Friday, September 17, 2010

An Epiphany

Welcome. I've been thinking about starting this blog for a while now, but have been dithering because I didn't really know where to start until recently, because I couldn't quite figure out what my food-blogger identity should be.

I had always been interested in food (well, who isn't, right... but I mean beyond the everybody-has-to-eat level), had been a casual fan of Iron Chef, and had puttered about the kitchen at various times in my life, but I wouldn't have described myself as a foodie of any stripe. Then a few years ago I was bedridden for about a week with whooping cough (ask your doctor about updating your vaccination, by the way; you do not want this), and at some point during that week I stumbled onto a season-so-far marathon of Top Chef Season 2 episodes on Bravo.

I was hooked. Before long, I was watching every cooking competition show I could find — Iron Chef America, Next Food Network Star, Next Iron Chef, Top Chef Masters, Chopped, even Worst Cooks in America — along with noncompetition shows like Alton Brown's Good Eats and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. I started putting cookbooks and kitchen gear on my lists for every gift-giving occasion. I bought an ice-cream maker.

For years I'd been growing hot peppers in a tiny garden patch in my yard, and occasionally pickling the meager yield or making jelly; now I added tomatoes and cucumbers, and containers of herbs on my deck. From listening to Rachel Maddow on her old Air America radio show, I'd become fascinated with cocktails, and had acquired bar tools and stocked the liquor cabinet. I'd dabbled in homebrewing decades ago in college, and now I purchased gear to try it again.

But I still wasn't cooking. In theory, I'm an amateur cook and mixologist and brewer and... but it's all just theory; in fact, what I really am, so far at least, is a food voyeur. Not only do I not cook, I don't even really eat: Though my wife and I eat out a lot, we don't manage to go to real fine-dining restaurants very often.

All this crystallized for me a few days ago. I'd been out running errands and listening to the audiobook of Bourdain's Medium Raw, and when I got home, I sat down to prep some of my jalapenos for canning. By chance, I'd just heard Bourdain's paean to the artistry of the fish prep chef at Le Bernardin, and here I was hacking through my peppers with all the subtlety of a weedwhacker. I mean, the closest thing I have to a "knife skill" is the ability to (usually) avoid cutting any part of myself off. I felt silly even trying.

But then it dawned on me: Of course I'm a hacker; what else would I expect to be. The fellow Bourdain so praised was a trained professional, and had been honing his art at one of the best restaurants in the country for a couple decades. It was stupid in the extreme of me to make that comparison at any level, even in a fleeting passing thought.

And it further dawned on me that I haven't been cooking much because, subconsciously, I know I can't cook like the people I watch on TV. And I don't go to fine restaurants because I know I don't have the palate of Bourdain or his friend Eric Ripert or the hosts and judges on the shows I watch.

Well so what? Of course I can't, and don't. It's been silly of me to let that hang me up. So now I'm going to just frickin' cook... or at least I'm going to try to. And I'm going to write about it here, along with anything else that pops into my head that has to do with food and drink. Maybe a few folks will come along for the ride.

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