Time to Return

Never before did I experience the disorienting feeling of death in such a way as I have in the past couple of months. The confusing labyrinth I’ve fallen into pulled me away from life, my own life, including this blog and my love for writing about food. But it’s time to come back.

Many things have happened in the world in the past couple of months, besides my personal loss. A new president came in, women marched all over the world, and the nerves of many groups and countries are spilling over, especially as the dreaded changes start to happen. What does this has to do with food you might ask? Everything.

I’ve used this blog for the past couple of years with the hope to make food more approachable to anyone who reads it. I’ve spoken about my shortcomings with food, from the unknown cooking techniques required for artichoke decoding to overcoming my dislike for beets. I’ve approached meal planning and food waste in a attempt to understand them better and open the conversation.
Food is a place where we can unify, we all eat. Granted we all eat differently, something I value deeply, but i trust we all understand the importance of food, good, wholesome food. 

pickled Chioggia beets

The latest news of the new government possibly banning the USDA and EPA from communicating to the public about their research, research that affects our daily lives through food policy, laws and regulations. Or that the Keystone XL and Dakota pipeline projects were called back to reapply worry me. We could agree that it targets our food sovereignty. Especially when we add the conversations surrounding cuts to the school lunch programs that serve low-income children; dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which many states, like Oregon and Denver, have used as a way to recognize the silent problem of food insecurity; and many new moms use for breastfeeding support and lactation supplies. 

I’m not planning on turning this blog on a food policy site, I don’t have the knowledge Marion Nestle or Michael Pollan have on the topic, or the infrastructure and experience of the journalists at Civil Eats. What I do have is a mission to teach people about a simple turnip and how to cook it, or how a beet is not as scary as the millions of corn kernels grown on the U.S. farm belt used to feed cattle {which makes them sick because ruminants aren’t meant to eat grain but grass}, or to become sweeteners, fillers, and preservatives in junk food, amongst other deplorable uses, as you can hear in this podcast from The BBC Food Chain

beet greens and parsley

I’ll continue bringing stories of simple food, of the humble chard, or my beloved lentils. Because as the famous Leah Chase, Queen of Creole, says, “Food is so important, it makes people happy, and if you are happy you think better.” 

xo
~Paula

using carrot greens

 

the perfect apple-almond cake photo

There’s something about fall that screams baking! During the summer months I run away from the oven with terrorizing memories of the sticky and sweaty kitchen years I endured as a baker, but as soon as the backyard fills with leaves my little inner baker wakes up.

apple-almondcake

The falling leaves and crisps nights make it irresistible for a warm and sweet baked good right out of the oven, together with a cup of coffee and a good book. The heat of the oven helps me warm up the house in the absence of a fire-place, which would make this story seem more fairytale than it really is; and if I had a say, my fairytale would include year-round mild weather and an ocean view.

Fall’s slow death into winter also slows life, or at least it feels that way. I rediscover books with folded pages and pencil notes from before the rush of summer. A bit dusty, but not at all forgotten, they guarded their message and waited for me and our daily afternoon coffee, or evening glass of wine. 

One of those books I’m a few pages from finishing is Best Food Writing 2015, a yearly compilation of food-related essays, which has been done for more than a decade now, by Holly Hughes. I got hooked on these books a few years back when my interest shifted from cookbooks {yes, i still buy some of those} to food writing as narrative, a way to tell food stories. 

As I planned for this post, an essay from this book came to mind, “The Imperfect Family Kitchen,” by Debbie Koenig.

The essay begins with: “Food writers are lying to you,” yikes! and I agree, for the most part. She talks about the behind the scenes of recipes development {or recreation} and food photography, and the reality we don’t show on blog posts like this…Nope, I don’t have any pictures of dirty dishes for you, sorry.
We ‘lie’ because ugly pictures don’t sell, and pretty pictures DO, they attract people to follow and click on a link. 

When I first started this blog, my pictures were ugly, as not pretty or appealing, my goal was to share a recipe and a story, and didn’t understand that the photos made a difference. There were many reason for my bad photos {not to say they are absolutely great now, but better} besides my lack of skill.  My kitchen is dark, with orange-yellow maple cabinets and dark green-blue counter tops. My pictures reflected that, even worse when I’d turn the lights on to photograph dinner the yellow hue would translate onto the photo. 

honeycrispapples

Hours of reading about food photography and a full week of deconstructing and reconstructing my office made my photos crisper and cleaner. The office became a white box, I took the carpet off and installed plywood planks on the floor, and painted walls, floor and ceiling a crisp white, to bounce the window light and not alter the color of the food. 

My pictures don’t reflect the dated refrigerator, the broken-down microwave, or the prop I use to keep the oven door close because the hinges don’t work. They show an “edited” idea of how cooking really happens here. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kitchen and many great meals successfully come out of it, including this apple cake, but how many people really want to see a load of bad pictures full of reality? 

germanapplealmondcake

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