Thursday, August 23, 2007

Will Write for Food... when I Don't Forget

Admittedly, I'm not as steady of a blogger as I set out to be. Back in the day, I wrote consistently. Now, every few weeks, I have to kick start myself again. But my passion for good food and a nice wine have not wavered. After being asked to write more here by my co-worker J, I started thinking about my own "food story."

I think it all started as I grew up with a mom who was always in the kitchen. If we weren't making breakfast, lunch or dinner, we might be baking. She also sewed. It was her do-it-yourself attitude that has instilled in me a similar work ethic. Even now, my family members often gather around a table and talk about how the meal we just enjoyed could not be found in any restaurant, and if it could, it would no doubt be noisy there and the dish would be served by some rude kid.

My real adventure with food came when I studied abroad. In my adolescence, I was a very picky eater. I had started to grow out of that in college. When I went to Ghana, I was forced to eat something new, to try different things. After my first week there, I was willing to eat whatever was placed before me, from a delicious street food that's only served after sundown, kelewele to a kebab, with what I'm still convinced was goat meat.

My motto became, "You don't have to like everything, but you do have to try everything." After all, a semester in Ghana was a once in a lifetime experience. This motto was solidified as I traveled to Egypt. Our hosts, the Korra family, treated us like hungry savages. The moment we arrived, it felt like food was all around. Every meal was a spread of similar size of a Thanksgiving feast. From sit-down dinners at the family table to street food like fried ricotta, we ate and ate and ate. I put on about 5 pounds in 10 days. But I also learned an important food lesson: the love for food is as universal as the language of music.

People everywhere like eating. I would wager that every culture has known what it means to go hungry; some cultures are still experiencing that in jarring numbers. So I learned not to refuse food when offered. Hey, if someone has the warmth to open their home to me and offer a little of their bounty, who am I to say no?

When I returned from Ghana, I had dreams of cooking in my head. I moved out of dorms and into an apartment. But sharing space with others meant that I didn't get my dream kitchen. I also didn't cook for anyone but me. Now that I have my own place and another belly to feed, I find cooking to be a relaxing and favorite activity.

Nourishing others means a lot to me. Cooking dinner goes beyond putting some food on a table so people's tummies will quit rumbling. It's about giving them a more sensory experience, and it's about opening my home and offering them something from my own bounty. It's about sharing.

What I love about food is that it doesn't have to be complicated. Some of the best and most-loved meals happen over a bowl of soup and a chunk of bread. Pour a glass of red wine, any red will do. Add some good conversation, some laughter. Suddenly, you're engaging in an act of community.

So that's where I'm at. I'm still learning about food and cooking. And through writing, I'm trying to share the experience even more, by reaching out and telling people about this amazing cab I had the other day, or this incredible yet simple recipe I tried last weekend. Maybe I'm trying to engage in community, be it through words or wine glasses.

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