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Confessions of a ‘chuckwagon’ cook

here was ample opportunity all throughout the summer of 2019 to sample great modern-day food selections.

Plenty of those possibilities could be found right here in our part of Greater Minnesota. Almost every weekend, there was at least one town celebration or county fair. In nearly every case, there was one or more food choices that you won’t find everywhere you go.

Let’s face it. If you didn’t enjoy plenty of great food, you missed out. The good news, if that happened, is that almost all the same options will be available again next summer if not sooner.

We still have two annual celebrations coming up. Box Car Days in Tracy on Labor Day weekend will be followed the next weekend by Boxelder Bug Days in Minneota. Both have always been good places to go for summer menu items.

It’s no surprise that people’s interest in food remains strong in the 21st century. Food is still a high priority even though we never face a shortage in our part of the world. We appreciate variety, as well as the opportunity to occasionally try something different.

Personally I like to explore great tasting ideas not only when I’m out and about; but also right at home in a decently stocked, well equipped kitchen.

I’m what you might call a chuckwagon cook, or maybe a firehouse cook. It depends on which analogy best fits the food choice and the occasion.

Following a recipe down to the last teaspoon isn’t especially fun. There’s more ingenuity, and in the long run more simplicity, to just learn by doing. In other words, I like to be guided by what looks good, has a good texture, and creates the right kind of pre-meal aroma.

The whole process is especially nice when there’s no deadline. It’s rewarding to just enjoy the process of preparing food that turns out really good. If that takes until 7:30 or 8 p.m., it’s always well worth the extra time.

I can guarantee myself and on occasion others that something will always be edible the first time I try making it. Usually the second time it will at least turn out pretty good, and then from the third time onward it will normally be better than good as long as there’s no unforeseen circumstance like a power outage.

It’s fun to put together anything with pasta, rice, stuffing, potaotoes, cooked vegetables, salads, bread selections, and lots more. There isn’t much I won’t attempt.

I’m making food preparation sound a lot easier than what most families typically face. We live in a culture that often includes the need to “eat on the run”. It’s not like back in the days when the supper hour whistle was almost as much of an expectation as a late night curfew.

Even so, there’s still something to be said for making meals a family activity or something to enjoy with friends whenever possible.

It’s vitally important to have nutritious, balanced food choices no matter how much someone might need to keep up a busy schedule, oftentimes hurry, and always be on time. Food, sleep and a certain amount of relaxation are still undeniable needs.

The whole process starts with shopping trips. It might be to the grocery store, or a farmer’s market, or maybe even out the back door to the garden when the work invested in the spring is ready to pay off.

The shopping, like the multitude of preparation steps followed by the final moment of sitting down to a delicious meal, can become one more in a long line of rigorous tasks. Or at least sometimes it could be a process of discovery filled with a healthy dose of anticipation.

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