Monday, February 8, 2010

beginnings


kate (brooklyn)

Chocolate is my weakness, my first true love; a powerful force in my life. I always considered myself more of a baker than a cook, as the kitchen would usually end up in chaos and stickiness after I attempted to make something new. My mother or grandmother always saved me a spoon to lick or better yet, the bowl. To this day, it's one part of baking that I secretly look forward to. Whether it was in my little Easy Bake Oven or making a late-night treat in our apartment, I just couldn’t say no.

I also couldn’t imagine my life without pizza. Yes, I know it might sound silly. But I have so much love for a good pizza. Maybe it's also the memories that involve a good pie. Saturday night had always been our family pizza night growing up. I remember, as a young child, waiting for my dad to come back with a fresh pie from Little Nippers while I sat at my little miniature wooden table in our living room watching Solid Gold. My culinary (well, pizza-making) skills grew in high school after we moved from Pittsburgh to Columbia, South Carolina, and realized that there were no good pizza shops. One night, after a terrible pizza experience from a local place (we found a gigantic roach baked into the cheese), we decided to start making our own. We bought a pizza stone and went to the grocery store every Saturday morning to find fresh ingredients. We each got to make our own pies (as my sister has never liked cheese) and threw the dough high in the air (whether they landed across the room or not).

Over the next couple of years, as I left home and went to college and moved to and from various places, I met people who changed the way I will forever think about food. My cousin, Cindi, showed me the warmth that a good meal brings when it's enjoyed around family and friends and my then-to-be husband, Branden, showed me that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring and actually tastes and makes you feel good. I feel like I carry little bits of these people into the kitchen with me whenever I embark on a new recipe or setting up the table for a dinner with friends.

I know it’s not always easy or practical to sit down to a big meal or to find something healthy or good to eat. The other day I accidentally brought a foil-wrapped package of bacon with me to work (thinking it was a left-over slice of pizza). I had just returned from taking a group of 6 and 7 year olds on a field trip to MoMA and had only 5 minutes before my next class. Starving and annoyed, I microwaved two pieces and ate them so I wouldn’t pass out while I worked on papier-mâché samurai helmets with a group of 8-year-old boys.

However, when I do have time, it’s one of the ways I love to bring the people who are important to me together. Cooking is a way I show love. It’s also something special I do for myself. I love cranking up the music in the kitchen and singing along while I chop or stir. It’s like my own little choreography. I don’t always have the time to cook…it takes a lot of work: you have to plan and take the time to shop and clean up after you’re done. Things usually don't go as planned...but that makes the kitchen exciting and fun.

I hope to have more adventures in the kitchen and beyond while writing this blog with Kristen and dive into the experiences that food brings to me and the people I care about. After all, what is the point of a good meal if you can't share it with anyone?

(Kate's photos l to r: Tearing apart the kitchen with my dad; Getting ready to eat a lobster in Maine last summer)


kristen (beacon)

Mushrooms! I woke up with a start in the middle of the night recently and realized I am head over heels in love with these things I've wanted nothing to do with for as long as I can remember. Nothing about mushrooms was ever appealing to me. Then, I tasted fresh ones. Not from a can. Or a jar. Not slimy or flavorless. But earthy and nutty and rich. And everything changed.

Little breakthroughs like that are happening more and more often and are quickly becoming the theme of my evolution from picky and timid eater, to open-minded and eager culinary adventurer.

Food used to exist in my world solely as a means of sustenance. I didn’t give it much thought, and certainly didn’t think much about where it came from. For a few years in high school, I only ate carrots for lunch. During my first year in New York City when I worked in a restaurant and barely had enough money to even get to work, the dinner rolls I would swipe from the restaurant’s kitchen would often be the only food I would eat all day. I didn’t even know how to brew a pot of coffee, much less make a healthy, satisfying meal for myself.

And then I met PJ. On one of our first dates, he made an onion frittata for me. I had no idea what a frittata was; all I knew was that it tasted like a little bit of heaven. On another date, he made risotto with watercress and green grapes. Swoon! Then, honest-to-goodness biscuits, cut with a Mason jar and baked in a cast iron skillet. They tasted just like South Carolina. Those were just the first of many palate-changing meals PJ cooked for me. Finally, one snowy New York City night, I worked up the nerve to cook for him. I made the only dish I had a recipe for: my mom’s hearty vegetable soup. The simple act of cooking for myself, and him, was extraordinarily satisfying. For the first time, I felt like an adult, because that soup had not come from a can. I was hooked. He, and food, won my heart.

With this blog, I hope to continue that journey I began all those years ago with the vegetable soup. Perhaps Kate and I will finally learn how to use chopsticks and develop a taste for Brussels sprouts. If I can fall in love with mushrooms, anything is possible.

(Kristen's photos l to r: Feeding my baby brother, Ryan; Picking blackberries at Fishkill Farms near Beacon)


11 comments:

BPJC said...

YAY!

Anonymous said...

Cheers! What a good start. Julie and Julia (is that what it's called?) was my intro to food blogging. I fell asleep in the middle, but it was a nice story. Cooking makes me feel like a special kind of animal, and since I rarely do it, I'll live vicariously through you two.

Heidi said...

I love your blog project Kate and Kristen! Looking forward to adventures in BBLand! Heidi

Sarah said...

Have you tried brussel sprouts sliced in half, then roasted with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper? That is what made me love them.

iwei said...

Kate, running out of the house with "a foil-wrapped package... thinking it was a left-over slice of pizza" is so you - absolutely charming and definitely hungry. Love the blog post and look forward to reading more!
Hugs,
iwei

Kate and Kristen said...

Sarah, we will definitely be trying Brussels sprouts your way! Thanks so much for the tip!

Jannine said...

Congratulations, ladies! I thorougly enjoyed your first post. I also enjoy my brussel sprouts cooked the way Sarah described. I believe it's a recipe shared by the amazing Ruth Reichl in her book Tender at the Bone. In fact, you guys would LOVE her books! They're her ode to food, cooking, life and love.

Kate and Kristen said...

We *heart* Ruth! (And just heard they're making a film version of "Garlic and Sapphires!")

tara said...

So fun and creative! Great job ladies! :)

Carron said...

I love it! Kristen, could you tell us how to make those biscuits?

Kate and Kristen said...

Hi Carron!

The recipe was for Buttermilk Baking Powder Biscuits from "The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook." But instead of baking them on a baking sheet, he baked them on a very well greased cast iron skillet. (Oh, and I think cutting them out with a Mason jar instead of a fancy biscuit cutter makes them taste more authentic somehow.)

Here is a link to the recipe:

http://recipes.chef2chef.net/recipe-archive/52/277843.shtml

Kristen