Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm Blogging! A Little About Me and How the "Fare to Remember" Blog Came to Be

This blog is the result of a year-long cookbook project that I worked on with my good friend, Carolyn Hindes. The response to the book was pretty enthusiastic, and it became obvious that people may be hungry for more (I was getting requests for Volume II before the first book was even completed!). My qualifications to blog about food? Virtually nil. But I love to cook, love to eat (even though I admittedly have a love/hate relationship with food!), and am surrounded by friends and family members with similar interests and talents. We are unabashed foodies. I am fortunate enough to live in Northern California, where fresh, seasonal, local, organic and sustainable ingredients are readily available, and world-class restaurants are at my door; it has made me acutely aware of what good food is, and how to appreciate it. And living in Napa Valley doesn't hurt either - everything is better with a glass of wine!

But I suppose my love of all things culinary started long ago, when my most-adventurous cook of a mom would prepare exotic meals from scratch at home. We were eating spicy Mexican food and sizzling Asian creations long before anyone in my casserole-and-jell-o-salad suburban Utah neighborhood knew what a taco or a samosa was. From her, I learned the value of a garden (what I would give for my childhood raspberry patch!), the importance of variety, and the spirit of adventure and experimentation in the kitchen - even if I didn't know it at the time. She encouraged trial and error, and more than accommodated my culinary ambitions.

One of my earliest memories (albeit not necessarily a good one) - was when I was just a toddler, and reached for a spoon on the stovetop where my mom was making candy of some sort. The spoon flipped hot molten sugar onto my face, burning me on the cheek. My catchphrase became "Burn-A-Face!" But, the episode didn't scar me - literally or figuratively - and I've been reaching for the stove ever since.

I'll never forget my first published recipe: I was in kindergarten, and it was in a school cookbook. I contributed an original meatloaf recipe. It wasn't an eloquent recipe (wasn't much of a writer at 5), but vividly remember several adults in my life chuckling over my basic instructions (along the lines of "crack an egg, squish it with the hamburger, bake it in the oven"). As a youngster, I didn't realize everyone wasn't comfortable improvising behind the stove or manning a grill; it had just always been a matter of course for me. So it was inevitable that I was always the one to assume the role of cook - whether it was whipping up after-school snacks or dreaming up dinner party menus. As such, my friends knew I was a foodie long before I ever did. The gifts I would receive even as a teen were food-related, from those who recognized that my affinity for making and enjoying good food was closer to my heart than most other things. (Honestly - who gets a 16 year-old a salad spinner or a cast iron Dutch oven? My friends - that's who!)

And I suppose that if you poke around my resume a bit, I do have a pint-sized history of food writing. While in college, I was the Food and Features Editor of a local community newspaper, "The Cache Citizen" (now defunct, sadly!) - a position that suited me perfectly! While my more investigative journalist-type peers filled the food pages with in-depth reporting (Salmonella: Can It Happen To You?), I gravitated toward the really juicy subjects (Edible Flowers: Pretty AND Tasty!).

But it wasn't until I moved to the Bay Area that my appreciation for food became anything more than half-baked. For visiting friends and family, farmer's markets and restaurants became just as important to show off as the Golden Gate Bridge. Courtesy of a volunteer role with Marin Ballet, I got to know a great many of the Bay Area's most prominent and talented chefs through their "Great Chefs in Great Homes" fundraiser. It became my privilege and passion to watch these chefs work, taste their glorious creations, glean from them a few tricks of the trade, and make relationship that garnered me access to their kitchens. Add in my husband, Randall's, restaurant and food connections (he works in the wine industry) - and my life very quickly became surrounded by fantastic food and wine on all sides.

It was through "Great Chefs in Great Homes" that I started photographing food, and developing an eye for what makes a compelling food photograph. I'm still working on it, but with this blog, I hope that my food photography and styling continues to get better, as it already has after spending a year on the "Fare to Remember" cookbook.

And speaking of the photography - I really have no qualifications in that department! I just like to think I have a good eye, and get lucky most of the time. I certainly am not a technical photographer by any means - talk of F-stops and aperture settings is largely lost on me. But I know what I like, and will work hard to see my vision materialize. What I can guarantee is that my photos don't rely on any of the food styling tricks that some photographers employ - what you see is what you get; hopefully, I will do justice to the many recipes that will grace this site.

And speaking of recipes, my weakness in the kitchen is baking. Anyone that knows me, knows that I don't bake. I'm not a dessert freak, so I've never been compelled to bake. Couple that with the fact that I grew up with a very talented baker (my sister, Kendra) and my reasons for taking up baking were few and far between. And all the measuring - I just don't have the patience! So, any of the baking that appears on this blog will undoubtedly be done by someone else, and certainly the recipes will be contributed by others. So, if you see a conspicuous lack of baked goods here, I apologize in advance, but will always welcome submissions!

So welcome to the "Fare to Remember" blog - please subscribe! (It's easy - just follow the instructions at the top of this page, right hand side.) I encourage you to leave your comments in the spaces provided at the end of each article - your feedback will be most appreciated! Let me know what you think of the posts, give your suggestions for future articles, and comment on your own success with any of the recipes. And, as mentioned, send me your submissions! I want your recipes to share - so if you've got a winner, send it my way.

Thanks everyone - here we go!

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