Eat This List: Food resolutions for 2013
January 3rd, 2013
05:00 PM ET
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This is the second installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.

You can't swing a sack of raw kale without seeing a food pundit hold forth about their culinary resolutions for 2013. Sorry for adding to the din, but I promise that none of mine are about encouraging deprivation, Paleo diets, eating weird animal parts (I want all those for myself) or any manner of "cleanse."

This is all about amplifying your level of delight and confidence in the kitchen or at the restaurant table and freeing yourself from expectations of perfection. Perfection tastes boring – kinda like raw kale. Luscious, lopsided, lumpy joy is where it's at.

1. Screw Pinterest and Instagram
Okay, maybe that's a bit drastic - but take a look at how you're using them and how you feel after prolonged exposure. If there's nothing but inspiration and motivation for you in images of artfully iced petit fours and cunning little ramekins full of brûléed food, then congratulations and continue. If, however, it manifests pangs of guilt, frustration or inadequacy in you, STOP.

Do you truly believe that Martha Stewart hand-crafted every single one of those frosting roses or personally shopped for all those granola mix-ins? As a friend of mine likes to say, "Everything handmade, but not by your own hands."

Martha has a team. The mortals attempting to emulate her ethos on social media have time, lighting, excellent cameras, Photoshop and filters to mask any visual imperfection in their dishes. Even in the hands of civilian bloggers, social media offers a highly edited, carefully crafted and idealized version of what's really going on in people's kitchens.

You're not a failure if your cake is raggedy or the late afternoon sun doesn't stream through your freshly laundered cafe curtains in a way that flatters your organic homemade granola. Are you cooking? Cooking anything at all? Not just heating up a pre-made food block or pouch in the microwave? You're doing great. Don't sweat how it looks on the internet.

2. Explore unfamiliar produce
One of the greatest things about owning a mouth is getting to put new foods in it from time to time. Consider designating a day each month as Food Adventure Day and experiment with an in-season ingredient you've never used before. They won't all be winners, but chances are that you'll end the year with at least a few new fruits or vegetables in the rotation.

This month, consider chicory, celeriac, sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) or whatever winter squash, green or root vegetable looks weird and wonderful at the grocery store. When in doubt, roast it at 350 degrees if it's solid or sauté it with a little stock or oil if it's leafy.

What's the worst that can happen - you don't like it? Fret not; February brings fennel and a billion ways to enjoy bok choy, March rings in especially excellent endive, and before you know it, it's lychee and jackfruit season. The world is your oyster plant. Open wide.

Vegetables. Eat them. Here's how.

3. Sharpen your knives
Think you're a klutz in the kitchen? The problem may lie in your knives and the dullness thereof. Some professional chefs sharpen their blades daily - which is extreme by almost anyone's standards. If your blades haven't seen a whetstone within this decade, consider taking your most frequently used ones in for a professional sharpening. Next to refreshing your spice cabinet, there's no better way to give your whole kitchen life an instant upgrade.

Our favorite knife maker Joel Bukiewicz advises:

"You’ve made good friends with your knife so treat it like a friend deserves. If your edge is sharp, it’s also fairly delicate, so it should never come in contact with anything harder than the steel from which the blade is made.

Never, ever cut on a glass, marble or metal surface. Don’t toss your knives into the sink, or throw them down on the counter in a rush where they can bang into a jar, bowl or other knives.

Clean your knife with a cloth or sponge and warm water and soap when you’re done working. Be very aware where your fingers are while you’re washing – if it’s well-kept, it wants to cut and will lop off a fingerprint in no time.

Never, ever put your knife in the dishwasher. Dry it carefully and immediately and hang it on your wall magnet or set it in your block. If you’re honing to keep it sharp, give it one or two strokes on each side before or after every use. Eventually you’ll need to have it re-sharpened professionally but the more diligent you are about honing, the longer your edge will last between sharpenings."

You heard it here: sharp knife, delicious life.

4. Use the good stuff
Ever buy some really nice cheese, a special spice or a lovely bottle or wine only to find out that it lost its luster by the time you finally got around to using it? Instead of waiting for a suitably momentous happenstance, turn an ordinary weeknight into a soiree by popping the Champagne you've got stashed in the fridge, busting out fancy china to eat Chinese takeout or serving your selzer in stemware.

No matter how schmancy the ingredient or utensil, it's infinitely more impressive that you woke up that morning and continued to draw breath. YOU are the special occasion, so commemorate that. (This all goes double if you're eating by yourself.)

5. It's all you
Got a food resolution for 2013? Please share it in the comments below and we'll include our favorites in a follow-up post. Now go eat something awful-looking and awesome.

Previously - Eat This List: Tater tots, invasive entrees and other food trends we'd like to see in 2013

Got someone you want to hear from? Let us know in the comments and we'll try to track them down.

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. paulkristoff

    Will be continuing what I did in 2012, and what many on here have mentioned, and that's to be adventurous not just in eating new undiscovered (to me) foods but cooking with new ingredients. It's only the start of Feb and its already been an exciting year of food. Had cactus for the first time the other day :)

    February 5, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  2. Clare

    Our food resolution for 2013 is to nix the late night sweets cravings and replace these urges with peppermint/chamomile tea and/or a healthy seasonal fruit. I have heard it takes about 28 days to make or break a habit and I am only on day 8.. but so far it is a great start!

    January 17, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  3. F. Schrodinger

    Where's the Vietnamese recipes to try at home?

    January 14, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  4. Felicia

    I tried clicking the link for Vietnamese cooking-keeps going to this page instead? Someone did a boo-boo, and it's frustrating that CNN didn't fix it yet....even after many comments. This isn't what I wanted to read, so why doesn't the link go to the correct article?

    January 14, 2013 at 3:24 am |
  5. jim atmad

    I figured by the second day they'd have the right story linked to the Vietnamese cooking teaser.

    Stupid CNN. Don't you people ever test your own links after you try to set them up?!?

    January 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  6. KAS

    "if it’s well-kept, it wants to cut and will lop off a fingerprint in no time."

    Been there, done that. Was cutting up raw chicken and I didn't keep my fingers tucked in like I always do. One second I'm cutting away, the next I watch/feel my knife blade slice through the edge of my finger. I put my finger over the sliced open portion, ran it under cold water and watched the blood pour from the wound.

    Wrapped a napkin about the cut, found the duct tape and taped it tight. Got back to cutting up the chicken until I finished then called someone and asked if I could borrow a band-aid. I never cut myself so there's no need to keep them about.

    Drove over to their place, pressing my thumb against the finger to keep it from bleeding over everything, all the while driving a stick. Got to their place, had them stick on the band-aid after rewashing my finger, and again seeing the nice colorful stream of water, then drove back home and finished making supper.

    What a night.

    January 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm |

    Martha is quite the biotch ...

    January 11, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  8. JT

    Coulda sworn the link I clicked mentioned something about Vietnamese food recipes... but yeah, keep your knives sharp!

    January 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Tay

      I clicked for Vietnamese too. This is stupid.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • truebob

      Look here:
      I didn't see anything great, but others were excited.

      January 11, 2013 at 4:57 am |
  9. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    Definitely on the #2 bandwagon! I love exploring new produce and finding some cool interesting and delicious foods I have never even heard of! Bring it on 2013! :)

    January 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
  10. Janet Rörschåch

    Reblogged this on Chef Janet Rörschåch and commented:
    I would add share. Breaking bread with friends and family, in the end, is far more important than the hours toiled in the kitchen.

    January 4, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  11. Meg Rosenberg

    I am thinking about an 18/21 vegan diet for a while, at least. A friend from @food52 adopted the diet. She eats plant based 18 meals a week, 2 meals with fish, and one with a bacon party (or whatever she fancies). Her cholesterol has come down by a third!

    January 4, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  12. Erin

    I've been doing the Food Adventure thing for a few months, and I love it. I can't believe I've gone my whole life without eating roasted parsnips, fennel, or leeks. So many beautiful, colorful fruits and veggies out there to try. And so many ways to repurpose old favorites and sneak them into your diet for healthy results, too. Pureed vegetables are my favorite new thickener for soups. Example: I figured out that I can get rid of the fattening cheddar and broccoli soups by pureeing cannellini beans with broccoli and cutting back on the cheddar. So velvety and healthy. I do the same thing with roasted sweet potatoes in my curries. No more cream and butter!

    I'm a foodie, and I LOVE to bake. However, I'm also trying to lose weight (20lbs down, 20 more to go). I guess my goal this year is to find healthy options that satisfying my sweet tooth. I'm having a lot of luck with baked fruits and frozen yogurt so far. No much luck for a sweetener in baked goods just yet, though (Splenda...ewww).

    I also want to learn more techniques and explore other realms of cooking/baking I haven't touched yet. I definitely want to learn about canning preserves, making jams and jellies. I might overcome my fear of candy making (HOT SUGAR!) but then pawn the results off on my coworkers- that way I learn something new, and they consume all of the calories.

    January 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • Erin

      *satisfy and *such in the second paragraph

      January 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • dragonwife1

      Parsnips are wonderful! I'd never tried them till a few years ago when our wellness committee at work had a "food challenge" where each department had to try different things. I like them cooked with a little butter and brown sugar (just a tiny bit) and a dash of cloves. I also love roasted beets (although my husband doesn't) and sweet potatoes.

      I'm with you on the Splenda; I can't handle any of the artificial sweeteners, even the ones made from sugar or stevia (have unpleasant reactions), so baking isn't an issue for me – I have to use the real thing! But I do try to find alternatives besides the traditional applesauce to replace some of the fat.

      My resolution is to grow more of my own vegetables!

      January 11, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  13. lwg

    I resolve to waste less food. I'm particularly bad with veg, even though we eat more veg than the average (usually about 5 servings per day). But I tend to buy too much with not enough planning. So maybe my resolution is really to plan better.

    January 3, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Erin

      I'm with you on this.

      January 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
      • dike

        I have gone all organic and with the triple cost than average, I am conservative and buy just what I need and waste none. in the end it costs the same for me.

        January 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  14. Lindalou

    I've been cooking meals for my family for 32 years. It amazes me that I made it this far without ever once taking a picture of a dinner I assembled for my family. I have to laugh when the younger people I know post pictures of that night's dinner. Really, we all are eating something for dinner..not everything is photoworthy!

    January 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Brooke

      While I have never taken a picture of my dinners either, what's wrong with being proud of a meal you've cooked for your family? Nothing makes me happier than someone LOVING my home-cooked food. There are much worse things to photograph.

      January 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  15. TNastyFunktown

    ...if your ego is that fragile that you can't handle a "failed" Pinterest recipe, I suggest you stay off of Pinterest and spend some quality time building self esteem.

    January 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  16. MessaLOVEfoodz

    for 2013,I pledge to

    eat more McDonalds

    ,Fay Da bread

    7-11 pizza and mini-tacos

    January 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Jana1955

      7-11 pizza is really good...didn't know if you were being sarcastic. I work nights and have the pizza for breakfast probably 2 days a week...easy to eat in the car without making a mess. And, it's tasty.

      January 3, 2013 at 9:54 pm |

        7-11 used to have the Best Nachos – back in the '80's ;-9

        January 11, 2013 at 10:26 am |
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