My family was sitting around the dinner table one night in the mid ’90s. I was about eight or nine, still young enough to play with my dollhouse, but old enough to start stressing out about things like our house getting burglarized or burning to the ground. (I was a weird kid.) My sister must have been about six, probably missing a couple of her front teeth and generally being adorable.
Our mom had made zucchini for dinner, and neither of us really enjoyed it. I could handle it, but Katie – ever the typical showman youngest child – could. not. even. We were not rude, spoiled monsters, so we obviously did our best to eat stuff we didn’t like, but at that point in time, neither of us had much success conjuring up any enthusiasm. (Currently, we both dig it. THIS IS GROWING UP, KIDDOS.)
My mom asked us – probably in a sarcastic way that was meant to convey one or both of us was being ridiculous about something – what we thought the worst thing god could ever make us do was. I said something probably apropos of my weird, macabre, overly anxious childhood self, like, “Make you kill the people you love.”
I think it’s safe to say that anyone reading this blog knows that I am not, and will never be (barring some sort of life-or-death illness) the kind of person who gives up her carbs. I love mysandwiches, andpasta, and deargod, doIlovemypotatoes. (You’re probably sick of reading about it.) I’m not giving them up for anything. You’d have to pry them from my cold, dead hands. That being said, I’m also not averse to trying low-carb/carb-free substitutes to carbtastic, starchy goodness, because I like having my cholesterol in check, and because I’m open to trying just about any food that isn’t an insect. (Or durian.) A few weeks ago, I tried making a cauliflower pizza crust – and no, I’m not going to tell you that it tasted JUST LIKE PIZZA CRUST OMG 4 REAL because I am not a big fat liar. It tasted…quiche-y? Maybe? It was good, but it was in no way similar to actual pizza crust.
On Friday, I tried my hand this recipe, because my mom, my sister, and apparently everyone on Pinterest, ever, has gone spaghetti squash crazy.
“It tastes like and has the texture of spaghetti!!!”, the Internet says. (To her credit, this blogger never claimed spaghetti squash tastes like spaghetti. So thank you, A Family Feast.) “I call shenanigans, Internet,” I replied. (Yes, I talk to inanimate objects. You do, too, so stop raising those eyebrows.)
For Fathers Day, my mom and I made dinner for my dad. It’s a running tradition, as my dad loves food and, although he also loves cooking, probably enjoys having someone else do that (and the dishes!) for him.
There’s an excellent butcher in the next town over from them, so they picked up some beautiful veal chops. Dad wanted something with mushrooms and gorgonzola (which I can never pronounce correctly, because Colin like to call it gorGONZOla, because he is a goober).
I don’t make rice all that often – for the most part, I only eat it with Chinese food takeout or in sushi rolls. But the other night, I decided that I wanted to make rice with dinner, but I didn’t want it to be plain. Or slathered in soy sauce. Or cheesy. Not that rice in those forms isn’t delicious, but I was looking for something … lighter. Fresher. Do I sound like a fabric softener commercial?
When I think of home, I think of a place that always smelled like vanilla or apple candles, with every window in the house thrown open to let crisp air and sunlight stream into every room. There was always at least one dog always underfoot, and classic rock records always played through the speakers of the stereo we my mom bought for my dad as either a birthday or Father’s Day gift. At night, Law and Order reruns were almost always on the TV (unless it was 7 o’clock, in which case, Jeopardy always, always won out, despite my dad’s increasing annoyance with Alex Trebek. Can Anderswoon Cooper just replace him already?), and on the weeknights where we weren’t treating ourselves to Chinese takeout, my mom was usually responsible for preparing something delicious, and she always delivered.
When I reached my 20s, I learned the secret to my mom’s delicious weeknight meals: The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet. It was dog-eared and missing its cover, a well-worn weapon in my mom’s culinary arsenal. She lent it to me briefly before getting sick of my book-hogging tendencies and buying me my own copy, and I returned it with about two dozen Post its marking recipes I wanted to make.
I’m not sure what it is about summer – the sun-soaked time of year that lends itself to bathing suits and other figure-exposing attire – that makes me want to eat heaps and heaps of meat. It’s grillin’ season, and what goes better on a grill than juicy sausages, saucy ribs or cheese-covered burgers? I mean, yeah, vegetable skewers are great and all, but the stars of summer seem to be food that is no friend to a bikini. And it’s not limited to meats – the often mayo-laden cole slaw and potato salads are barbecue staples, and what hot summer night could possibly be complete without some rapidly-melting ice cream? And cold beers?
Now, I know that summer is also the season for great produce – tomatoes and zucchini especially are at their best, especially ’round these parts, and they both are conducive to light, beach-body-friendly meals. Meals which I’ll be making. Eventually.
It always bothers me when I post a recipe I found from some other chef/food blogger’s website (though clearly, not enough to refrain from doing so) because I feel so…un-innovative. I feel like really, all I’m doing is successfully duplicating something that’s already been done. I usually try to tweak things, or take a component from one recipe I’ve found and incorporate it into something else. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, because really, I’m not trying to cash in on anyone else’s successes or claim them as my own. I maintain this website because it’s my own little way of dealing with writer’s block. It’s cathartic, in a way, to be able to come home after a frustrating day and chill out (or swelter, these days) in the kitchen, listen to some good music, take some mediocre pictures and put it all into words.
For years now, I’ve been dealing with seemingly insurmountable writer’s block…or rather, not dealing with it, unless you count staring at a blank notebook saying “well, that idea sucked” then rolling over and going to sleep as dealing with it. I’ve more or less been a writing machine since I decided to pursue a lit degree (and probable cardboard box dwelling) in 2005, but there is a colossal difference between writing for work/school and writing because youlove it and not doing it simply is not an option. I can churn out news and feature articles like it’s my job (because, well, it sort of is), but when it comes to writing for myself? It just doesn’t happen anymore. At least, not like it used to. I can’t necessarily lock myself in my room for days like I did when I was a teenager, emerging with some poem or short story or chapter of a yet-to-be-completed novel, but I can sit at my kitchen table and write about my adventures in the kitchen. That’s really what I’m here for.