Saturday, April 15, 2006

About Me


It's been over a year since I started this blog and I’ve been thinking about it lately: What it's about, why I'm doing it, how it's changed. I'd like to spiff it up a bit. Add more links and information to the side bar. Flesh out the "About Me" bio. Especially the "About Me" bio. It won't happen overnight. You may have noticed that I keep changing the sub heading under my title block (it's not there just now) and fiddling with the “About Me” section in the sidebar. I just can't seem to settle on any one thing that really sums me up.

This morning, as usual, I woke up thinking about my blog (go ahead, call me obsessive). I got onto this long thought about re-vamping the template, which led to the “About Me” bio, which I’ve never been fond of, not actually liking to write about ME per se, only what I like to DO, which is read about cooking, think about cooking, cook what I've read and thought about, and then write about it, which led me full circle to my blog and what to put in the "About Me" section. I've read the bios of other food bloggers and find them clever and well written, giving me a good idea of each blogger's personality. Mine doesn't do that for me. What's there is somehow lacking in spark and fullness, to say nothing of not being clever.

Is cooking all I’m about? (Surely not, she says with some dismay, how one-dimensional.) I mean right now I should be finishing up some bookkeeping, which is what I do for my husband’s business. And yesterday I proofed a new brochure for the school where I do admin and budget work. And I’ve really got to knuckle down and start on the publicity campaign I said I’d do for a local non-profit. Plus I’ve got to clean out my horse’s stall, prune the claws of our “gray beasties” who are happily and willfully shredding the furniture and, if it ever stops raining, mow our rather large expanse of lawn. Then there’s my vegetable garden, which may never get planted because of the rain, and gardening in general, which I'm generally in charge of, on our 2-plus acres. I also read a lot.

So, this morning (remember?) I was sitting in bed sipping the hot tea that my dear husband brings to my bedside table each and every morning (husbands, take note!), thinking, okay, if I'm going to fill out the "About Me" part of my blog, what should I write? Which, somehow, got me to thinking of all the cookbooks I own (173), which got me to thinking about all the food magazines I subscribe to, which got me to thinking of all the dinners and dinner parties I’ve cooked up. Then my eyes fell on the bookcase that’s firmly anchored to one wall of my bedroom and which contains all of my Bon Appetit magazines,


carefully placed in date order and taking up a full four shelves, the sight of which led me to the inevitable conclusion that, yes indeed, a very great part of me really is about food. (In case you're wondering just where I'm going with all this, I'm putting it down in the order I've thought it. Not the best way to write, but my mind doesn't always follow the rules and I'm letting my fingers follow suit. Besides, this is "About Me".)

Intrigued by the sheer volume of my collection, I went to the bookcase and pulled out the first issue. April 1985. Wow! 21 years to the month. That’s, let’s see, 252 issues... and counting. (That I’ve saved every issue and that I’d never for a moment consider getting rid of any of them may say something more about what I’m about, but I’m not going to analyze that just now.)

I'm sure I inherited the cooking gene from my mother, a well-read, witty, funny, smart-as-a-whip woman who was a consumate cross-word puzzler and could make gourmet cuisine out of hamburger. A homemaker and part-time bookkeeper/retail clerk, she could have been an architect, interior decorator, clothes designer, building contractor (my father called her Mrs. Winchester), haute cuisine chef, pastry chef, landscape designer and artist. I use the word "and" on purpose.

I have many of her recipes, handwritten on 3x5 cards, in an old yellow plastic recipe box. She's the one who gave me my first cookbook. I used to sit quietly and watch her in the kitchen as she was cooking. Quietly because she wasn't a verbal teacher and questions or chatter, when she was trying to create, made her nervous. I didn't start cooking until I moved out of the house after high school. Then I made all the recipes I could remember her making. And when I couldn't remember something I'd give her a call. She was pleased to be asked and gave me detailed instructions. Those were '40s and 50's recipes, influenced by the depression in which she grew up: Meat loaf, tamale pie, green bean casserole, spoonbread, chicken pot pie, peach cobbler, ice box cakes. She made pancakes and waffles from scratch and melted butter, honey and cinnamon together for the syrup, something I did for my own boys as they were growing up. She taught herself to decorate cakes for special occasions and for years people in our town begged her to make cakes for them. Wedding cakes, anniversary cakes, birthday cakes, doll cakes, train cakes, flower basket cakes, what she could do was endless. And every holiday season she made a gingerbread house the likes of which I have not seen to this day. Somewhere between us siblings are slides my father took documenting her achievements. If I find a few I'll post them here.

As I grew older I graduated from the Betty Crocker Cookbook to the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, then to the Joy of Cooking and Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. For years, those were the only cookbooks I owned. I always had people over for dinner just because I had cooked up something new and had too much of it. Sharing was and is a big part of why I cook. Then, in 1985, I subscribed to my first magazine devoted not just to cooking, but gourmet cooking - Bon Appetit. Totally overwhelmed by the bewildering and intricate techniques the more gourmet recipes called for, for the first two years I went straight to the "Too Busy to Cook?" section where everyday home cooks sent in time-saving recipes and were lucky enough to get published. This is where I honed my culinary skills, developed a sense for food chemistry and gained enough self confidence to take chances, experiment, soar... Right into the RSVP section in the front of the magazine, where famous chefs share their recipes and one had to know one's brunoise from one's mirepoix.

Well, so far this "About Me" is still all about cooking. Should I tell you that I'm self-taught, never took a hands-on cooking class? That I harbor fantasies of going back to college to major in both English and history while mastering the French language? That I've got a growing itch to hold my yet-to-be-conceived grandchildren? That I own a beautiful, gray Arab mare and haven't ridden her in 2 years because we're both getting older and less sure-footed? That most of my day jobs have been in the non-profit sector keeping busy offices running smoothly? That I've written for, edited and published no fewer than 4 weekly and monthly newsletters over the past 18 years? That I've raised three incredible, wonderful, brilliant, capable, loving, kind, did I say brilliant? boys who are now grown and fledged and that thinking about any one of them instantly warms my heart? That I dream of owning and living in a small house/cottage/barn/I'd-settle-for-hovel in the southwest of France? That I once worked in a restaurant for six months as the soup and appetizers chef and KNEW after the first four painfully difficult hours that it was not the job for me? (That I lasted the full six months should say something about me but, you know, I'm not really into the self-analysis thing.)

I could go on, but after more than twenty-one years, 173 cookbooks, binders overflowing with recipes, notes and dinner menus, subscriptions to
Saveur, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Cuisine at Home and Bon Appetit (the May issue just arrived), I guess I'll have to admit that it wouldn't be at all untruthful to say, "Simply put, She loves to cook; She loves to feed people, But that's not all she's about".
Not a bad phrase for a blog either. But enough about me.