and, while I am not sure that this has ever been scientifically proven, it has been suggested that consuming local honey may help prevent seasonal allergies since it exposes you to the local pollens. I figure (a) it tastes good; (b) it’s unrefined sugar; and (c) it supports local business, so why not?
It’s funny when I think back to my egg-buying habits as a young married woman. When I was first “on my own”, a college student living in a dorm apartment, I probably never bought eggs unless I was planning to bake a cake or cookies. When Philip and I first got married, I’d be willing to bet I probably only went through about a dozen a month. These days it’s more like three or four dozen a month….and there are some weeks that I can go through two dozen in a week. Truth. Eggs are great for people who are mostly meatless but not vegan…we use them to top rice dishes, salads, hash. We eat them as sides. And, of course, we bake and make sauces and ice creams with them. They get a lot of mileage in my kitchen. I get them from a man who lives near me or from a lady that my aunt and uncle sell them for (both have backyard chickens). Much, much better than any grocery store egg I’ve ever had (even the cage-free organic ones).
It’s a crying shame that this item didn’t get added until the end. I really am a healthful eater (most of the time, as long as there are no Doritos in the vicinity) but I really do believe all of the above foods can be part of a healthy diet (I sound like those fast food people right now). I eat my fair share of fruit. There’s always a bag of apples in my fridge (Macintosh are my favorite, and I look so forward to the fall when they are in season and are delicious). Strawberries in the spring, blueberries and peaches in the summer. Watermelon….pineapple….pears. I love to keep bananas and pineapple in the freezer for smoothies. I try to make a point of eating fruit twice a day (I really do try to live by the five-a-day fruits and veggies rule).
10. Maple Syrup
Real maple syrup, that is. Not maple “flavored” syrup. We’ve had this discussion before, I believe. Now, the funny thing is, I grew up thinking Mrs. Butterworth’s was real maple syrup. It wasn’t until I started dating Philip and saw how excited he got over the real maple syrup served with the pancakes at Cracker Barrel (by the way, last year they started serving syrup that is 50% maple syrup and 50% cane syrup) that I realized I had been wrong all of those years. For the last several years, it’s just been plain old maple syrup in our fridge….preferably grade B. And you’ll never see anything else. Amen.
Now, there are plenty of other things I like to keep around. I started to make a number eleven so I could include cheese….but I could probably write an entire post dedicated to my favorite cheeses. Perhaps I will one of these days.
What are your “must-have” foods?