With the holidays fast approaching, traditions may have you doing a little extra meal planning and preparing. With many dishes that require oven use, you may be planning to employ your stovetop. Understanding a little food science behind your cooking method of choice can go a long way in helping you plate a delicious meal. Cooktops afford us the options to pan-fry, sauté and sear foods. These cooking methods differ in their use of fat and heat. Pan-frying uses enough fat to partially submerge the food item being cooked. To cook it through, medium heat is used and one side at a time is cooked. Examples of items that are pan-fried include skin-on chicken thighs and latkes. Sautéing cooks food just until tender in a thin layer of fat over medium-high heat. Shrimp, mushrooms and leafy greens are items that sauté particularly well. Searing gives foods a caramelized outside while not completely cooking the inside. Oftentimes, recipes call for a pan sear, followed by an additional cooking method such as baking.
We have long understood that food can serve much more than just a nutritional need. Because it is so essential to life, individuals can relate and connect through food and nutrition. Culture includes the beliefs, customs and habits of a group of people, and each cultural group has access to its own food and creates its own food habits. Home cooking proves to be particularly beneficial in providing mental stimulation and creativity. It also provides additional stimuli, such as aromas, to the senses that aid in meal satisfaction. Preparing food gives people shared experiences, just as eating socially does.
How we eat is also a derivative of our cultures, and table manners can be one of the earliest teaching opportunities for parents. Kids can be receptive to learning table manners as soon as they can sit and eat independently. Some of the more basic etiquettes include washing hands prior to sitting down, sitting up straight with a napkin placed in ones lap and waiting for other before beginning to eat. Family meals offer opportunities to not only model good table manners, but they also offer times to try new foods and practice appropriate responses to those things that kids may not particularly like. While cultural influences may afford some mealtime differences, using proper utensils, chewing with ones mouth closed and not reaching across the table are all still standard behaviors to follow.
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Cheyenne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in the Charleston, SC area.