This is my entry for challenge #1 of Project Food Blog: describe who I am as a food blogger.
Maybe a good place to start is my cookbook shelf.
After all, wouldn’t you agree that a person’s cookbook collection speaks volumes(!) about who they are in the kitchen?
And it’s only fair, really. Because if you ever invite me to your home, I guarantee that you will lose me somewhere along the house tour, doubling back only to find me nosing around your own shelf of cookbooks. Not only will I be drooling (not literally!) over the books you have that I don’t, I’ll also be finding out things I’m dying to know about you. Are you addicted to a certain cuisine? Do you have a favorite celebrity chef? Are you a sous-vide fanatic? I love noting how one person’s copy of the Zuni Cafe cookbook is stained and tattered while at someone else’s house, it’s the Momofuku that’s been most heavily used. That is, unless you’re my sister in which case all books, in heavy rotation or not, are in mint condition because that’s just how she rolls.
While I’m waiting for that invitation to your house to arrive (so I can poke around your stuff – now you know), let’s get back to the topic at hand. As you can see, I don’t have a particularly grand collection or even claim to own all the classics. But one glance at those cookbooks and the diagnosis is pretty clear: when it comes to cooking, I have a rather bad case of wanderlust.
I love discovering and writing about recipes from around the world for the simple fact that I’m insanely curious about how people eat well on modest means without resorting to fast food and frozen dinners. You might have heard of cucina povera, especially in the vicinity of trendy Italian restaurants these days. That’s probably the most accurate term for describing the recurring theme on this blog, except I’m co-opting an Italian term to describe a worldwide phenomenon.
Cultures all around the globe excel at turning humble ingredients into glorious meals, everything from decadent curries to colorful noodles to hearty bowls of stew. Even within our borders, there are fine examples of cucina povera in the comforting dishes of the South and Cajun/Creole cuisine. Nothing’s more exciting to me than learning how to feed ourselves modestly yet deliciously using tricks from food cultures near and far, sharing those lessons with you through this blog, and all the while giving humble cooking the props it deserves!
Let me tell you another reason I love to write about food. It has to do with one gorgeous bowl of soup called sup tulang.
During a solo work trip to Singapore, I wandered by a food stall selling this exact thing, although at the time, all I knew about this thing was what I had seen on Anthony Bourdain’s show. Two men were working behind the counter, one constantly stirring the giant cauldron of flaming red soup as the other took my order. When I sat down with my paper plate, strangers immediately began to offer tips as it was painfully obvious I was a tulang newbie. Someone from a nearby juice stand presented me with a fat straw and told me I should use it to suck the marrow out from the bone. A mother with two kids from the next table scoffed at the very idea and told me to simply suck on the bone like a straw. It dawned on me that I was re-enacting the exact scene from Bourdain’s show right then and there. Even minus the cameras and television crew, a humble dish like this – it’s just a soup with mutton bones, people – had the magical power to connect me with total strangers in other countries.
So food, it turns out, is always common ground. That’s the other reason why I love food, why I love to write about it, and why I think you’ll like reading about it.
And just maybe, after a while, you’ll find that culinary wanderlust can be a very contagious thing.