Going all the way back to my days as a young one, many of my most vivid memories took place in the kitchen. At family gatherings, I was the one dragging a stool over to my grandmother’s side to watch in fascination as she prepared her famous mac n cheese, sliding me the jar of bread crumbs to sprinkle on top of the gooey noodles just before placing it under the broiler to crisp up to a perfect golden brown. I often spent my saturdays baking up a batch of The Joy of Cooking’s perfect chocolate chip cookies by measuring out the ingredients first into separate small bowls and then mixing them together while pretending I was hosting a cooking show in front of an invisible camera. There wasn’t a time when my dad was in the kitchen preparing a meal that I wasn’t right there beside him, asking him every single what and why that popped into my curious little brain. Then I grew up.
As a teenager in the throws of homework and heartbreak, I forgot how much food and cooking really meant to me. Sure, I enjoyed eating but high school and college got in the way and there were much more important things to think about, like boys, beer pong, soccer and maybe a few exams here and there. At that point in time my ideas about careers in food were much narrower: I just assumed that if food were truly my passion then I should have gone to culinary school instead of college, and that my opportunity to make that choice had passed. Occasionally I would find the time to cook my roommates up a huge meal of cheesy chicken enchiladas with roasted tomatillo sauce, rice and beans, or latkes and matzo ball soup, and it would be the light of my week, my month even. I should have listened then, but I was on the fast track to a career in psychology.
I don’t regret my degree from Vassar. In fact, the ways in which I appreciate my liberal arts education are too numerous and deep to quantify. I learned how to love to learn in college, something that before that time was merely a chore for me. I also grew to understand from my most passionate professors the value of immersing oneself completely into that which most captivates you. I learned that knowledge without passion can only take you so far unless you find what it is that drives you, what ignites your innermost flame and makes you feel most alive. The next chapter in my story was to find that.
Without a clue as to where I was going, I completed a few non-food related internships at a non-profit in San Francisco while supplementing my income with restaurant stints. My restaurant work continued as I moved to Aspen to pursue another passion of mine, snowboarding. In my down time at work I became that curious little girl again, asking questions to the chefs about the food in the kitchen. I see in retrospect my natural migration back in the direction of food, only it was then without intention.
Perhaps it was through my choice to pursue my passion for snowboarding that I realized the value of choosing a meaningful career path over one purely based on convenience or monetary aspiration. Or perhaps I could also attribute this gift to my wonderful friend Lucia, a seventy year old Italian lady who I befriended by chance in Aspen, who taught me that the best food is the simplest food as long as you choose the right ingredients and cook with love. But it was most certainly in Aspen that I finally surrendered to what I think my heart has known all along.
So, I started a food blog and moved to Portland. Naturally.
Eventually I see myself learning how to grow and raise food, traveling to find it, cooking it, writing about it, photographing it, teaching others through experience, and finding ways of incorporating all these aspects into one oddly-shaped and completely unstructured career path. I want the people of our country to relearn what it means to get your hands dirty, to appreciate the value of a slow cooked meal and to know to it feels to be proud of their end result rather than settle for immediate gratification. I want to connect generations, races, genders, cultures, people, and I see food as a medium that has the power to do all that. Because in the end, everyone needs to eat and everyone loves to eat, I just wish more people knew how good real food tastes and a balanced diet feels.