Sunday, December 29, 2013

a year in review: or i'm baaaack!

One year.  One whole year.  To the goddamn day.

The unexpected and unplanned twelve month hiatus from blogging has proved to be terribly enlightening.  This past year has exposed me to new, exciting, and mainly uncomfortable and anxiet-inducing experiences, that have sparked personal growth and change, which has spilled over into my cooking.  I started working as a server at brewpub, a job which requires you to be social and interact with strangers, putting a fairly substantial crack in the shell of social anxiety I had been retreating into.  It also revealed the back of house world and gave me the opportunity to learn from real chefs...mainly by skulking around the kitchen and bugging them about how certain things were made.

On top of working a full-time job, I also became primary cook at home.  Instead of making the occasional elaborate dinner with homemade pastas and port-wine reductions, my dishes became simpler and more efficient time and money wise, but I still strove to keep them healthy, fresh, and full of flavor.  I got to the point where when I ate something at a restaurant or saw a recipe or technique used on one of the many cooking reality shows I watch regularly, I could take it, put a little spin on it or tweak it in a way that I could use it in my weeknight dinners.  I'm always looking for something in others' food that will spark the excitement in me, which I then translate into creation and experimentation tested on the very brave and willing members of my family.  Even though I wasn't writing about my food this year, I became a bit of an Instagram-whore, posting pictures of almost every dinner plate and breakfast smoothie.  While the amount of photos might be on the verge of obnoxious, it helped me hone my food photography skills, especially in terms of plating - I can thank the chefs at my restaurant for that, too.  My family has even become experts, knowing which plates look best with which foods and that they can't start eating until I'm sure I got the best picture with the best plate.

This year, much of my inspiration came from travel.  In May, I was in New Orleans with my family and a few weeks ago spent two weeks in Germany and a little bit of that time in London - the latter trip was personally incredibly challenging, but an experience that I wouldn't do any differently looking back.  Both trips were spent mainly eating and drinking, taking in the flavors and soul of the respective cultures (I ate blood sausage in both Germany and London, something that honestly freaked me out and thought I would never ever try, but I did and it turned out to be ridiculously delicious, though it probably won't become a regular dish on my table).  My food-spiration came from some pretty surprising places, like being exposed to the best Asian food I've ever encountered in a small Korean restaurant in Dortmund, Germany on Thanksgiving Day.  When I got home from that trip, I told my family I was going to make them a dish that embodied my time spent there, and then served them a big bowl of miso soup with udon noodles, they were quite confused.

My year off provided me quite a bit of time for self-reflection, in which I realized that cooking is something I want to do.  All the time.  I need cooking and food in my life in some capacity, and at what capacity that'll be I still don't know, but I'm not in too much of a rush to figure my life out at this point.  But I want to make moves, take a leap, put myself out there, and do something.  So here we are.  I'm back, dread&butter has gotten a little update, a fresh start.  I'm just excited to share my food and to see where it takes me.

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