Foodbuzz: Next Food Blog Star

For the better part of twenty five years, I’ve been in the kitchen.


What I’ve learned about myself, in all these years, is that I am not me without food. Without cooking. Since I was a tiny baby…scratch that, I was never a tiny baby. Since I was a venti-sized baby, I’ve been cooking. I know, impossible. A newborn with a whisk? Sometimes I wonder.

But it’s true. I find cooking when I scan my oldest memories. Flour dusting over third birthday parties, crumbly dough balls wedged in between that time the front tire popped off my Big Wheel and I learned that pesky cursive “Q,” a melted butter sheen on my first love letter.

How did my crib get in the kitchen?


I’ve always been an observer. Keen on watching people, things, and events like I was going to be tested on my recollection later. A shame I didn’t go the detective route. A wonder I didn’t do better on my SAT verbal. I’m intensely interested in how things are made and in the manner in which others go about doing things. Fitting that I’d sit for hours on the painted oak footstool in the kitchen and watch my mother put on a magic show with butter, flour, and eggs. What’s her trick? Though never a rabbit, what she pulled out of the oven was magnificent- different every time.


My whole life, I loved to watch her cook. I’m sure if we were to dig up her birth certificate, we’d find her middle name to be “From Scratch.” The woman was making homemade crackers, pies, stews, wellingtons, and pates, faster than Good Housekeeping could churn out a cookbook. It was marvelous. I’d look up at her dusting confectioner’s sugar on a pan of the most lusciously lemon squares. With family to arrive any minute, she’d still have her wet hair in a towel, basting a golden brown bird with buttery glaze. She wrote the book on entertaining. The whole enchilada- from table setting, to theme, to tettrazini followed by tiramisu.

By age 4 I was helping her frost a freshly baked layer cake. We were browsing the Silver Palate Cookbook like a bedtime story. I spent years at her side, asking questions, watching cupcakes dome through the oven door, learning to read almost exclusively by recipe cards. Most likely spelling ‘Andouille’ before ‘Andrea.’ I divided my time between Sesame Street and Julia Child. And somehow, without consciously realizing the transition, I became the cook. Funny how that happens.


I loved the layering of ingredients, the depth of flavor, the trust I gained in myself as a cook. The anticipation of taste and texture. The fact that the end game was always an exhibit of my own creativity. The way that careful plating fed my eyes first. I flowed with a natural ease, a sashay from stove top to sink to counter. From mince to mix to mascerate. I embraced the timing. The precision. The delicate nature of cooking and baking. The requisite taste testing. Because there’s value in wrapping your tongue around the beater’s wires to get every last lick of buttercream. What that value is, I’m not sure, but my belly is, and I’d say that’s enough. I leave most major decisions to that part of me- the wisdom of my waist.

I don’t just love food. It’s not the strands of linguine wrapped around the tines of a fork that I’m after. It’s knitting the velvet robe of bechamel. It’s not even the slice of dark chocolate torte. Ok, it is the slice of chocolate torte. What I mean to say, is that my passionate love affair with food does not begin and end with the food itself. I fell in love with the dish, the slice, the bowlful, through the learning… and the labor… and the loving memories born of them.


Perhaps especially in the past five years, after losing 135lbs, I have made even more of a life in my kitchen. Uncertain of how to reintroduce the foods I loved all my life, but had given up throughout weight loss, I began creating my own recipes. Healthier versions of the classics. I said to myself, “Anyone who throws caution to the wind and uses an unlimited amount of butter, cream, oil, and the like, will ultimately make a dish that tastes delicious. Because butter, in and of itself, takes taste to the next level. But the true challenge, the mark of a truly good cook, is the creation of flavor. Knowing the essence of good food, understanding flavor complements, how to use herbs and spices to cultivate that perfect palate pleaser, believing that food can be just as beautiful on its own without makeup and a ballgown.


I experimented. I failed. I may have cried once or fifty- two times. But making the dishes I had always loved, in a way that felt wholesome and somehow pure, felt so worthwhile. So satisfying. My mind jogged through memories of buffalo chicken pizza in my first college dorm, White paper boxes of Chinese food littered around my family’s table, and every celebration with thick wedges of buttercream-bathed fudge cake. There will be a life for these beloved eats, I promised myself.

I kept that promise. Five years later and I’m still cooking up classics with my own flair.


I sit here now in my own kitchen, a coast away from my mother, the one who breathed life into my cooking lungs. I recreate the confections we once made. The ones that drew me, nose first, into the kitchen, tied themselves to moments in my life, and tucked themselves away in the closet of my memory. Enough to fill a book. A bookcase.

I cook and I cook. And when I’m done cooking I bake. Then I bake again. Because I am not me without it. I’ve built a life here, in my kitchen. And even as an adult… the butter, the sugar, the flour and the eggs…they still feel like magic.

This is my official entry for Project Food Blog’s first challenge, to explain who I am, why I blog, and the reasons I think I have any shred of what it takes to be the Next Food Blog Star.  Here’s a little information about the contest:

Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year. Voting for entries on the first challenge will kick off September 20th, and contestants will be whittled down over the next 12 weeks via exciting challenges related to food blogging.

Voting begins at 6am on September 20th and lasts until 6pm. Just log in to Foodbuzz to vote here: CanYouStayForDinner


As always, thank you for reading.


Comments

  1. says

    You have The Next Food Blog Star written all over this post! I think there’s a part of your story anyone can relate to. And you’re right–add enough butter and anything will taste good. But making it flavorful, unique, and something new is always a challenge and what you bring to the table.

  2. says

    This is the most beautiful Next Food Blog Star post I have read yet!!! Way to go Andrea. You have it all going on. Amazing recipes, a way with words, and pictures that draw us in.

  3. says

    The second I got finished reading this paragraph, I couldn’t quit: “But it’s true. I find cooking when I scan my oldest memories. Flour dusting over third birthday parties, crumbly dough balls wedged in between that time the front tire popped off my Big Wheel and I learned that pesky cursive “Q,” a melted butter sheen on my first love letter.”

    BEAUTIFUL post! Good luck in the contest!!

  4. says

    The way you weave your stories is so inviting, it’s like each post delivers us straight to your kitchen to smell, taste and experience each and every recipe – in other words, you’ve definitely got my vote! 😀

  5. says

    this is the most amazing entry!! such wonderful writing that evokes memories of my own early culinary adventures…

    and the photos are mouth watering beautiful !!

  6. Divina says

    Wow, Andrea, what an amazing introduction to you. I learned about your blog through Project Food Blog, and am racing now to add you to my Reader! Good luck on the contest!

  7. says

    This is exactly what I love about your blog. The way you weave your memories, passions and food into a story.

    This story is warm and full of the love of food. You may have changed on the exterior but your love of food will always be the same.

    Thanks for sharing your love with all of us :)

  8. says

    You have my vote. I so enjoy how you write. It becomes conversational like having a chat with a friend. Your amazing photos (how do you do that?) help to bring the conversation closer to the reality of being there.

    This is the most fun and enjoyable food blog, educational too! Good luck!

  9. says

    Awesome post! I love your writing voice! You just have such a way with words! And your pictures aren’t too shabby either, haha! Seriously, the photos of your food are always fantastic as well, everything always looks so amazing!

    I loved reading about how your mom is such a good cook/baker! My mom is as well! She can make anything taste delicious! Growing up, we always had a home-cooked meal on the dinner table! That’s something I’ve always appreciated! And holidays are the best! We always have the best holiday spreads at our house, from the main entree and side dishes to the desserts (homemade apple pie, mmmm!) Hopefully one day I can be as good of a cook and baker as she is!

    Best of luck with PFB!

  10. Morgan Burtt-Henderson says

    Ha! I noticed your name was first when I went to check the vote. I voted for you both days!! Good luck, yours is da best!

  11. says

    You have an amazing writing style. Definitely the best post I have read. You deserve the title of The Next Food Blog Star. Hands down :)

    Keep up the good work. Will be voting and routing for you!

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