I had asked people to give a guess as to what it was and its importance.
Well, guesses were abundant. The two main guesses were compost or soup stock.
In some ways, both answers were correct.
Its importance, however, was never mentioned.
It is quite important. Read on, please.
Making stock is a small revolutionary act. Raise your hand proudly if it is something that is already a part of your kitchen process! I am sometimes amazed at the lack of people who do not make stock. It is easy, time-efficient, crazy frugal, healthy, and adds such a depth to all of the rest of one's cooking! But why revolutionary, you may be asking??
Increasingly, prepared and pre-packaged foods are being used by families and individuals who cannot or will not take the time to cook meals from whole foods. This is not a judgment, it is an unfortunate (in my opinion) result of the culture in which we live. Preparing meals with and for one's family is placed on the back-burner. Other activities have replaced the centrality of the dinner table, the hearth, and the kitchen in general. I feel that this is an unfortunate turn of events for a number of reasons that I won't go into right now (this would become way too long of a post!)
I feel that I must mention one Consequence of the decreasing amount of traditional home cooking. The distance that is being created between people and the food they eat is growing exponentially! I just read a great quote from the book, Coming Home To Eat, by Gary Paul Nabhan, that said something like, "Most people today who eat poultry, beef or pork have never actually met a chicken, cow or pig"! (The book is absolutely fantastic, more on that in a later post, I actually want to quote about 2/3 of the introduction!!) Increasingly, individuals and families have no idea at all about where food comes from, how it gets to their table, and with what processes it has gone through to be presented as beautifully as it needs to be in the supermarket. Meat does NOT come beautifully packaged on Styrofoam trays! Fish fillets do NOT simply separate from their bodies, ready for poaching! (I know, I just gutted two fresh tilapia this evening, what an ordeal!) Vegetables, do NOT grow without blemishes, irregularities, dirt and decay! I think that the further that we move from our food source the less connected that we become with one another and our communities. There are people who kill, clean, butcher, fillet, and care for meat and fish. There are people who spend hours of time caring, growing, and harvesting vegetables. (I hope to highlight some of the local individuals who do these things. They are real and they work HARD!)
And I am tired. So I have a request to make. Bear with me. Read over this rant and see what it may bring to mind for you. Post a comment about it. Maybe you'll help me to organize my thoughts around this topic and write more coherently in the future! But also, from now until next week sometime, I ask one thing. Every time that you do cook something, be it vegetable or animal, save the scraps (separate bags for vegetable and animal, please) If you are cutting up an onion or some garlic, the ends and the skins can go into a bag. If you are peeling some vegetable, those peels can go right into the bag. If you have some chicken, fish or steak the bones can go into a bag. Keep the bags in the freezer in between cooking times. You can put fresh scraps right into the bag with frozen ones. Try it, please. For one week. Maybe two. I will get back to stock and its revolutionary power. I will suggest some cool ideas for using stock.It will be worth it, I promise. (As a notes though, you might want to keep broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and other cabbages in a separate bag altogether. I'll tell you about that in 1-2 weeks.)