Pretty Dishes


The Beginning
January 4, 2010, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have started a blog. (I’m pretty late on the bandwagon, not a trendsetter for sure.) I had been thinking about it for a while and actually created this account at the beginning of August when the title struck me. Then there was a honeymoon, a heavy workload, and the holidays. Now I have some free time to pursue a few interests. This accounts for one.

I plan to use this space as a way to track what I’m cooking, to try out and share recipes I really enjoy, for thoughts on cookbooks and methods and whatnot, but mostly to be accountable for honing my food photography skills. It helps to have this motivating me to put in the time and effort—somewhere I can reference my progress and hopefully get feedback from others.

I’m not an innovator of designer food or an aspiring chef/wannabe food personality. I’m not a foodie who attends underground dinner parties or all the latest restaurant openings. I’m not doing this to get a book deal or a writing gig. I’m pretty much like a lot of other people. I’m a happy homebody who enjoys eating good food. I like to cook, I like food photography, I like to read about food and cooking and photography, and now I guess I’ll be writing on these subjects too instead of just thinking on them.

My experiences in the kitchen really started about ten years ago, when I moved into my first apartment while attending college. Before that I was pretty oblivious to what my parents were doing when they prepared our family meals each night (I was quite the typical self-absorbed teenager). I would occasionally help by shredding cheese or cutting out biscuits or stirring a simmering pot, but that was about the extent of it. We ate hearty homemade meals ideal for families: casseroles, stews, stir-fries, and the like. Vegetables were usually frozen or from a can. Breads were bagged. Junk food was largely nonexistent. We were served balanced meals and never went hungry, but dinnertime wasn’t so much about excellent food as it was about filling bellies and spending time as a family.

This left me a bit lacking when it came time to fend for all meals myself (except for most weekends when I would drive home to get a free one and do laundry, of course). I quickly realized I had no idea how to make anything without very clear written instructions, much less by using my imagination. For quite a while I relied entirely on packaged foods (Kraft macaroni and cheese, Stouffers lasagna, canned soups), in part because I couldn’t afford to experiment with any raw ingredients I might ruin. Going out to eat was a rare but extremely welcome occasion because I could trust that the offerings would be delicious and nothing like what I ate on my own. I liked to eat well, I just didn’t know what I was doing, so cooking wasn’t all that much fun.

I got better with time and practice though, as is often the case, and once I finished school and held a full-time job that allowed for more meals out and better meals in, I started to develop a taste for more quality ingredients and dishes. I still preferred restaurants for the special dishes, but I experimented more at home and branched out into uncharted territory.

It wasn’t until maybe three years ago though that I really came to crave my time in the kitchen. It had become a very calming, pleasurable daily ritual. I think in part it stemmed from exposure to cookbooks and recipes regularly in my career as an editor—I constantly came across new combinations I wanted to try. The more I read and learned the “rules,” the more comfortable I felt putting the techniques into practice. I didn’t go so far as to tackle anything I thought would fail miserably, but I did push myself outside my comfort zone. I got pretty good at piecing together a harmonious menu for an evening and having everything ready at the same time. My confidence grew and so did my skill as a home cook.

Now I savor all the rhythms and the formulas and the way certain flavors marry perfectly. It makes me proud to provide nourishment for myself, my husband, family, friends, and guests, and to be able to do it well. I love putting my time and energy into a preparing a delicious meal from scratch, no matter how short-lived the final product ends up being. Cooking drives me and it inspires me.

And so it begins.

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