Precious Commodities: Where to Find Ingredients for Extending the Table Cookbook

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook. See bottom for quick links to each post in this series, with titles.

When living abroad, what foods “from home” do you crave?

Our friends who travel abroad frequently (or those who choose to live abroad for periods of time) likely have a lot of things they miss about home. Yet, whenever we ask what well-wishes or little reminders of home we can send them, they inevitably request peanut butter. It’s strange that a childhood staple we take for granted transforms into a precious commodity when it is not readily available.

This phenomenon became even more evident to Heather this past week as she joined the teaching team for Harvard’s Negotiation Institute. People from 37 countries gathered to learn more about how to “change the game” of negotiation from win-lose to win-win. One of the examples used during plenary involves two people deciding how to allocate between them three indivisible candy bars. A participant from India argued that she deserved the candy bars more because in her country, good chocolate was rare—a precious commodity.

We are admittedly spoiled in the United States and Canada that we can access foods from a variety of cultures and countries. Yet, this week, as we tried recipes that involved ingredients we hadn’t noticed in our “regular” grocery stores, we realized how challenging it must be for people from other countries to find inexpensive, familiar ingredients for their own comfort food.

12_GreekGreenBeans_ExtendTable-535Greek Green Beans

Our household loves green beans, so we decided to focus a few of our meal choices around them. The Greek Green Beans (p. 130) seemed the easiest, as the only “rare” ingredient was mint, and we’d often seen mint at our local chain grocery store. We were shocked, though, when we looked at the price! How could one family buy fresh mint for meals on a regular basis, when it is over $5 for sprigs sufficient only for one or two dishes? It made us thankful that we had planted mint in our new garden, and made us realize a bit more why so many of our global neighbors raise their own food instead of relying solely on grocery stores.

17_WhitePizza_ExtendTable-4022White Pizza

We found a similarly shocking price attached to the feta cheese we purchased for the White Pizza (p. 179). Fresh feta—the kind you think would be cheaper than the stuff packaged and marketed for mass consumption—was still more per ounce than we could imagine most families affording. We certainly savored every slice!

After making these expensive purchases, we stumbled upon an Eastern European grocery store hidden between a paper company and a Dominos Pizza—just down the block from where we’ve lived for two years. Sure enough, the feta cheese and mint were half the price. A good lesson to venture into “ethnic” food stores more often, and take a friend who speaks the language (or be open to making purchases based on visuals alone!).

16_BreadBowlCurry_ExtendTable-1920Bread Bowl Curry

This prompted us to explore other ethnic grocery stores in our area. We were intrigued by the array of spices in the Bread Bowl Curry (p. 174). We cook frequently with turmeric and cumin, but haven’t made anything with anise seed or cardamom pods. After striking out at our grocery store, we ventured into the Asian market down the street. Sure enough, the anise seeds (“fennel seeds” there) were plentiful—and cheap. The only challenge was that they came in a huge container. We’ll be seeking recipes that use fennel seeds for the next five years! Cardamom pods were not present at the Asian market, but the Indian market two neighborhoods over had a few varieties. Once again, they were far cheaper and more fragrant than the hip, foodie pods we might have found at a gourmet food store. Best of all, we could buy them one at a time instead of purchasing 200 in one container!

There were some ingredients in our “traditional” grocery store we did not expect to find there—a good lesson to keep your eyes open and your stomach willing to try new things. For instance, we were shopping for eggplant, determined to use the first fresh tomatoes of the season to make Eggplant Sauce for Spaghetti (183). When we finally found the eggplant, we were shocked. We could purchase Japanese, Indian, or Kazakhstani eggplant along with our now-seemingly-boring Florida Market eggplant. The availability of these rare varieties in the produce aisle we visit every week prompted us to plan a menu around the Iraqi Baked Dinner Moussaka (198) for later this week.

This journey has allowed us to try out our global neighbors’ comfort foods, as well as experiment with favorite ingredients in new ways. As with our More with Less challenge, we have become increasingly aware of our own default tendencies around food when we are busy or tired. Yet, with this challenge, we became more aware that many of our global neighbors cannot (or choose not to) default to restaurant food when they are hungry. Rather, they find community and comfort around cooking for themselves and for their guests.

This lesson will continue to inspire us in the weeks and years to come, as we share their stories—featured in the World Community Cookbooks—with our son and our guests. As we cook more than we eat out, we hope to weave our own stories into the global narratives of food and friendship.

Links to each post in this Six Weeks with Extending the Table series.

1. Extending Our Family Food Challenge: Six Weeks with Extending the Table

2. Extending Beyond Our Boundaries

3. Extending the Table: Honoring Dietary Restrictions

4. Jobs, moving, sickness, four-month-old baby: STILL time to cook?

5. Six Weeks with Extending the Table: A Move in the Right Direction

6. Precious Commodities: Where to Find Ingredients for Extending the Table Cookbook

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To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here. All of this post’s food photos come directly from the new Extending the Table.

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

This is the last in Ben and Heather’s special series, Six Weeks with Extending the Table.

Give them a shout out or quick hi, or any comment on what you enjoyed about this series!

Six Weeks with Extending the Table: A Move in the Right Direction

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

Change has always been a constant for the two of us during our time together. We moved to Chicago seven years ago and immediately immersed ourselves in my orchestra job, and Heather’s trip through law school. Heather was very involved in our church council after work, and I started a not-for-profit chamber orchestra group. Although we were “leaning in,” life, at its core, was not satisfying. There was always something else to stay up and accomplish, and we realized on our honeymoon that it was the first vacation we had ever taken with one another in the three years of our relationship.

This past week we moved from one side of Boston to the other. We lived for the past two years in the Allston neighborhood by Boston University. There is an unlimited amount of youthful energy in the neighborhood, and this would continue late into the night as we, and our young son, were trying to sleep.

Our new place in West Medford is quiet, spacious, and it feels like the first time we are living in an adult apartment. The nights are quiet and dark, and there is a minimal amount of noisy people. Fearing that we were losing part of the coveted energy of our 20’s, the two of us reflected a great deal on the past seven years of our relationship. There were many constant themes through our relationship, and one of them was that the two of us have had some of our best memories around food and meals with one another. So, we decided that we were going to use Extending the Table to help us recreate some of these memories.

For anyone that has spent more than an afternoon with Ben, you will know that good coffee is just an expected part of life. It’s not to the point of measuring the grind, water temperature, and using a pour over like you would see at a hipster coffee shop, but the beans do need to be good and freshly ground. Thankfully, the days of drinking two full pots in the morning are behind him, but the taste of a fresh cup of coffee still inspires many ideas and extended cello practice sessions.

178080216 The Cinnamon Coffee (p. 38) was Ben’s choice of drink for the first morning in the new apartment. Although boxes were sprawled as far as the eye could see, Ben had reserved a special spot for his bags of coffee. Next to the coffee box was the box labeled “spices,” and the cinnamon was easy to find. Sugar was conspicuous as well in the large tin container in which it is kept. We put the cinnamon stick and sugar in the pot before the coffee started brewing. As we sipped our coffee and bounced our baby boy, we both meditated on what this new phase of life means for both of us.

“Did we not have an entirely stocked fridge and pantry at our previous apartment?” This question has been asked many times over the past week as we have unpacked in our new place. The carefully planned meals have gone to the wayside while we figure out our new kitchen; as we try to cook our meals from Extending The Table, we look to the beautiful simplicity of the recipes in the cookbook for our inspiration.

The Creamy Carrot soup (p.79) was a favorite this past week. The carrots, butter, and curry powder (from the same box labeled “Spices” where we found the cinnamon) were items easily dug out of the pile of cardboard U Haul boxes. The soup, again, provided us with a quiet and contemplative meal.

A challenging part of our move, as it relates to cooking, was that between Heather’s extended work hours this week, and cooking for the steady stream of people that have come through our new apartment in the last several days, is that it is easy to default to ordering take out. Admittedly, we did order pizza for everyone at the end of eight hours of moving boxes and furniture. After eating the leftovers from take out, it left us with a slightly stuffed and unpleasant feeling. We craved nothing more than the fresh fruits and vegetables that cleanse your mind and body. To remedy this situation, we made the Tomato and Basil Salad (p. 110). We had been able to go to the local store and pick up fresh vegetables, and it felt wonderful to feast on tomatoes and basil. We began to feel our old selves return with the nourishing and healthy food.

Sept12_2013 006As most of you who have been reading our blog know, hosting friends is something that means a great deal to both of us. We are excited to have our friends and family over to our new apartment and treat them to meals from Extending The Table. More on our meals for friends next week in our blog!

To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.

Jobs, moving, sickness, four-month-old baby: STILL time to cook?

Extending Our Table to a New Apartment

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

We have written a great deal about transitions going on in our lives over the past few months, and how they affect our eating habits.  As we look forward to this next week, Heather moves into a new position at her current job and we are also moving across town. Returning to a small one bedroom apartment in a younger neighborhood after giving birth to our son no longer seemed to fit our lifestyle. We are moving to a larger apartment in a quieter neighborhood just outside of Boston. While we are excited to start living at a new address, moving is never something to which to look forward. The idea of packing everything in to bags, boxes, and cramming it in to a U-Haul and friend’s cars is enough to make anyone lose their appetite.

As we found during our Lenten journey through More With Less, times of stress, busy schedules, and transitions do not always lend themselves to the best of eating habits.  Even with our resources focused on the cost of the move, it still seems easier to order Thai food and pizza for the next few nights until everything is settled in the new apartment. Due to our Lenten discovery with cooking, we now know that this is a time when we can actually make ourselves less stressed and more fulfilled if we take a few moments to cook at the end of each day.

It never ceases to amaze us what we can find, forgotten, at the back of the fridge. Spare parts of ginger, onion, cabbage, kale, and veggie sausage were among the many forgotten tidbits that we found while searching through the fridge during the initial clean out before packing to move. Good friends were visiting from Chicago and asked if we could go out for Korean food while they were here. Conscious of budget and time, we instead opted to make the Spicy Cabbage Salad/Kimchi (p. 108) from Korea instead.  We enjoyed a night of reminiscing about our younger, slightly more care free times in Chicago before getting married and having a son.  The conversation drifted into the night, and the Spicy Cabbage Salad was definitely the catalyst for the nostalgia for our Chicago days.

The morning after our extended dinner conversation with friends, the coffee was brewing and we were still joking about stories from the night before.  Looking around the kitchen, there was only a smattering of materials with which to make breakfast for our guests.  Heather and I have always loved breakfast in the vein of yogurt and granola, so we looked to the Muesli recipe for breakfast (p. 154 in the previous version of Simply in Season).  It was a fulfilling breakfast for all of us, and the time it took the recipe to settle was another excuse to gather over coffee and conversation.

granola4

Muesli or granola

We were both struck down (literally) with the flu last week, and the lingering effects of the sickness left us tired and not feeling highly motivated to cook.  As the night was foggy and cold in Boston, we both decided that a nice, warm stew was the answer to our question of dinner after our son had been put to bed.  We decided on the Groundnut Stew (p. 250), as it was a favorite of Ben’s when he was younger.  It’s a wonderful dish to add leftovers to, and we had many small bunches of spinach and kale that found their way in to the stew.  It was also rewarding to think that we were using the leftover food for cooking, as it would regrettably be thrown out during the move.  The warmth and time it took to cook the stew calmed both of us down after a long, harrowing day of childcare and work.GroundNutStew

Groundnut Stew

Over the next week we will be looking for more recipes to use as we move in to our new kitchen.  It will be great to use for our menu as we figure out why the yams were moved in a box with the towels, and where the closest grocery store is for our food needs.  Additionally, we will be able to grow a garden at our new apartment, so look for some fresh veggies to pop into our future recipes.

To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here

MennoByte_photoBen Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with a son born February 2014, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.