I was an aspiring food enthusiast and home chef for a couple of months until I realized it’s hard, and kind of a lot of work. It can also be pricey if you don’t know how to do it right, and even pricier if you do.
I think I’ve read and collected a thousand recipes in an attempt to lovingly categorize them and store them in these super-cute graphic-print 3-ring-binders I found at Target. I spent hours in front of DVR’d episodes of CSI: Miami, arranging the recipes in sheet protectors and everything. For a while I thought that yes, I would absolutely make every recipe in these binders, and I would jot down little notes about whimsical on-the-fly substitutions and possible wine pairings. The pages would be dog-eared and splattered with homemade tomato sauce when I would, in my old age, hand them over to my boys. The boys would of course accept them with reverence and a touch of awe.
It did not take me long to accept that this would not likely happen. My binders, as cute as they were, were not grounded in reality. Nowhere in my binders had I lovingly clipped and mounted the instructions from the side of the macaroni & cheese box or Trader Joe’s fish nuggets. There is the strong possibility that it might actually be the binders and the sheet protectors that I love, and not the 40 recipes I have for mushroom soup. Perhaps my boys will accept the binders one day with reverence and respect for my one-time love of organizational systems.
I set about to make my collection useable. Out went all the recipes that required fish sauce, quinoa, lamb, curry, eggplant, shellfish, whole fish, or whole chickens. Also the ones where the food would need to rise, rest, or take an ice bath. The food could not at any point be required to look like pea-sized gravel, as this usually requires a food processor or a stand mixer…my great white whales of kitchen appliances. I know what my family will not eat. They’ve vetoed polenta, fresh tomatoes, and if it were up to Zach, anything that is not “noodles with butter.” There are some dark moments in my culinary past that have made me gun shy enough to disqualify even more recipes. Fried chicken is out, and I don’t want to talk about that batch of sugar cookies. If you’re interested, John will happily recount the tale of the “ham ring” from our first year of marriage.
We threw a dinner party years ago. I was at Whole Foods ordering a $100 piece of meat, I think a standing rib roast. I asked the butcher so many questions about how to prepare it, that he came out from behind the counter to give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be ok.
Because we’ve lived in the Bay Area for so long, we’ve known and befriended our fair share of legitimate foodies and home chefs who can point over their shoulder to Berkeley and say “Alice Waters started it all over there.” They could also easily brag about how every burrito place, pizza joint, and hamburger hovel feature the freshest and ingredients…and usually with the obligatory “twist” or “kick.” “It’s a taco, but with a twist!”
Over the years, the cool ingredients spent time in everybody’s pantries. Pine nuts. Sun dried tomatoes. Feta. Endive. Leeks. Wild Boar. (No? That one didn’t make it? Shocking, the weird meat with the three-day aftertaste was sure to be a winner.) Aioli. Truffle oil. Yes, I know these are still around, but each enjoyed their 15 minutes as the darlings of California Cuisine.
But alas, foodies are indeed everywhere. And now, thanks to social media, I get to hear what all of you food enthusiasts are up to, which is like 90% cool, and 10% annoying because you make it sound so effortless, like you are lazily sipping on chardonnay, throwing together ingredients from your garden for your adoring friends and loved ones…who will clap as you plate the food. You know, without Googling, the difference between baking powder and baking soda, because apparently there is one. The fun flipside, is you get to read my diverse and revolutionary food musings: “Football’s on! Clam dip time!” or “Basketball’s on! Where’s the clam dip?” or “I love the Giants! And I love clam dip!”
It’s a guilty pleasure, reading what you home chefs and foodies are up to, a sort of culinary voyeurism, peeking into your world as you homemake everything from pizza, bread, cakes and pie crusts to pickles, jam and chutney (whatever that is). I picture you strolling through the farmers market with a hand woven basket or a shopping tote made from reclaimed prison jumpsuits, hotel curtains, or the 8th grade graduation dresses of female freedom fighters. You could probably tell me whether or not that’s a good turnip, and if this is a good price on star fruit or kale. You might look at pomelo and say, “Fantastic! I can go home and throw together the perfect little pomelo margarita, pomelo salad, sea bass with pomelo salsa, and my signature pomelo granita for dessert. Just another typical Wednesday.”
I’ve been to many a farmer’s market, but have been known to find the experience so completely overwhelming that I will leave with nothing more than a sausage sandwich from the sausage guy.
So if I’m not a foodie, what am I? a bookie? That doesn’t sound good. A wordy? Um, I suppose that already applies, especially if you’ve made it this far into this post. I like TV – how about a showy? A winey? Let’s see what we have so far: a showy, winey, wordy bookie. Perhaps I’ll dust off the binders and give foodie another shot.