Saturday, 22 January 2011

New Year, New Challenge, New Post

After much consideration, I figured it would be easiest to continue this blog and not create an entirely new one. Besides, the title certainly matches what I have finally determined as this year's culinary challenge (and hopefully one that will extend beyond 2011): simply put, I challenge myself to learn through food.

But first, I'll officially end this new post with something I wrote quite early one morning...a few days ago:

"M.A.'s Revamped Culinary Cooking Challenge (Prelude)"
Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 5:41a.m.

Alongside the schoolweek cast of characters on such shows as "Arthur," "The Magic School Bus," and "Are You Being Served?," the cooks of Saturday afternoon PBS programming were just as influential to me as the others were. I remember Julia Child pounding out the dough, Lidia Bastianich conversing through her Italian flare, Steven Raichlen teaching barbecue techniques, Martha Stewart baking and cooking practically blindfolded, and the folks at America's Test Kitchen perfecting recipes left and right. Granted I didn't think this way "back in the day," or maybe I did?

It was perhaps in the sixth grade when I first stepped foot in the kitchen and cooked on my own, and by "cooked" I mean combined ingredients and transformed them into something new, and by "cooked" I don't mean reheating or relying on pre-packaged or frozen food. My world at the time was particularly scientific and baking was my thing. I'm pretty sure the first thing I made was a chocolate cake. Makes sense.

After a while, I wasn't all into washing the pots and pans and everything else that went along with baking and as a result my "made from scratch" approach stayed out of the oven.

And one day, my interest in food re-emerged. As I look back on it, I think the transition in savory cooking can be attributed to the introduction of the crêpe (and nutella... yum) during my freshman year of French in high school and of escargot my senior year of high school French. Haha, again makes sense.

Transitioning into my college years, culture courses and field trips--which were predominantly Francophone--added to my culinary exposure, the clearest of which was my first-year seminar to Albion's sister city. Subsequent trips (New Orleans, Québec) and visits to cuisine outside of metro Detroit (most notably northern Michigan) continued to spark the connections I now make to food culture (and want to study academically and experience socially).

A recognizable phase of "a return to the kitchen" can be attributed to my residence at Fiske House, and it's apparent in my mind that my semester abroad in South Africa solidified my recognition of food culture (or perhaps even more distinctly food as an identity of a culture). And without a doubt, the cliché phrase of "the joy of cooking" was cemented during my months in Paris. Limited cooking space and outdoor markets undoubtedly influenced my culinary approach, began to test my ability to adapt and be creative, and forced me to think about such staples of the kitchen as mise en place (without knowing that's what I was doing).

Returning stateside, semi-constant cooking (both fun with friends and an escape from senior-related academia), hours upon hours of watching the Food Network (and soon to follow, the Cooking Channel), and on some level nostalgia (for food once tasted but pseudo-successfully replicated), have prompted the desire to continue/reconceptualize the culinary quest.

Today, more or less now on my own, I think I've been missing the food culture I once had-- the fun that comes with it and the connections made through it. But today, I'm at a point in my life that I can begin to cultivate the culinary passion that once was and transform it into something that can be.

And with that, after some success with keeping up food/culinary blogs and challenges, and in the spirit of merging my own culinary journey with others, I begin to craft my revamped culinary cooking challenge for 2011.

Wow, that was random, lol. ...But seriously, the new challenge begins next week!

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