Like many of you, I’m a student. Not a college student–in fact, I’m a part-time college professor. But when it comes to mealtimes, I’m still figuring things out. I haven’t been to culinary school and I haven’t worked in the food industry. My teachers have been cookbooks, reality shows, trial and error. But this is a good thing, because it means that I’ve been where you are. I know what it’s like to have debt that cuts into your budget. I know what it’s like to look at a shelf of cookbooks and have no idea where to begin. I know what it’s like to cook for a month and a half with one skillet and one pot, because you just moved and most of your possessions are still halfway across the country. I’m not there any more (well, except for the student loans), but those memories are recent enough that I can help you get started.
So let me tell you about my history with food. I grew up with parents who cooked from scratch, and because we lived in Texas, I ate my share of grilled meat and guacamole. My mother loved to bake around the holidays, and our family looked forward to fresh challah at Easter, croissants for Thanksgiving, and caramel-pecan rolls for Christmas. When she died of cancer, I took it upon myself to continue the tradition of croissants. Thus, at age 15, I found myself staring down a two-day baking process that sends most families heading for the Pillsbury rolls in the freezer aisle. But the croissants came out well. The main thing I learned through this process was fearlessness: if I could make croissants, I could figure out anything else.
This doesn’t mean I cooked my way through college. I ate a lot of instant oatmeal, dining hall sandwiches, and pre-made meatballs mixed with store-bought sauce. In my senior year I rented an apartment with my best friend (who was a fantastic cook), but even then my repertoire was limited to Bisquick pancakes and biscuits (except for Thanksgiving, when I decided to make croissants and apple pie and caramel-pecan rolls). In graduate school, I ate a steady diet of cereal, deil sandwiches, and pasta with feta cheese and butter. Eventually a friend invented a recipe for cabbage pasta, which became so much of a staple that when I met my husband, he thought it was the only thing I ever cooked. (Remember that month with one pot and one pan? Yup. Cabbage pasta, five nights a week.)
All this changed when I got my first job. Not because I had more money (see: Loans), but because I loved approximately none of the restaurants in my new hometown. In grad school, I had been spoiled by some great Thai and Greek places with vibrant flavors. Noodles & Company just didn’t cut it the same way.
I decided that if I wanted flavor, I would have to make meals for myself. And if I was going to cook, I knew I needed to cook all my meals, or food would spoil in my fridge and I would be perpetually running to the store for ingredients I didn’t have on hand. Thus began the four-year journey that led to this blog. I started with one or two cookbooks and a lot of ambition, threw in a subscription to Hulu and the somewhat isolated life of a pre-tenured professor, and ended up with a lot of satisfying meals.
What This Site Isn’t
I’m not a nutritionist, a culinary school graduate, or a parent. I have a fantastic husband and one puppy, and I cook most of the meals for our household. I prefer to make everything from scratch (including pie crust, some pasta, and the dog’s dinner) and to use as many locally-sourced, organic ingredients as I can find and afford,* but avoiding processed foods and using quality ingredients are my primary means of contributing to our health. We aren’t gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, or paleo. I’m a runner and I have a family history of cancer, so I’m very interested in healthy eating, but I’ve also decided not to make a point of addressing dietary or caloric restrictions on this site. There are plenty of other writers who are far better qualified for that role. Instead, I’m here to help you figure out how to get from “I have no idea what I’m doing and I might as well buy Easy Mac” to “Tonight I’m having company and I’m serving a three-course meal.” If this sounds worthwhile to you, let’s get started.
* The dog does not eat organic. We do have a budget to consider, and she’s already getting chicken and hard-boiled eggs.