Dri is a 29-year-old urban planner with a degree in environmental studies. At the time we first met, she lived in a rapidly gentrifying area of the city’s Central District neighborhood. She’s animated and articulate, which she attributes to battling for attention as one of seven kids. Her large family purchased most food in bulk, including boxed products deemed simple enough for her and siblings to prepare since her father’s erratic work schedule led to a lot of “fend-for-yourself” nights. “When my mom did cook, if she went crazy, she’d use Lawry’s seasoning salt. She didn’t believe in garlic. I recall eating a lot of taco salad as a kid.”
Before the project: Although she lived alone, Dri kept up her family’s habit of buying food in bulk. She had cases of granola bars, restaurant-style containers of spices and family-sized packages of cheese. This habit yielded a lot of food waste, which visibly bothered her sensibilities as an environmentalist. “I buy organic products only to waste food. Not very sustainable, is it?” Dri shopped for her aspirational life, not her real one. She’d buy a lot of fresh produce, only to watch it wilt into a green stain in her crisper drawers as she ate something she felt more convenient. Case in point: for dinner, she made spaghetti with a jar of sauce, ignoring the few fresh vegetables in her fridge.
After the project: When Dri moved to new digs with a modern kitchen replete with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, she changed more than addresses. Out went her habit of bulk buying. Immediately after each lesson, she practiced what she’d learned. Instead of buying ingredients for specific recipes, she now keeps onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes in her fridge and a handful of staples such as pasta, grains and beans in her pantry, along with a mix of fresh herbs, spices, olive oils and vinegars. “When I add in an ingredient or two, I find I can almost anything with these staples.” As she made roasted chicken and potatoes for dinner, with a side salad for dinner, she admitted that she still struggles not to make too much food when cooking for one. “By day four, I’m so sick of the leftovers.”
Dri’s Takeaway: “Learning fundamentals changed how I shop and cook by 175,000 percent,” she said. “I know that’s a really big number, but it’s true.”
Dri’s most impactful lessons: Knife skills, the nutritionist visit, the whole chicken, vinaigrette.
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