Thursday, April 15, 2010

0 Let's Play "Cook Around the World"

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You might have noticed that this blog is fairly diverse in terms of recipe categories and international cuisines. In fact, you could say that I'm cooking my way around the globe, and that the recipes I post here are a reflection of those journeys. Although my travels have influenced my cooking to a great degree, of course I'm not necessarily talking about literal journeys. It's more of a metaphor. Even if you haven't yet travelled the globe, cooking is one way in which you can "visit" different places without having to pack a suitcase. :)

My motto is, "Life is short, so why only eat hamburgers or mac & cheese?" ;) (Or alternatively, as I wrote in one of my Yelp reviews, "Life is too short to consume bad food & drink." Either one pretty much sums up my attitude about food. :) )

Sometimes I write a recipe because it's an old favorite I'd like to share, and other times I cook and write recipes to explore. While I've both tasted & cooked a wide variety of cuisines, there are also some dishes I cook precisely because I've never made or tasted them before.

You can blame it on my curious and often impatient Gemini nature; I can barely stand in one place for too long, let alone cook the same thing in the same week or even in the same month. There has to be something new to catch my fancy. I require constant newness and excitement. :)

Also, there has to be a challenge in it somewhere, or I'm just not gonna hang around for very long. By the time I've cooked one thing or mastered a new technique, I'm already moving on to something new.  For me, it's all about continual learning and improvement. If the mind isn't being stimulated in some way, I find it hard to stay interested. It's not necessarily that I get bored easily but rather that I can't stand making something if there's no progression or lesson in it somewhere. Translation: I don't retread old ground. Been there, done that; time to move on & do something new.

By the same token, I don't do ordinary. :)  But that's probably already patently obvious from the recipes displayed on this blog.

Recently, a friend of mine jokingly said to me, "So what's wrong with a hamburger?" Nothing. Nothing at all. I like a hamburger every now & then, just like a lot of other people. Now, admittedly, I don't recall the last time I'd consumed 'said hamburger,' but nonetheless, I do enjoy eating them. :) (If you haven't noticed, I've been on a cooking spree as of late, testing out the many new recipes I've recently created, so we haven't been going out all that often.)

Actually, I did have a spicy black bean burger the other night for dinner, but I'm sure that technically doesn't count in his mind. :) If you're going by the strictest definition, burger = actual meat products. Haha.

The thing is if I'm going to list a hamburger recipe on this blog, it's not going to be comprised of just "meat and some seasoning." :) It's going to be a gourmet hamburger with fresh herbs and spices, and a little something extra to captivate one's interest; there has to be a special little twist somewhere in the recipe; otherwise, why post something here that's already been done before?! I gotta stay true to my promise of "100% original recipes," right?! :) Anyhow, creativity is all about the new and the original.

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As most of you surely know by now, I like to make things from scratch using only fresh ingredients. Processed foods aren't in my repertoire. And likewise, you will rarely, if ever, see a processed food item listed as a recipe ingredient on this blog.

Some people might think that that's being a tad masochistic or extreme, but I'd disagree. To me, it's worth it to put in the effort and eat something fresh and tasty. Moreover, it's healthier.

Sure, there are some nights when the only thing I'm inspired to cook is a boiled egg, but at least that boiled egg is a whole food that's 100% fresh. ;)

However, lately I've been feeling excited once more about cooking, so I'm gonna go with it, that is, until I run out of steam and start making boiled eggs again for dinner. :) I'm gonna ride this wave of inspiration for all it's worth!

I'm sure there are a lot of people who probably think I'm insane for eating & cooking this way, (no, scratch that, actually, I know this, because there are people who've already expressed this to me!), but let me say it again: I'm gonna do my own thing, and they can do theirs. :)

And, as I said before, I don't really think I'm all that extreme. It's not like I'm advocating that people go on some nutty meal plan where they only eat grapefruits & eggs all day, or go on one of those all-protein or all-carb diets. Now those people are insane, not me. :)

Healthy eating is about proper nutritional balance and common-sense eating behaviors. To my mind, it's also about eating as many fresh, whole foods as possible, and also limiting the number of harmful chemicals I put into my body. The body is a temple, and all of that.

While I don't need external validation to reinforce my point of view, it's nice to know that there are others who get what I'm trying to do here and also on my running blog. I've never hidden the fact that I'm here to push the envelope and introduce new ideas, not to keep doing the same boring thing over and over again until I & everyone else around me wants to scream. Dogs chase their tail around in circles, not humans. :)

Comfort zones aren't locked into place; at one point, those foods and behaviors that we now call our "comfort zone" were once new to us. They only became that way over time, because we allowed them to enter our circle of contentment. As I get older, I notice that this circle has grown larger, not smaller. I have learned to accept more new things into my life, not less. I realize that this probably goes against the "aging stereotype," but I'm OK with that. My sister and I used to joke that we'd be the sort of grannies who'd be hotrodding around in red Porsche 911's at age 80. :) I don't plan to start acting "old" as I get older, nor do I plan to make the same meal every Tuesday. No thanks. Think I'll stick to the current menu -- variety & excitement, done with a youthful outlook & a unique style that's all my own. :)

Another reason why the recipes on this blog are so diverse is that, as I write my cookbook, I'm consciously thinking about how to set my cookbook apart from all of the other cookbooks already out on the market. I figure that if I can provide recipes that are not only original and unique, but also showcase some of the "less commonly known" dishes, that this cookbook will truly present something new to its readership.

This is also why I'm attempting to include as many different regional and (inter)national cuisines as possible, both here on this blog and in the cookbook I am currently writing.

While I generally try to write recipes which are amenable to the average American palate, I do realize that sometimes some of these recipes and/or cuisines might not always be familiar or accessible to some. If you haven't realized by now, that's actually the point. :) I want people to discover new and unfamiliar things here, and to get excited about making & eating something that they might not have tried before. This blog serves as both a recipe respository, and as an introduction to cuisines of different lands and cultures.

I'll admit it, there are also times when I don't necessarily want to think about whether or not the recipes I create are accessible. I don't want to do the mundane or the expected; I want to be daring and go off the deep end. I want to create novel and unusual recipes that I want to eat, even if nobody else does. :) Maybe there will be a few brave souls that will come along with me for the adventure, but if not, I'm honestly not too worried about it. It'd be impossible to please everybody, so I'm not going to even try. Regardless, playing it safe isn't an option. :)

On that note, there are times when I have literally no idea what I'm going to write or create next, and frankly, that's the way I like to do things much of the time, because it keeps things fresh & exciting, and also keeps me on my toes. I often create recipes from the top of my head; sometimes these recipes are for dishes that already have a given name (like caponata, etc.) and then sometimes I make up names for completely new dishes that have no existing precedent. Creating names out of the blue is a real blast; I have so much fun naming the different dishes. :)

Sometimes, I've got a basic outline for a recipe -- i.e., ideas I've scratched out on paper before I enter the kitchen, a general list of possible, future recipe ideas, or a list of recipe requests that are generated by way of the various recipe challenges I've posted on this blog, etc. -- but most of the time I'm just winging it.  The more spontaneous the better. :)

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