This is a different kind of post for me. No food photos and no recipes today. Just a love letter to my dear son, Nicholas Pace.
Nick left home yesterday on Columbus Day to move to Tampa.
He’s got great prospects, and I know he’ll have a bright future in a new city.
Nick is 24, smart, handsome, with a good heart, and a kind and gentle soul. He has all the right stuff to become a success at whatever he decides to be.
Although Nick has been a carnivore for many years, that’s not how he started out.
I tried my hardest to raise him as a vegetarian . . . until he discovered the wonders of bacon on a Boy Scout camping trip when he was 11. Once he became a red-blooded teen, he craved meat – although he was always respectful enough to eat with gusto whatever vegetarian creation I served him.
In fact, Nick is the reason I developed my style of cooking with meat analogues (plant based protein) that led to me writing Fool a Carnivore. I re-imagined healthy meals that looked like the meat-based cooking that all his friends ate – minus the meat. And while I probably never “fooled” Nick (since, after all, he knew that I’d done the cooking), he always gave me clear and candid feedback when he assessed whether a dish was worth blogging about or including in my cookbook.
Since Nick has lived with us for his first two years out of college, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to know my son as a young man. I’ve also enjoyed passing on to him some of the things I know about cooking and food.
It’s been one of the great joys of my life to have Nick ask me to teach him to cook. Although Nick and I have always done a lot of cooking together for holidays and special occasions, this past year I’ve watched him grow in his knowledge of cooking techniques as he became the best darn sous chef I could ever hope to find. He improved his knife skills (seriously jonesing after my Cutco knifes), and saved me a vast amount of prep time. (Now that I have to go back to chopping my own onions, I guess I’ll use that as a reason for these tears in my eyes!)
While I know that Nick will end up cooking and eating a lot of meat and poultry now that he’ll be on his own, I hope that won’t forget some of the vegetarian principles I’ve tried to instill in him.
So, Nick, even if money is tight in the first few months, here are Nancy’s Hot Tips for you as you begin to shop for food and cook for yourself in your own apartment:
- Buy organically for the Dirty Dozen
- Sweet bell peppers
- Conventional is OK for the Clean 15
- Sweet corn
- Sweet Peas (frozen)
- Honeydew Melon
- Always buy good quality cheese
- Parmesan – There’s a reason that I put a cheap wedge of Parmesan and a very good wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano in your cooler. Grate and taste each of them when you make your first pasta dish. I hope that you will agree with me that it is always better to use a smaller amount of good-quality cheese than a larger amount of mediocre (or poor-quality) cheese.
- Cheddar – You know that I love the Cabot cheeses. Non-GMO and no milk with hormones. Yes, Cabot may be 25-50 cents more than the store brands, but its cheese is so much better in quality. (My favorite is their Seriously Sharp White Cheddar!)
- Goat Cheese – Because goat cheese needs to be fresh, find a good quality local cheese maker, and buy from them.
- Mozzarella and Ricotta – You know that we love our fresh mozz and ricotta – so since UAV isn’t available in Tampa, find another local cheese maker who is as proficient as Zack Gadberry!
- Nuts and seeds add variety, protein, and the all-essential textural contrast to your dishes
- I know the other day that you said you couldn’t afford the variety of nuts and seeds I use in my cooking.
- I hope you’ll rethink that perspective.
- Nuts and seeds add a welcome crunch to so many dishes (as you well know from the fabulous cooking at Pirates Point – our favorite dive destination at Little Cayman).
- Since they supply so much interest to dishes, please stock up on at least the following:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds (pepitos)
- Brown rice and whole grains
- I know that you’re more aware of this now, after two years of cooking with me, but don’t be tempted to go back to white rice and white bread.
- The only times I make an exception for white rice, is Arborio Rice, which I lovingly packed you so that you can make some risotto.
- Seriously, brown unrefined grains are always better than white!
- Eat a good breakfast
- While you were a working man in Charlotte, you got used to eating a good breakfast every morning. Sometimes it was a high protein fruit smoothie, but other times it was eggs or oatmeal.
- You’ve gotten into a good habit of eating breakfast – don’t let the pressures of a new job change that!
- Pack your own lunch
- Whoa, this is a hot tip if I ever saw one!
- You saw while you were working in Charlotte how expensive it would have been if you ate out every day. You saved money because I packed you a healthy lunch.
- Always prepare the night before and you can do that for yourself in Tampa!
- LaCroix is cheaper than beer
- I applaud you for completely eliminating soda from your diet the past two years.
- You and I have probably explored every flavor LaCroix makes – and judging by our consumption, we’ve helped to make LaCroix a very popular brand in the flavored water arena.
- You told me you probably wouldn’t be drinking LaCroix anymore now that the Bank of Mom and Dad has closed.
- Although I know LaCroix can be pricey . . . isn’t it still cheaper than beer?
Columbus Day was a fitting day for you to embark on a new chapter in your life.
Sail away, my young explorer. But please don’t forget – home is wherever your heart is.
My heart is with you, my young Columbus!