A Change of Pace
'The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude' -Oprah Winfrey
Wow. We have a lot of new faces here. Welcome and thanks for joining my corner of the internet. Today, I want to talk about change.
Sometimes change is quiet, almost silent. It creeps up on you with the semblance of always being there—like the “freckles” that keep finding a home on my face the older I get.
But sometimes change announces itself. The feeling enters your bones, burrows deep into your marrow. You can feel the shift in the air; it haunts you. It affects how you move, the decisions you make. This type of change is undeniable and won’t go unanswered.
That’s where I am now with food—how I cook it, where I buy it, and how I think of it. For so long, I have felt this connection to the kitchen. This calling to immerse myself in the pots and pans, turning ingredients into a meal.
I expanded the knowledge passed down through by mom and grandmothers with cooking shows and cookbooks.
I learned the science and words of cooking—Maillard reaction, spatchcocking, dry brining. Actions I was familiar with but didn’t have the words for.
I learned how to cut on a wood slab versus the back of my thumb, and the difference between dicing, chopping, julienning, and mincing.
Over the last decade or so, I fell into a self-taught culinary school, soaking up all the tried and true methods of making delicious foods.
And now, I feel a shift, a graduation. A move towards doing things my way, without the guardrails of recipes. I’m experimenting more, using what’s on hand or what I find at the farmer’s market. This shift feels more holistic and sustainable. It feels like I’m stepping into my heritage, eating with my mind, body, and spirit.
This change, this shift is also inspired by a refocus on climate change. It’s a result of my deep dive into Black, specifically Gullah-Geechee and southern foodways. It feels like a reunion, a return to the past, but also something new and unexplored.
So, what does that look like in practice?
I’ll use the Coq au Vin I made for dinner Sunday as an example. The recipe called for legs and thighs, but lately, I have turned away from buying chicken parts and prefer to buy a whole chicken. I butcher the entire chicken, putting aside the breasts and backbone. The backbone goes into the freezer for stock while the breasts get a generous dose of salt before going into the fridge.
I could’ve cooked the entire chicken in my Coq au Vin. Julia Child’s version of the recipe, and I’m guessing other variations usually call for a whole chicken. But chicken breasts dry easily, so I decided they needed their own special treatment.
Instead, I roasted the chicken breast—bone in, skin on—using tips from this Serious Eats recipe. The result was a succulent piece of chicken, which I’ll eat throughout the week for lunch. My lunches are usually unplanned meals using whateverI have in the pantry or fridge.
Thanks to the early days of the pandemic, I learned how to properly stock my fridge and pantry with items I love to cook with. Bread stays in the freezer for toast, sandwiches, and croutons. I keep a variety of cheese on deck, but in particular cheddar for grilled cheese sandwiches, cheesy grits, etc. Bacon is great for breakfast but also does an incredible job of flavoring greens and beans.
And because I don’t have a huge pack of frozen thighs in the freezer, I can now store homemade stock made from the backbone and wing tips. I’m finding that a whole chicken provides more versatility than the parts.
It took a while to get here, but after challenging myself to take a leftover roasted chicken and make different meals throughout the week, I wanted to see how far I could stretch my use of the chicken. How could it use every part of it?
I remember listening to an episode of Borderline Salty where they talked about blood sausage. And Carla Lalli Music and Rick Martinez talked about how blood sausage was a way for us to use up every aspect of the animal. We have moved so far away from that way of life.
Many of my ancestors were eating farm-to-table and sustainably before it was a thing. This is my heritage—we’re not new to this, we’re true to this.
With all this swirling in my mind, I thought about this chicken. First, I would roast it, cooking out the backbone to use for broth. The first night we would feast on our favorite parts of the chicken—the thighs, wings, and drumstick. With what was left, I would make lunch—quesadillas, rice bowls, ramen, and stir-fried rice. I would save the bones and make a stock.
And then I thought about what else I could do. I started focusing less on recipes and experimenting more with what’s in my fridge (this also saves money at the grocery store, which I’m sure we’re all trying to do these days). My trips to the local farmer’s market have started back up—I’m lucky to find one that’s open year round. And I’m collecting kitchen scraps again thanks to this lovely compost bin that’s not only cute but masks odors.
I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I know becoming a more thoughtful, sustainable person in the kitchen will make me a better cook. It will surely bring me closer to this ancestral way of cooking that has settled into my bones.
I was on the Splendid Table podcast! In the episode, Teresa McCulla talks about her award winning piece on Patsy Young, Tinu Diver shares details on her feature-length documentary This Belongs to Us, and I chat all about beer pairings for fall.
Speaking of Tinu and podcasts, I sat down with her for the Good Beer Hunting podcast. In the episode, we talked about her article “‘A Black Woman Made This Beer’ — How Historically Black Colleges and Universities Shaped a Generation of Black Women Brewers,” the importance of giving someone their flowers while they’re living, and our love of storytelling.
If you’re interested in becoming more sustainable in the kitchen, read about food and climate change, how to reduce food waste, five cuisines that are easier on the planet, cooking tips for an eco-friendly kitchen
As a kid, I always wondered why disco got a bad rap. I found the music fun and uplifting, and it certainly made me want to dance. One day, I dove into a disco playlist and was surprised that many of the artists were Black. With a suspicion that racism played a role, I headed to Google. I landed on an article titled “The Night Disco Died | The Racist & Homophobic "End" to Disco.” It’s an insightful read that echoes themes we’re still dealing with today.
Thank you for reading!
Until next time,
Stephanie Grant is an Atlanta-based copywriter, storyteller, and content creator for food and beverage industry. Click here to learn more about her work and how you can work together.