September 16, 2010

So, Why Are We Blogging?

Good question, really.   Though I've been an active participant on a number of message boards and online communities, and have done a couple "guest articles" on some other peoples' blogs, this is my first time attempting a blog.  Honestly, while I enjoy reading some blogs, I'd never really wanted to try my hand at it until now.  Juli has been somewhat more interested in doing a blog for awhile now, but her attempts to launch one haven't really gotten very far, as one busy aspect of life or another has always interfered with those plans.

The fact is, we both are pretty busy.  She effectively has three jobs (one full-time, two part-time).  I have one that keeps me plenty busy.  We commute to and from work together most days, which is nice, as it gives us more time together to talk or make plans or whatever, but our days are pretty long - five days a week we leave by around 6:40 am and return any time from about 5:30 pm to around 10 pm on a couple nights.   We also had some other activities and commitments that took up time as well.  Because of all that, we'd fallen into the habit in recent years of eating out pretty often, or ordering pizza for take-out or delivery, and mostly either just cooking on weekends, or over-relying on a few simple, fast recipes, to the point that we could no longer stand most of them.   For awhile, Juli couldn't face the prospect of another taco.

Fairly recently, though, circumstances had occurred that had caused some of those activities and commitments to fall by the wayside, and we started finding ourselves with a bit more time on our hands.  And I decided to spend some of that time cooking.

As it happens, I've long enjoyed cooking, though I'm something of a late bloomer.   When I went to college, I didn't know how to cook very much.  My mother had been an excellent cook, but I'd never really paid much attention to how she did it.  When I went to college, though, I started paying a bit more attention to cooking, and particularly the sorts of cooking done by some of my friends who were international students.  I didn't really try my  hand at cooking then, but I did develop a much more diverse taste in cuisine, and I also managed to absorb some cooking know-how from watching my friends cook.  After college, I worked for a year in a group home for Vietnamese orphans, and once again I got to watch people - the older residents and some of the staff - cook.  This time, instead of just watching, I asked questions, and started trying my hand at things.  Looking back, I wasn't very good back then, but I did learn some things by trial and error.

Over the next few years, during my time in graduate school, I met more people that were pretty good cooks, and I started learning more in the way of cooking techniques and use of spices and so forth, and by the time I finished grad school, I'd gotten pretty comfortable cooking a variety of pretty basic things, and pretty good at a few (stir frying and soups, especially).  During my first marriage, I ended up doing almost all of the cooking... and often not feeling the effort was appreciated, which sort of dampened my enthusiasm.

Eventually that marriage ended, and I met Juli.  At different times during our years together, both of us had done some cooking, but it was often sporadic due to us being pretty busy.   We had a few recipes we really liked (including some of my chili and soup recipes, a few stir fry and slow cooker recipes and a spaghetti sauce recipe we developed together, drawing on an old family recipe of hers), but most of them were time-consuming enough that we mostly saved them for special occasions, or the occasional weekend when we didn't have a lot going on.  The rest of the time (as already noted above) we either ate out or made one of a handfull of fast and reliable recipes. 

Over time, we got tired of a lot of those recipes, and we got even more tired of the fairly limited local options we had as far as eating out or doing carry-out or delivery.  Juli got pretty tired of pizza in general, and we both got to where we could barely tolerate a couple buffets that had become our default eating-out choices.

Then one afternoon, while looking around at the Barnes & Noble in Des Moines, I saw something that caught my eye:  an Indian cookbook.

Indian has long been one of my favorite cuisines, and it has become one of Juli's over the years.  Our very favorite restaurant in Des Moines was an Indian place, and we always tried to find new Indian places when we'd travel.  But though I was a huge fan of Indian cuisine, I'd never really tried cooking it before.  It featured a lot of exotic spices, and I had only the most vague idea what techniques were used.  Frankly, I found the idea of trying to cook Indian pretty intimidating.

But as I read through this book - an amazingly clear one, with very straight-forward discussions of Indian cooking techniques, ingredients and so forth - I came to understand that it wasn't any more difficult than any number of other cuisines I was already fairly comfortable with - it was just different, and not really that different after all.  

So, I bought that book, and within a few days, I'd settled on a few recipes I wanted to start out with.  They went well, so I started trying a few more, and coming up with a few variants of my own, tailored to our tastes.  And for a couple weeks, all I cooked was Indian, three or four nights a week and for lunch on Saturdays.  Juli got a little tired of Indian a couple weeks in, so I branched out a bit more, but was still sort of stuck on curries, so I branched out along the curry path... a bit of Thai, some North African, some Caribbean.  But though she liked most of that, Juli wanted a bit more variety, and she talked me into picking up some cooking magazines representing a more diverse set of cuisines and styles.   So, I went with that, and loved it.  By that time, I'd rediscovered just how much I really liked to cook, and had realized how much I'd missed all the years when I didn't cook very often.  I'd also regained confidence in my cooking, and it didn't hurt that Juli was both quite pleased with the results and - my curry fixation aside - quite appreciative.  And she started to get more involved in the process of my cooking, and enjoying it.

And that's where we are now.  We're doing a lot of cooking, and having a great time and a lot of good food.  We barely eat out at all now, and these days any pizza we eat is most likely one I've made (as was the case tonight, in fact).  We've been picking up some cooking gear, and have subscribed to a couple cooking magazines (and their websites) and picked up a variety of new cookbooks.  Recently we purchased a new fridge and a deep-freeze so we could keep ingredients in stock, and have a place to put the leftovers so we could take them to work for lunches. 

We're loving it, and so we decided to blog in order to share our love of cooking with others who might share that love.

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