WARNING: This is not your normal post. There are no pictures or recipes to follow, only my musings on food, cooking, and what inspires me in the kitchen.
***Addendum 3/25/14: I found my recipe book that I made when I was a kid that I talk about later in this post. Here is the picture!
Ahhhh. There, I have taken my deep breath before diving in to what promises to be a very long post. Recently I have been thinking a lot about food (shocking, I know), and what it is about food that is so intriguing to me. I've wondered how I came to be so passionate about all things food related, and why it took me until my 30's to realize how in love I truly am with everything culinary. I don't usually do highly personal posts on this blog, especially ones that don't involve pictures or recipes. But I have this urge to share some of the things that have been rattling around in my brain lately.
I am completely food obsessed. I do not hide this fact about myself, and I have learned to embrace it and feed my ever present obsession. The more I think about it, the farther back in my life it actually goes. I was watching the Food Network when it began in 1993. I was 13. Now, it is somewhat more common place for kids to be involved in cooking and watching food programming. But when I was 13, I did not know any other kids who were watching the then 5 shows on the network. I used to be seriously bummed when it went off for the night, which was early back then. Now I don't know how I could operate without coming home at 2 or 3am from the bar and watching some kind of food program (usually Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) as I drift off to sleep (FYI, this does not happen every night, just on the weekends, but I enjoy the ritual).
However, I am pretty sure that my food frenzy goes back even farther than 13. I used to collect the little recipe cards the supermarket would hand out. I had a notebook around the age of 10 where I would copy recipes out of my mothers women's magazines. Keep in mind, I did not cook back then. I had no idea how to actually prepare these recipes, but I just figured one day I would need them. I have no idea what happened to those recipe cards and notebooks - I have since moved at least half a dozen times, and if they are somewhere in my belongings I have yet to find them. But I do hold out hope that one day I will find them.
My obsession as it were has grown to epic proportions. I could literally watch only the food channels. I don't, there are actually many non-food related programs I enjoy, but if the Food Network was all that was left on TV, I don't think I would complain. I love The Chew, a daily talk show where food is the focus. My favorite chefs/TV cooking personalities include Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Anthony Bourdain, Curtis Stone, Michael Symon, Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay, Robert Irvine, and more. I love shows that involve budget cooking, such as Ten Dollar Dinners. I like recipes I can make quickly, and 30 Minute Meals makes that possible.
Honestly??? I learned to cook from food programming. My mother is a great cook, but I never really learned techniques from her. I still use her recipes for macaroni and cheese, chili, goulash, etc. I didn't really remember to write a lot of stuff down, and I season as I go, so it's hard to remember that you added an extra pinch of this or that. That is part of the reason I started this particular blog, so I would have a record of recipes. And that's also why when I write the recipes (which I feel like I am not so good at but I'm learning) I add helpful hints, possible substitutions, and things you can add on. I like knowing I can leave something out and the recipe will still be ok. For instance, I cannot stand celery. I don't know why, I just don't like it. So I don't put it in soups or stews or salads or slaws. I like knowing a recipe can be adjusted and I can maybe sub a bell pepper for that missing celery and the food will still taste great.
Speaking of things I don't like... I have a few no-go's, as I'm sure most people do. I don't like, and refuse to eat sausage. Some people find this to be a cardinal sin. Well, I don't know what to tell them except I don't want it. And I won't eat it. So don't try to make me. I am not particularly fond of lunchmeat. I don't eat turkey or ham or bologna sandwiches. When down to the wire, I will eat roast beef or thinly sliced salami. That's about it. I am not too sure how I feel about Indian food as of yet. Little things, here and there.
But I feel like I have gotten off track. Going back to my food obsession, I have several fellow food blogs that I read regularly. I spend countless hours on Pinterest drooling over food pictures, reading recipes, and searching for that perfect meal. I visit my Foodspotting app daily to see what other foodies are taking pictures of, what restaurants they have been visiting, and where I can get that such and such I have been craving in the local area. That app also allows me to share my own food pictures and restaurant finds. I have my friends text me pictures of food they made or ate out that they find enjoyable. I have a friend who I make tell me what he's had for dinner every day at the end of the week. I am lucky to have people who oblige me, whether they understand it or not. I have intense conversations with people that only revolve around food.
When the food truck craze came to Orlando I was immediately smitten. I followed them all as they began on Twitter and Facebook. I went to many food truck events in different parts of town to see what the trucks were cooking up. I dragged friends with me who had no idea what food trucks were. I would drive miles just to hunt a particular truck down. My interest has since tapered off, well, more like I am still intrigued by food trucks, but there are so many now I get overwhelmed and have readjusted my focus on them.
Cookbooks, and magazines about food, are treasures to me. In the last year I have recently become enamored with novels that center around some sort of culinary subject. Literally, I have read 30+ books that may be a love story or what have you in disguise, just because I learned food was a main subject in the book. I have discovered many great novels this way though, so I will probably continue to scout out these novels.
I could spend HOURS in the grocery store, and no lie, I often do. I love, love, love discovering new products and foods. I like to see how products are grouped together, I like finding new produce; discovering a new sauce is like discovering a new treasure. I am amazed at how many things you can buy!!! Specialty stores are slowly becoming my friend. Unfortunately, I do have a limited food budget so I really have to plan well. But going in to a butcher or an Asian market used to be terrifying to me. Now I enter Asian markets with ease. Farmer's markets hold all sorts of things I didn't know about previously and I like to see what produce is in season and what new artisanal items people are coming up with.
As food crazy as I am, I have zero desire to be a chef. I don't want to be in a kitchen for endless hours, I don't want to give up my nights and weekends, and I don't particularly feel a calling to get a culinary degree. I don't even like to cook for hours in my own kitchen. I enjoy cooking, when I want to enjoy cooking. I don't have a desire to make actual cooking my life. It's odd, I know.
A question I'm asked quite a bit is why I started this blog. To be honest with you, there are many reasons. Number one, I LOVE FOOD!!! Another one is that writing fulfills a creative outlet for me. I don't have the patience or focus to write novels. In fact, this is probably the longest post I will ever write. My ADD gets me too off-kilter most of the time to actually sit down and write and write. Short posts, that I can write in advance if inspiration strikes is more my speed. Another creative outlet this blog fulfills is my love of photos, particularly food photos. I am not a great photographer. I don't have the equipment to create the beautiful photos I love to look at. Someday I hope to. But I try to get better and better on my iPhone for you in the meantime, so please bear with me. Another reason? I want to give people helpful hints, tricks, and tips that I wish other people would give me with their food. I don't want anyone to be scared to try one of my recipes, and I want them to know it's okay if they don't like a particular ingredient, there may be something else you could put in its place. One of the last reasons I can think of at the moment is that it's a good hobby. I feel it's important for people to be well-rounded, and I have several hobbies, this blog being one of them.
Food is love. It's a common expression and for me it is the TRUTH. I cook for people I love. I want them to love what I make. I know not every meal or dish I prepare will be the best thing someone has ever had. But I immensely enjoy watching someone eat my food and want more. My potato salad is now a staple at parties because people won't allow me to not bring it. Who knew something so simple as potato salad would have had such an impact. I don't even think it's the most delicious thing I make. But I 100% love that people love something I make that much. My boyfriend loves several dishes I have made for him and requests them often. My slow cooker Asian chicken is a favorite of his, he loves my meatloaf, and my fried rice can always make his day if he finds out that's what's on the menu for the evening. It's amazing how happy you can make someone by making one of their favorite meals. I'll say it again, food is love.
What about food inspires me? That is another question I get asked frequently. I don't know! I love beautiful pictures of food, I like how it looks. The colors, the way textures come across in a photo, everything. I love how food can make you feel comforted, or happy, and I love how combining different ingredients can give you a product you never thought of before. I think it's the creativity you can have with food that inspires me. We all need to eat to survive. So why not make it enjoyable? This is not to say when we all have such busy lives that every meal can be a gourmet affair. But taking the time to think about the way a dish will look or taste can get me through that 3pm hour at work when I wish I was somewhere else.
I have a love for ethnic foods. Asian dishes are so bright and clean and have so much balance. I CRAVE tuna kobachi, because it blends spice (togarashi) and salty (soy sauce), with fresh, clean fish, and creamy avocado, and that herbal scallion taste. A bowl of hand-pulled noodles in a complex broth with thin slivers of tender beef is warm and welcoming. Mexican foods enchant me, with bright cilantro making rich food such as enchiladas or a mole sauce a new experience. I adore corn tortillas, I could eat them every day. Guacamole can send me over the edge when made correctly. A crispy taco with meat and cheese and a bright, fresh, spicy salsa is a cheap lunch or dinner that fulfills my needs. Italian food... It's like a hug every time you eat it! Large bowls of pasta with creamy sauces or tomato sauces or fresh pestos... So affordable and filling. Mediterranean flavors of olives, olive oil, red pepper, lemon. When combined, they dance on your palette and make you think of home. Greek food is one of my all time favorites. Yogurt and mint and cucumber and oregano and dill, oh my! The spit roasted meats, the soft, warm pita bread, the fresh salads are just divine.
I could really go on and on about different cuisines, dishes, and ingredients. But that might be a little much!
I hope this post wasn't long and boring, and I am hope you learned a little more about what drives me to keep doing this blog. I have been doing it for three years now, and haven't gotten bored yet, so hopefully I will keep blogging for years to come. Thank for reading it, whether you're a new visitor or someone who visits frequently. I don't think my love for food is going away anytime soon, and I hope you keep on coming back!