Tuesday, October 6, 2009
When I was little, I never dreamed of being a cook. A ballerina, sure, or an actress, but the kitchen had never been part of my plans for the future. I can remember making oatmeal cookies with my mom and helping my dad make chili or chicken and rice (a perennial favorite), but my life really changed when I went to France for the first time when I was 16. This epiphany came in the form of a tiny restaurant in Arles, in the south of France, run by a husband and wife team. She cooked, he did everything else. There were about twenty seats in the whole restaurant, which had stone walls, old wood floors, and worn wooden tables and chairs. We went to dinner around 7:30, early for the French, and closed the place down.
At that point, I was still hesitant about many foods, so I decided to play it safe and order a salad. I don't even remember exactly what was in it, but I remember being astonished by the freshness of all of the ingredients and how each one accentuated and yet blended perfectly with the rest of the flavors. My mother ordered salmon, to this day the most perfect salmon I have ever tasted. Brightly colored and flaky, it melted in your mouth. My dad ordered a steak, cooked perfectly medium. For dessert were profiteroles, small pastry balls filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with a cage of sugar strands. It was the first time I have ever had it, and remains the most memorable.
That trip opened my eyes to the possibilities of food. Since then, I have tried to cook whenever possible and learn as much as I can. Last year I was lucky enough to study for a semester in Bologna, Italy, the birthplace of Parmiggiano Reggiano, balsamic vinagar, prosciutto, and tortelloni. This helped further my education in food, and also sparked an interest in wine, which continued this summer when I worked in a vineyard in Minnesota. Yes, there are vineayrds in Minnesota. Most are small, and all have difficulty with the cold, but there are some surprisingly decent wines that are being produced there.
Cooking, at its base, is about sharing. So that is what I would like to do with this blog -- share my experiences and adventures in cooking (and drinking) with you. As a senior in college on a small and somewhat isolated campus, it can be hard to think of cooking ideas that taste good and are also inexpensive. Additionally, I think that many people, especially college students, don't know a lot about wine and are intimidated to learn. So, I will also try to bring you along on my own education in viniculture and viticulture, concentrating mostly on bottles under $15. For my friends and I, a fancy bottle generally means spending over $10, but there are some surprisingly good wines out there for not very much money if you are willing to look. Of course, every person has their own tastes, but a sense of adventure is essential. If you are willing to venture beyond boxed wine, I don't think you will be disappointed.
For now, I will be posting recipes, reviewing restaurants, and tasting wine. Of course, it always helps to have roommates who appreciate good food and who aren't afraid to try new things. Pairing food and wine is tricky, and takes a lot of expirimentation -- but I'm willing to try.