. . . and I am an ingredient geek.
It all started when I got my first apartment. My mom took me shopping and outfitted the tiny kitchen in my small one-bedroom apartment with all the cookware, appliances, and utensils I needed, along with a small collection of basic herbs and spices. Then she filled my refrigerator and cupboards with ingredients, left me a book of family recipes and a few beginner cookbooks and promised she would only be a phone call away, just in case.
I used that number and I phoned often, with questions about ingredient substitutions, requests for old family recipes, and advice on various cooking-related problems. Once I understood how to frantically wave a pillow at the smoke detector while perching on a wobbly Ikea stool in order to prevent a mandatory evacuation of my seven-floor apartment building due to burnt cookies, I felt like I was really starting to get the hang of this cooking thing. I eventually became even more adventurous and stocked my kitchen with ingredients I had never seen in my childhood pantry. The discovery of my love for Thai food launched my obsession with Asian ingredients. Likewise, my best friend Melissa’s vegetarianism turned me on to tofu, falafel, and lentil burgers.
As I broadened my culinary horizons, I not only started cooking with new ingredients, but I found myself engaging in extensive research about their origins and uses. I began to amass a vast knowledge of random trivial facts about various foods and cultures. When I started to explore vegetarianism in late 2007 and ultimately cut meat from my diet entirely, I became even more adventurous with flavors, ingredients, and food pairings. These days I am overjoyed to find a new fresh fruit or vegetable from the farmers market on Saturday morning. I start to research before the produce even makes it out of my “I’m on an eco trip” reusable shopping bag. My new find is usually on the dinner table before the start of the work week, and while the food isn’t always perfect, it’s also never boring.
Five years and one month since I moved into my first apartment, I still call Mom for advice, but now I find myself giving her tips and educating anyone who will listen about whatever it is they are cooking or eating. For the sanity of my friends, family, and coworkers, who may soon grow tired of my chattering on about my latest culinary adventures, I have decided to use this as an outlet for my ingredient geekery. One caveat: I am not a chef, and I am certainly not a food photographer, so if you are looking for an expert, visit one of those glossy and insightful food blogs that I also love so dearly. Here you can expect to find wilted vegetables, spotty wineglasses, and pillows being frantically waved at smoke detectors. . . with the ocassional and unexpected delicious dish.