Well, hello there.
My goodness ... it's been a long time, hasn't it? I've missed you all more than words can say, but since the last twelve months have been all about me writing words for other people, let me see if I even remember how to write words for myself. What I thought might be a few months on hiatus from this project turned out to be a year, almost to the day. Wow. I did not expect that at all.
A few days after I posted my Hiatus post, I had the great good fortune to go to Chicago and have Chef Dave Beran's Tour of Thailand menu at Next. Twice, in fact. The food was so inspiring and flavorful and wondrous and jaw-dropping (permanently lodged in the Top Five Meals of My Life, no joke) that I was more motivated than ever to get back to this blog sooner than I'd planned.
Then, life got in the way.
Let me see if I can explain without boring you to tears.
First, I no longer work as a consultant, which means I no longer work from home. Late last fall, there was a perfect storm of federal budget shenanigans around my two biggest clients, which happened right around the time a third client offered me a full-time job in-house. It's an organization I knew well and a cause I am rather passionate about, so it was wonderful timing and a great place to hang my hat and have an impact on an issue that's important to me.
Now, I commute downtown to an office five days a week. I don't have the time to cook during the week or on weekends like I used to. And, for many months, I needed my nights and weekends to write this:
When the book was done, I had every intention of getting... WAIT. Let me stop myself here. You guys, I wrote a book. Do you know how long I've wanted to do this? Since first or second grade, if memory serves correctly. It was a LOT of fun, and Mike was such a blast to work with. I'm really proud of the book. Really and truly.
While I was working on the book, and a few months after, I was also using my nights and weekends to write other things for other people and do some product development work for some gluten-free food companies. Mama's gotta pay the bills, you know. There was also an unexpected amount of weddings and funerals and other curve balls that life throws at you from time to time.
Then, in early March, I had surgery. It was a minor procedure that ended up having long-lasting recovery issues. I won't get into detail (because talking about medical issues on food blogs is gross), but suffice to say it was a deep-tissue melanoma-related procedure on my head that caused me to have neuropathy and pain across my head, face, neck, and shoulders for, now, almost six months. I'm almost completely back to normal. But, that set me back way longer than it should have or that I ever wanted it to.
I've also had some celiac-related things going on ... but, again, no one wants to hear about that. Or, more accurately, I kind of don't want to talk about it. It's particularly frustrating in that the symptoms I've been experiencing were all joint-related and neurological. So, things like holding a knife properly became a challenge. Standing for long periods of time was painful, as was sitting. I have been a bit of a wreck.
When the Derecho came through the DC area in June, I was without power for six days and lost everything in my refrigerator and freezer. All my everyday food. Everything I'd prepped for the blog, knowing I wanted to get back to it soon. Everything. Many, many, MANY dollars worth of food gone.
So, as you can see, I haven't been able to really cook the way I know how and the way I love. And, you know what? It took a real emotional toll on me. More than I knew, really. Cooking calms me. Chopping vegetables keeps me sane. Spending two or three days on one recipe from the Alinea cookbook is a challenge and a thrill, and something I have missed so much. I'm a better, happier person when I cook. I know that.
So, why am I back now? Well, for one, I finally have a better handle on my time than I did before. I am feeling healthy again, and able to be in the kitchen for long stretches of time. And, because my chef friend, Carlos, told me I had to. In late August on a rainy night at the beach, over our second or third glass of wine that night, he let me have it. Told me I need to get back to cooking and writing here. Said he was angry every time I posted something on Facebook that wasn't an update from this blog. Said I needed to get back to working on this project.
So, here I am.
I can't promise I'll be back at the same pace I was last year. I'm still working in an office full-time. I'm still working on other projects in the evenings and weekends. But, I'm back to making this a priority in my life, because I need it. Bad.
So, on Saturday morning, knife in hand, I started with this:
And this evening, sat around the table with my neighbor friends, and we ate this:
It looks nothing like the photo of this dish in the book. I'm okay with that.
It tasted really damn good ... and if you have the book I strongly recommend you make the pumpkin-seed-paprika taffy. Melt it on a steak. Or a pork chop. It is outstanding.
I didn't take any photos while cooking because I just wanted to focus on getting back into the feel of this book. Gotta get my kitchen sea legs. Almost there.
It's good to be back.
See you in a few weeks. :)
Resources: Everything from Whole Foods or HMart.
Music to Cook By: Colin Hay; Going Somewhere. Without fail, "Beautiful World" makes me smile big and wide. And, "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" makes me wish I knew how to play guitar. This album is the perfect sunny Sunday afternoon kitchen soundtrack.
Read My Previous Post: Hiatus