Thursday, July 30, 2009

the story

work day
i really, really do not like having my picture taken. but recently, at work - after desperately trying to complete a project like a normal person, (you know, one who maybe sits in her chair) i plopped on the floor, trying to get a better handle on the situation. 45 minutes later, victorious and proud, i got up, dusted off my pants and found this picture, sent to my phone by someone watching me wade through and figure it out for myself. i could get behind it. 

this picture has nothing to do with cooking. and everything to do with a moment that for some reason - some reason that i'll probably ever be able to explain - i'm proud of unknowingly creating.

i've never been very precise or especially composed, never really been able to cut crisp squares of cookie bars or magazine-ready slices of cake, or been able to drizzle plates with sauce in a way that looks natural.

but i've always loved to cook.

it started when i was very little, perched on the kitchen counter next to my mom, begging to stir cookie doughs and to create my own recipes for my family to enjoy (like sprite, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon). luckily, my mother let me help and my creations became somewhat more palatable, if not necessarily, more practical. example: the summer between sophomore and junior year of college, i turned my mom's kitchen into a candy factory, making batch upon batch of chocolate-dipped double pretzel sticks, sure that i was onto something and that this is how we would make our millions.

instead, two and a half years later, i put my journalism degree to good use, working at a women's magazine and, by a stroke of luck, in the food department. after years of learning from the in-house test kitchen and researching & writing an amazing amount of genius* and sometimes useless** food tips, i decided - through several unfortunate, influential and, obviously, life-changing situations and events - to attend culinary school. i left the magazine to pursue a slightly different food-involved path, but after several months, realized that i missed writing. enter, not lazy. rustic.

*it's all relative. but it's true that i'll always be stocked with the perfect ways to unmold tarts, bundt cakes, jello molds and cupcakes. plus, i can stop ice cream from leaking out of a cone with a marshmallow, tell you how to prevent a fruit pie from weeping, keep your poached eggs from fraying, your scrambled eggs from toughening, your brown sugar from clumping and ensure that the breading stays on your breaded cutlets.
** i can also tell you to keep your pasta from clumping by stirring it regularly in the boiling water and that you should slice onions next to a lit candle...

the i've said, i don't think i'm applying for a food styling position anytime soon. but, that doesn't mean that i can't cook, don't have interest in fresh, interesting foods or that the pasta i spoon not-so-beautifully into a bowl doesn't taste very good. once i came to grips with this, calling myself rustic - and truly believing in rustic cooking, rustic dishes and the rustic style - i found a way to get through culinary school without crying (in every class). then, one day, when we were making pasta and one of my classmates looked like he had cut his butchered strands with a machete, he told our frustrated chef that his noodles were not messed up, but were, in fact, rustic. he stole my line. and, he had clearly messed up. there's no such thing as rustic, just lazy, our chef answered back. but, as someone who spent several hours each evening of the first six weeks of culinary school trying to dice potatoes to perfectly match a 1/2" plastic cube, i don't agree.

and as for everything else...the way i see it, food means very little without a story and i am nothing if not a very involved story teller. so many of my recipes have rich, eccentric and sometimes unclear paths, involving my family, friends, work life and past. there's no way i could leave those pieces out and still tell you about a recipe.

i can be reached at notlazyrusticATgmailDOTcom.