(me and Squirt)
A question I often ask myself. No, really. And some of you might be wondering the same thing, so I'll do my best to give you a little bit of insight into my thoughts on food, cooking, and blogging.
My interest in cooking has waxed and waned throughout the years, based mostly on the amount of time I had to dedicate to the process. There were times (in high school, I believe) that I spent hours upon hours watching Food Network shows and trying to soak up as much as I could. But, throughout grad school there have been many times when I ate a lot of pasta with simple tomato sauce and frozen veggies. It was quick and it got the job done.
My sustained love for cooking resulted from a dramatic shift in the way that I think about food. It all started last summer (2008) when I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," "In Defense of Food," and "Omnivore's Dilemma" in quick succession (see my previous post for more about these books). I began to realize the importance of paying attention to the food that I'm eating, and I became interested in eating local food, avoiding processed food, and eating a lot more whole grains, fruits, and veggies. But I quickly realized that this eliminated virtually everything that I was accustomed to buying (especially snacks), and I was going to have to start cooking everything from scratch (or spend way more money than I have at the natural foods store) to avoid the weird chemicals in EVERYTHING.
Luckily I made this decision at the perfect time. I'm the sort of person that needs challenge in life. When things get simple, I get bored and very unhappy. I had just finished my dissertation proposal, and grad school, while challenging in some regards, had become too monotonous and routine. The solution? Learn to shop differently and do a whole lot of things that I had never done before (like baking bread, making stock, etc.). And the cool thing is that, in addition to giving me that challenge, it introduced me to a new community in Michigan. And I suppose that I'm healthier, too :).
It has definitely been a learning experience. I've been experimenting with a lot of whole grains - everything from barley to millet to amaranth - to figure out what I like best. I also try to get new veggies whenever I see them (especially at the local markets) and then figure out how to cook them. I'm a scientist at heart, so this has definitely been a fun process (and it's nice to be able to eat the results of an experiment, for once!).
I suppose I should also say something about my thoughts on sugar. In December of 2005 (the 27th, I believe), I decided to cut down on my sugar intake. I thought that the most effective way to do this would be to completely cut out sugar for a week to reduce cravings, and then slowly add back a little bit. Well, I made it through the week (relying on a whole lot of fresh fruit), and my desire for sugar was almost gone. I had also managed to survive a trip to my grandmother's house (with approximately 57 freshly-baked cakes and pies staring me in the face at every meal). So, I decided to try to go one more week without sugar. At the end of that week, I didn't want it at all. I must also mention that I am extremely stubborn. In fact, I'm the most stubborn person I know, with one possible exception (let's just say that I inherited the tendency). So, I kept it up. And, it's now been over three years, and I really don't see this changing any time soon.
I'm not saying that I never eat sugar. When I'm at home, I try to use more natural sources (particularly fresh and dried fruit, but also small amounts of honey and agave nectar, or even raw sugar). And sometimes I'll have a bite of some dessert (although this is usually all I want). There was even a time when I ate a huge piece of wedding cake, but that was a great decision because it was perhaps the best cake I've ever tasted. But, I now enjoy the more subtle sweet tastes that come from using fruit or whole grains. And I love that they don't leave me feeling gross afterwards. So, you'll notice that I make a lot of desserts that are sweetened only with fruit. I realize that these aren't for everyone, but perhaps you should try one... you just might like it.
And that brings me to the blog. When I started cooking like a fiend, Dad suggested that I keep a record of everything that I made and any changes that I might want to make for next time. I took that idea and ran with it. That was the blog's original function, and I only shared it with a few family members. After some improvements, though, I decided that maybe others would enjoy it.
Here we are seven months later and I'm still loving the experiments and the adventure. I hope that you're enjoying the recipes, and I'm still finding ways that I want to improve the blog (but unfortunately I don't always have the time it needs). I would love comments and suggestions about ways to improve the blog, new ingredients, different cooking methods, or anything else that's remotely related (or not!).