Our relationship with food and cooking has changed tremendously in the last ten or so decades, more so in the last few. Cooking was considered a skill, something you mastered after years of helping in the kitchen, working alongside the older women in your family. Cooking was primarily a female activity.
On the one hand it is a good thing that cooking is no longer the most important priority for young girls’ future, and that the words “How will you find a husband if you don’t know how to cook?” have slowly become a relic of times past, like corsets and wood stoves. After all, our worth as women and as humans should not be measured by our ability to please current or future husbands.
On the other hand, the loss of a necessary and important skill may have had dire consequences.
When I started “blogging” 13 years ago there were few of us. I say “blogging” because back then blogging was not part of most people’s vocabulary. And yes, I know I am dating myself here. The idea when I first started Aunt Clara’s Kitchen was to show people how rich the Dominican culinary heritage was. Shortly after I had to start a version in Spanish, because to my surprise, (mostly) young Dominicans, living in the Dominican Republic, had not learned how to cook at home.
My mom was a rara avis: a woman with traditional –some would say “antiquated”–values, but who also firmly believed in women’s worth as contributing members of society. An educated professional woman who thought I had to learn how to cook, yet she never used my marriage prospects as a reason to do so. She never taught my brother — nor my little sister — how to cook, however.
This is the world I come from.
I believe parents have done a disservice to their children –girls and boys!–by not teaching them at least the basics of cooking. This is how I get confused readers asking questions like “Are margarine and butter the same?”, or “How do you boil this?”
There’s no recipe so well-written that will help you if you don’t know the basics. Recipe writers already make assumptions about their readers’ level of expertise, and some write for expert cooks who know the difference between “braising” and “stewing”. Others, like me, write at a simpler level, assuming that at least some of my readers have some experience in the kitchen. What few to none of us assume is that our readers have no experience whatsoever in the kitchen.
Study after study comes out stressing the importance and health benefits of cooking at home, of cooking most of your food from scratch. There is a thing we have to thank food bloggers for: we have made cooking easier and more popular. We answer questions, we interact with our readers. We have also, in many cases, introduced our readers to a bigger repertoire of recipes.
My own repertoire is also changing and I am working on returning to, or adapting some beloved classics. I have made Brown Rice Pilaf with String Beans and Bacon several times. I was very tempted to call it a “moro” (Dominican word for beans and rice cooked together), but decided not to in the end to avoid confusion.
My husband and daughter are not precisely the type that loves brown rice, so by adding bacon to it I have made it a hundred percent better (from their point of view). Apparently some people do really love their bacon.
If you are also not fond of brown rice, perhaps the addition of some flavorful, salty bacon is what you need to change your mind.
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] (approx 2 cups) of brown rice
- 3 cups [0.71 lt] of unsalted broth of your choice
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of bacon , chopped (see notes)
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (canola, peanut or corn)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 large onion (1/2 lb[0.22 kg]), minced
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] (approx 2 cups) of string beans, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Pour rice and broth in a deep bowl and let it rest for an hour. Once that time has passed separate rice and broth using a sieve. Set both aside.
In a skillet heat the vegetable oil over low heat.
Cook the bacon, stirring regularly, until it has released most of the fat. Increase heat to medium and cook until the bacon has turned golden brown and crispy. Remove from he oil and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess fat. You may discard the fat.
Heat the olive oil over low heat in a 3 qt [3 lt] cast aluminum or cast iron pot. Add onion and cook stirring until it turns out translucent. Add the string beans and rice, mix until they are coated with the oil. Add the broth and salt and increase heat to medium.
Simmer until the liquid has evaporated, stirring often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom.
Mix in the bacon, and parsley, and lower heat to minimum, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Uncover and stir, moving the rice from the bottom to the top. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes. Taste for doneness, rice should be firm but cooked-through. If needed, cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.
I used hand-trimmed bacon in this case, because it has much less fat than regular bacon, but you can use whatever bacon you have available.