Two Years: Deep Thoughts and a Return to Favorites

You guys. It’s been two years. TWO YEARS. I can hardly believe it.

I started this project for me, because I love to cook and I love to eat, and the travel aspect was just a way to shake up the menu every week and force me to dive into the unfamiliar. I started with my crappy phone camera, and with no sense of food photography. I had never really read any food blogs, and had no appreciation for how difficult it could be to actually craft a recipe out of a list of ingredients. Turns out, I’ve grown to love the photography bit, and the recipe writing. Little did I know how much I would back then.

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Meatloaf. My first dish and my first picture. How awful looking!

I love the research aspect…because I’m a nerd at heart. I love to read and I love facts and I really love random bits of information. I’m a good trivia teammate in that sense. Not that I in any way claim to be Encyclopedia Britannica or even Wikipedia about the facts that I post, but digging up tidbits does make me a little more conscious of why people of the world eat what they eat, and why maybe I don’t, even living in the land of a thousand grocery stores. For example, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to see kangaroo at my local Safeway anytime soon.

I always get excited when my followers or friends cook what I cook. Orange has been following me around the world, so to speak, almost the whole time, and I always look forward to her weekly updates on kitchen successes and fails. I know that Yam always consults the blog before her weekly shopping trip. I’m flattered, and I love that even if I can’t cook FOR them, they are at least cooking exciting things for themselves.

Yesterday, Licorice sent me an article about cooking. Cooking for others in particular. She laughed and said this lady was the opposite of me. The author details why she hates cooking, hates cooking for others and has sworn off cooking forever. Definitely the opposite of me.

I actually do love to cook, and if the blog has taught me anything it’s that I really just love to cook for myself more than I had originally thought two years ago when this all began. Even if no one is watching, and if no one else is going to eat the meal I just took hours to make. The thought that someone in the cyberworld is going to oogle one of my dishes is just an added bonus and justifies me being insane about food photography and overbuying props and non-matching plates.

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More bad photography. Chocolate Cake, French style

I grew up in a household where cooking was a way to share your love with those you treasured, and it’s something that I have most definitely carried into grown-up hood since I love cooking for others more than I love cooking for myself. I recently discovered Meal Sharing here in Chicago, so every couple of weeks I invite a couple of strangers over for a dinner party of sorts. It’s fun to swap stories and experiences and make new friends. I sort of love it, and one of the things that I love the most about it is introducing people to new food. My first meal share was my Sri Lankan spread, and now 6 more people know about the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine. Two years ago I was like, “Where’s Sri Lanka again?” (P.S. If you’re ever in Chicago and want to come over for dinner, look me up on Meal Sharing!)

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Me at my first Meal Share

I do appreciate, especially after talking to my guests Wednesday night that some people just don’t want to cook. Or don’t’ like to. Or can, but the fear of cooking something bad for people outweighs the joy they get from sharing food they love with people they may or may not know. I think for that, it’s all about overcoming fear. What I think I’ve messed up, others will hardly notice (says me, who forgot to add oil to the salad dressing, but it didn’t’ matter when everyone gobbled it up). I think the other component is I can laugh at the mistakes I make in the kitchen. It’s not rocket science. It’s not curing cancer. It’s not saving the world. It’s food. It’s dinner, and if today’s is bad, tomorrow’s will be better. I’ve definitely made things where half way through eating it been like “oh crap, I forgot to add the gingersnap garnet!” and then kept on eating. I am just not a perfectionist in that sense, but I appreciate that other people are.

My little stream of consciousness soliloquy above is just my reflection the past two years. It’s been tiring, fun, challenging, rewarding, thought-provoking and an overall learning experience. About myself and about food. I look forward to all the years ahead.

With that, the next week is going to be another Return to Favorites: a culinary return to countries whose food I loved, or dishes that have become a mainstay in my house, reinvented with a twist. I hope you enjoy my look back and will join me for all the meals to come!

Morocco: Chicken Tagine

France: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Red Wine Cake

Thailand: Fava’s Pad Thai

Belgium: Waffles, Take Two

American Midwest: Orchard Crumble

Maybe more…so many favorite places.

Cheers!

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