Monday, August 9, 2010


I loved having journals when I was little but I didn't write in them very often. I'd pen a couple of rants at my parents, maybe record some made-up encounters between me and the boy I was obsessed with, and if I felt really inspired, I'd write some acrostics. Then I'd abandon my little diary with the roses and ballet slippers on the cover in favor of something new and Lisa Frank.

The only journal I've been able to consistently maintain, ever, in my 22 years of wannabe journaling, is a busted spiral notebook where I write stuff about food. It used to be my mom's notebook but she tore out her lesson plans from eight years ago and gave the remnants to me. It's incredibly practical. The entries are brief and the sparse narrative is limited to things like "Tonight I put Coors Light and five squirts of ketchup in the chili and it was AWESOME." It's full of wisdom gleaned from my own culinary experiences, such as, "If you plan to watch TV in bed all day you better make these chicken wings!" And it's a lovely chronicle of my life abroad:

"Are you cold all the time? Can you only afford £3 supermarket wine? Dump whatever white wine you have left but can't quite stomach in a pot, heat on the LOWEST possible setting (or the alcohol will evaporate and you'll feel like an idiot), add some honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Delicious! Curl up and watch American TV online!"

Truth be told, I am excellent cook. My culinary inventiveness emerged early- before I could read I was preparing delicacies like Strawberry Juice for my family. To make Strawberry Juice:

-Get some little paper Dixie cups. Your grandparents probably have some in a dispenser next to their bathroom sink.
-Get your mom to cut the stems off some strawberries and put 2-3 of them in each little cup.
-Mash with a fork.
-Dump in some sugar and add some water.
-Mix all that up and serve to your family members!

As soon as I could hold a wooden spoon I was making Kraft macaroni and cheese. With Gramma's help I mastered dump cake, and with Mom's help I mastered Mexican. To make Mexican:

-Layer refried beans, ground beef, and Frito-Lay canned cheese in a baking dish.
-Put a bunch of black olives on top.
-Bake or microwave until nice and melty, and serve with tortilla chips and canned pears.

My parents had no choice but to buy me an Easy-Bake Oven. I lovingly concocted angel food cake and devil's food cake in that thing until the heat lamp busted from over-use. I also began to stray from those prepackaged mixes and create my own recipes. My cocoa-honey-cinnamon cake was weird, but it looked and smelled just like a real cake!

Now quite seasoned in the kitchen*, I make as much from scratch as time will allow. My favorite things to cook depend on the ingredient, method, or gadget I'm currently obsessed with. Past fixations include cheese making, sourdough baking, the crockpot, the Magic Bullet, Asian soups, stock making, crème brûlée torching, and the George Foreman grill. One of the main reasons I look forward to returning to NJ this year is the hand-me-down pasta maker sitting in my basement with my name on it. And I have big plans for an indoor vegetable garden!

I like to cook because I like to make stuff. But unlike papier-mâché, knitting, or collaging projects (other former and ongoing pursuits), the results are comparatively speedy and edible. Except my first sourdough loaf, which "rose" for 8749583 hours but still tasted like a wet brick. I like cooking for myself and I like cooking for others, although I no longer bring plates of magic cookie bars to college parties, as I mistakenly thought was custom when I was 18.

But mostly I like to cook because I'm good at it. And because apparently, it's the only thing worth writing about.

*PUN INTENDED!!!!!!!!!!!