Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Year in Food

It's been one whole year since I started this journal to share my love of food and cooking with others. And what a year it's been!

Having grown up surrounded by teachers in my family, I learned early on that you never stop learning until the day you die. So when I come to year's end, I tend to look back and think of what I've learned from my experiences in order to see where I might be headed next.

What have I learned, then, from keeping and sharing this journal with you?

1. It's pretty darn difficult to keep coming up with posts sometimes, especially when I haven't been cooking much. But, as with my yoga practice, sometimes just continuing to "show up" helps me regain my focus, and that discipline does help me stop and appreciate what I'm doing.

2. On a related note, I've found I apparently have an unlimited supply of food puns. Let the groaning commence!

3. I will never be one of the "celebrity" food bloggers, like Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini. I haven't got a digital camera to add photos, I don't have a fancy web design, I don't have a new recipe every day, and I will never have the same kind of traffic on my site. I didn't start this blog with fame as a conscious goal, but being human, I realized that I did sort of want that attention. Now I find I'm much happier keeping this a fairly simple blog that only a handful of people visit, and I truly appreciate the thoughtful comments from my regular Dear Readers.

4. I've reached a point in my skill level where I've gone beyond just tweaking recipes to creating entirely new recipes (well, spin-offs of old ones). Some of these new recipes have been inspired by the other writing I've done this year, and I have been blessed with some very willing taste testers who also helped me critique and improve the recipes. (Big thanks to Spicyflower here!) It astonishes me that I've reached this point in my cooking, and it opens up wonderful realms of possibility.

5. I've tried to learn more about techniques this year so that I can continue creating new recipes. After all, once you know how to make a basic gratin or jam, the possibilities are endless!

6. My reading has led me to think more about general food production and its impact on the environment. I've mused at length about the need to support local food production (especially at the farmers' market) as well as to choose organic produce -- and how to balance the two. I think that, more than anything else, this constant awareness has changed how I eat, both in quantity and quality. And I feel much happier and healthier for it.

7. The other big change in my eating and cooking habits has come from my Granola Girl, who inspired me to move away from using highly refined sugars to baking with sweeteners such as Sucanat, maple sugar, local honey, and local maple syrup. I'm finding that it's helping me use sugar and sweeteners less -- and in a family where diabetes has been a regular problem, that's a good move for me to make.

8. Everything tastes so much better when shared with friends. I knew that already, but it's become even more obvious as I've shared stories from the Dinner Club or other adventures.

9. And speaking of friends, I'm grateful for the new friends I've made and the old friendships that have been strengthened through this sharing of culinary wit and wisdom. I continue to learn from all of you, whether you realize it or not, and I thank you for it.

10. Finally, I have learned what I'm sure generations of cooks before me learned: you learn more and develop your own skills more when you begin to teach and share your knowledge with another person. I am truly blessed to have such a willing, wonderful, and fun "apprentice" in Phoenix, because our cooking lessons have pushed me to think and learn more, to seek out answers, and to try new things. And the joy of seeing someone else share my enthusiasm for good food, from the garden to the plate, is indescribable -- though I'm sure that any parent or teacher knows it well.

So much learned from what seemed like an idle "scribbling" about my annual holiday party when I first began!

Since I've looked back, it only seems right to look forward and dream a little more about what I'd like to do in the coming year. Here's my wish list:

--try drying vegetables for winter storage
--learn how to make pasta
--explore solar cooking
--make new herbal tea blends
--grow other heirloom vegetables (like beans!)
--support the local farmers' market even more
--memorize a few more basic recipes so that I can experiment further
--simplify, simplify!

But above all, I hope to keep sharing these adventures with you and being inspired by you in turn.

Will you join me?

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