35 Food Adventures

6 May

It’s a known fact that I can’t cook. It would actually be more interesting if I was an unmitigated disaster in the kitchen; I’m not (unless you count the time I tried to make vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and the “béchamel” sauce literally tasted like paste). It’s more like I’m the queen of mediocre cooking. It’s kind of bland and doesn’t really taste quite right and one ingredient definitely came out of a box, but it’s edible if you don’t think about it too much.

Cooking makes me feel bad about myself so I try to avoid it. To me, plain tofu right out of the container is a delectable snack. I will scoop some rice in a bowl, add some frozen vegetables, throw it in the microwave, and call it dinner. I can make complete meals out of a piece of fruit, some nuts, a slice of cheese, a spoonful of peanut butter, and cucumber slices. A special meal would be to pick up a rotisserie chicken, a bag of baby spinach, and a baguette.

But I love homemade food and admire good cooks. The Bay Area is awash in amazing everyday cooks – I can’t tell you how many times I went to a dinner party or brunch or potluck and ate the most amazing thing. Being in the Bay Area even made not cooking feel kind of okay. I used to buy all my groceries at the farmer’s market, so a plate of fresh arugula topped with sliced heirloom tomatoes and cheese curds still felt respectable.

In my heart of hearts, I have to admit that I’m more like a suburban Orange County cook. My big accomplishment last week was that I “made” “paella”: I went to a big grocery store and bought a box of rice mix with a spice packet, a bag of frozen vegetables, and a packaged sausage and threw it all in a slow cooker…and even then I kind of messed it up.

So, for this 35-day challenge, I originally thought I would try to cook once a day for 35 days, but my travel schedule made daily cooking not feasible. A friend has been pushing me to allow more creativity and uncertainty into my life, so I blended these ideas and ended up with 35 Food Adventures.

To be clear, I use the word “adventure” lightly here. Like I said, I don’t know how to cook and I don’t enjoy it. So don’t expect the following paragraphs to detail how I crafted a perfect gruyere soufflé or beef wellington. If all I did was buy a sweet potato, slice it, and throw it in the oven with olive oil and some seasoning – and it was my first time ever buying and cooking a sweet potato, well, then, by golly it counted.

I attempted new recipes, simple things like granola and risotto. I whipped up concoctions based on whatever was languishing in our fridge, like no mayo deviled eggs. I made my own veggie platter for a potluck and it was beautiful (I had to look online to make sure I was cutting the radishes correctly). I opened fancy bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette that I had been hoarding. I bought things I had never seen before, like kouign amann. I ate food I had never tried like wild boar and chocolate with pork lard. I discovered that I don’t like juicing and that cold birria is awful. I learned you can microwave eggs and that a little bit of peanut butter dropped into the middle of chocolate cupcakes halfway through baking is pretty tasty.

The activity my partner is most proud of me for is when we, on a whim, went to the newly opened Sprinkles Ice Cream and I didn’t look at the website online ahead of time, I didn’t already study the menu and choose what I wanted, and I didn’t read any reviews. Now that’s what I call an adventure.

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