Brave New World

“Nowadays, everyone seems to have a food blog.”

I’m sure you’ve read these words before. I know I have. But there’s truth to the repetition: food culture has exploded over the past decade, especially with the advent of competitive culinary reality programming (I’m looking at you, Food Network), and so everyone and their mother seems to want in. From gourmet dishes to simplified baking techniques, chefs and foodies alike—and their wannabe counterparts—have been using the Internet to voice their passion, photograph their successes, and share a few tips along the way. It’s not a bad thing, but in this climate, it’s hardly original.

To be honest, I don’t care much for originality in this regard. Sometimes (and you’ll have to forgive the cliché here), it’s okay to be a sheep in a vast meadow. This is especially true when you’re just starting out. How else is one supposed to learn? Mimicry isn’t an art for nothing. I take pride in the fact that I’m still in my beginning stages. While some of my friends have been cooking since childhood, this is all pretty new to me. Sure, I licked the batter whenever my mom made brownies (but not too much, because god forbid I picked up salmonella from the raw eggs—right, Mom?), but scrambled eggs, pasta, and meat loaf were pretty much the only three dishes I could proudly lay claim to until a few years ago. (And even when it came to pasta, the sauce was always store-bought.)

My relationship with food began to grow serious in the summer of 2007. I’d just finished my second year of college, and had decided to live, work, and intern in New York City. The months were notoriously hot and sticky, and the last thing I wanted was to be cooped up in an airless apartment during downtime. But with barely enough money in my pocket to afford cinema tickets, I found myself at a crossroads: unable to eat out in the city’s plethora of restaurants, I had to cook for myself, and so into the kitchen I went.

My meals weren’t fancy, and could hardly constitute creativity, but I tried to pan-fry burgers and sausages whenever possible (lest I chuck them in the microwave for a quick zap), and buy pre-made foods that could only be prepared through stove-top boiling (like pierogi) or in the oven. Soon enough, I was trying my hand at buying fresh ingredients. It began simply enough: garlic, basil, mushrooms, tomatoes, mozzarella. With a few glugs of olive oil and some freshly-cooked angel hair, I felt like I was awash in the finest of flavors. The me of today scoffs a bit at the me of yesteryear—what an amateur, trying to perfect the simplest of pasta dishes!—but the me of today also knows that if it weren’t for those novice moves, there’d be no point in writing about food at all. Baby steps—isn’t that what they say?

Fast forward three years. I live in Dublin now, where anyone can tell you it is cheaper to buy and prepare your own food than eat out at restaurants all the time. Fun, yes, but cost-effective? Hardly. I first learned this in 2008, when I lived here under the guise of “student studying abroad.” The recession hadn’t fully kicked in yet, but eating out was still dear (at least for a poor soul like me). So I discovered Tesco, a giant supermarket full of store-brand food often priced at less than a euro, and I bought ingredients because it made the most sense. (I guess you can argue this logic makes the most sense in many countries, but here, where you can buy a 1kg bottle of salt for 40 cent, it really does.) And this is how I still do it. Except the game is now different.

Cooking, for me, isn’t just a necessity anymore. It isn’t something I have to do because I don’t make enough money to do otherwise. It is now an active choice, something I want to do, time to myself I truly and utterly enjoy. I approach it from two angles: in one way, it feels like a science experiment. All the combining of flavors and mixing of ingredients and knowing that if you season white fish, for example, with salt, pepper, and tarragon and then add a little orange juice, then wrap it in parchment paper brushed with butter and leave it in the oven for 17 minutes, it will turn out moist and succulent and simply mouthwatering because that is how fish coated in butter, herbs, and orange juice cooks—that, to me, is exciting. I was never a science nerd, because the math involved always intimidated me, and so I look at my newfound movement in the kitchen as a small way of breaking into that niche, albeit without having to memorize the formulae or calculate kelvin.

I also approach the idea of cooking from the perspective of one who is being challenged. Much like a race or competitive sport. If I can get from Point A to Point C without fucking up Point B, then there exists a sense of accomplishment. And what better thing to accomplish than triggering several senses at once and providing nourishment for the body? It’s a win-win situation, that.

So okay. Nearly 1,000 words and I’ve just reached my point: why a food blog? Why now, in this time overrun with them? To which I counter: why not? People blog for many reasons. Some blog with the hopes of getting book deals, others blog so they’ll leave a written trace in the epic landscape that is the Internet. Still, others do it just to get emotions off their chests. Me—I just want a space where I can openly share something I love. Look, I’m not trying to get philosophical about blogging, or Internet writing, or any of that. But it was worth pounding out 1,000 words so I could introduce myself, and maybe give some backstory as to why you should (or maybe shouldn’t) read this. From this day forward, however, this thing is live. And I hope to fill it with good and decidedly delicious posts.

Over and out.

(Oh, and for the record, that photo in the header is of a dessert I had the privilege of eating at a wedding. Beautiful beyond words.)

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2 Responses to Brave New World

  1. Chaya says:

    OMG–I am loving your blog! & the pictures–everything looks so delicious! I meant to tell you–Nigella said that she hadn’t planned to get into the food biz: she had studied journalism. However, when she was in school/poor, her option was only to cook–all she could afford to do. & the rest is herstory! Further, when asked about the difficulty in writing her book(s), she said that the 18 months of procrastination/not having gotten started were the hardest part. So…once she started writing…

    In any event, I am drooling on the keyboard! Keep up the good cooking!!!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Aw, thanks Mom! Keep up the reading, and watch those IKEA ads I posted…you and Dad would love the cat one!

    P.S. Please attempt to refrain from drooling on the keyboard, lest it becomes short-circuited and you need to buy a new one. 😉

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