Saturday, December 29, 2012

100th Post!

Today is my 100th blog post.  I'm so exited that it falls right at the end of the year, because it's a perfect time to reflect on the past 99 posts and to look forward to what is to come in 2013.  I started the blog on a whim and I wanted to prove to myself that I could post on a consistent basis before I rewarded myself with some necessary blog items.  One of which is a new camera, which I am happy to say, is already in use on this blog (I hope you can tell a difference, I certainly can).  As you know, cooking is a huge part of this blog.  My husband gave me two very thoughtful gifts this Christmas that are going to greatly influence The Starving Artist, and represent for me how I feel about food and about cooking in general.  So today, in place of a food post (which honestly I don't have because I've been sick), I thought I would wax poetically about these two cookbooks and what they mean to me and to the future of this blog.

Food is the ultimate gift.  What do you take someone who has lost a loved one?  A casserole.  What do I do when my husband has had a bad day? I make a delicious meal.  At this time of year, I think we can all appreciate how special the food that we make and that people make for us really is.  We all look forward to something: for me, it's my mom's dressing and my grandmother's quiches.  And I was so happy that this year, I could contribute.  I made a chocolate cake for Christmas, and the best feeling in the world is not having any leftovers.  How satisfying is that?  Perhaps next year, someone will look forward to my chocolate cake.  Food brings us together, but it also connects us to people we have lost and the generations that have come before us.  I love hearing my dad talk about his grandmother's homemade anything/everything.  These conversations about her biscuits, candy and fatback (yes, I said fatback) can go on for hours if left unchecked.  Also, in a time of excess, where anything we could possibly want to eat is either in the frozen food section or in a box (just add water!), cooking hearkens back to a time when people made more out of less.  I like to think about who the first person was to ever make bread.  Did he/she have any idea what they had done?!  That this weird process would change the world?  People have eaten by the work of their hands and the sweat off their backs, and manipulated humble ingredients into miracles since the dawn of time.  When we cook, we are connected to them.  We follow in their footsteps.  But we also understand how much we have.  Cooking makes us grateful.

Now, let me be clear, I am not a good cook.  This blog isn't about that.  It's not about showing off how awesome I am in the kitchen, because I'm not.  I flub up all the time.  But I do want to be a good cook.  Like.......really badly.  I want to know how to make everything.  I have weird fantasies about working on a dairy farm and learning how to make cheese (know any that are hiring?).  Olie got a beer brewing kit for Christmas and I think I'm more excited about it than he is.  I can't wait to finally open that first beer after waiting and waiting and see how it tastes.  I really enjoy the process of making food.  Hence, gift number one:

Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish

I'm so excited/intimidated by this book.  It's not really a cookbook, it's more like a text book.  In this book, Ken Forkish explains the process of making artisanal breads at home.  Now, if you've been following this blog, you will know that I have already made some attempts at this (see here).  But Ken Forkish's book takes this to a whole other level.  I have declared that 2013 will be bread year: by this time next year, I will be making my own high quality, delicious breads at home.

Gift number two: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Another thing you should know about me: I don't cook with recipes.  Baked goods? Yes, of course, but my day-in-day-out meals I just sort of make-up.  This has served me well, up to now.  Now I find myself in a bit of a rut.  Olie and I eat a mostly vegetarian diet (we're not vegetarians, we just like vegetables) and I tend to cook the same vegetables over and over again.  Here comes Plenty.  Plenty has the most insanely delicious looking dishes in it, all of which are vegetarian, a lot of which use vegetables I have never cooked before or even heard of before.  The purpose of this book, is to push me out of my comfort zone and get me cooking things that are completely foreign to me.  Mushroom Ragout with Poached Duck Egg? Oh yeah.  It's on.

So here is why I am telling you all of this.  I have always believed that I can cook and make anything.  I see a recipe and initially get intimidated, but then I remember that people have been cooking since the dawn of time.  It's not really that hard.  In the era of frozen dinners, fast food restaurants, and convenience everything, it's hard to find the reason or will to cook.  I know that I can buy delicious breads at the Kroger bakery, but dammit I want to do it myself!  I hope that this blog will inspire you to get your hands dirty.  To make a mess and clean it up and try again.  Cooking connects us to the ones we love and to our family that has gone before us.  Let's move into 2013 and make some food.


  1. Very well put. But one correction: You are an exceptionally good cook.

    And this morning, they were talking about squirrel/rabbit and gravy.


  2. And I must comment on something which you, as a cook, have inspired me to do. Cook with dried beans.

    It's a small thing I know, but it's salt free, inexpensive and delicious.

    Thanks Starving Artist!

  3. After rereading this post, I was struck by the sentence "Cooking makes us grateful".

    What an astute observation. Cooking should absolutely make us grateful. We must have food in order to survive. And at the end of the day, why do we all really go to work? To put food on our tables, and care for our families. Food, and the task of preparation, is woven into our existence. Thus the wonderful practice of saying grace before a meal.

    A beautiful post. It makes me happy.