An Introduction--Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

Greetings, friends and (perhaps, someday) readers.

I have been a huge fan of food for most of my life. All of us have early memories tied to food--mine are of my mother's maraschino cherry bars at family picnics, and my dad making pigs in blankets by taking vienna sausages, wrapping them in biscuit dough, and giving them a good post-bake dunk in catchup. It was wonderful...but probably not as healthy as one might like, but good, hearty food for a fairly typical 80's middle-class family with tiny children and a tinier budget. I still crave (and make) both occasionally, much to my husband's dismay. how do I get from there to talking about food from scratch?

Well, it's been a long trip. I first became interested in global cuisine compliments of my local library. When I was seven or so I discovered an old series of small cookbooks in the children's section, each about the food and customs of a different nation. The librarian began to look perpetually amused as I checked out the majority of the shelf, carted them home, read them so fast in a row that I couldn't remember French from Thai, and carted them back in a few days just to do it all over again a few weeks later.

At nine I found a book on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, which I rather clumsily used to create my very first themed dinner for my family, at ten it was Jewish holiday food, and by eleven, the two medieval cookbooks from the library which I cherished, but could not afford. My parents were very supportive, although if I became side-tracked by my hobby during school hours my mother questioned whether I "eat to live, or live to eat!".

Time passed, and I moved on to "more serious" things, and while I was still interested in food(including a wonderful fling with English Regency Cooking, thanks to a cousin's Jane Austin society), my relationship with it became increasingly troubled. Vegetarianism, a good and healthy way to eat, became an excuse for many unhealthy behaviors as I obsessed over my weight and engaged in a a battle with bulimia. After getting married, I ricocheted in the opposite direction, eating mostly cheap processed foods. Between the sudden increase in my caloric intake, and the penny-pinching my body had gotten used to with an eating disorder, I ballooned practically overnight, and nothing seemed to help. I was a prisoner in my own body, and eating was something I dreaded.

In the past two years I've experienced a personal Renaissance, which brought me back full-circle. Part of the credit for this goes to my mother-in-law, a truly talented cook, who gave me someone equally enthusiastic to sound ideas off of, and encouraged me to try new things and bake(even though I was sure that as much as I enjoyed cooking, I would forever be a horrible baker). She also has shown me that one can be vivacious and beautiful at any age or size. Credit for my present joy in the kitchen also goes to Michael Pollan, who's book, In Defense of Food, and Eater's Manifesto, gave me hope for the first time in a very long while that eating healthy could be simple, basic, and above all, enjoyable.

In answer to my mother's exasperated plea, one can do both. I eat to live by having a healthy interest in finding local produce, in trying to know where my food comes from, and how to have a rich, varied diet as a healthy omnivore. I live to eat by finding how to get the crust on my sourdough bread just right, how to cook my steaks seared on the outside and juicy on the inside, and my seasonal vegetables prepared to perfection. Food has never been more enjoyable or rewarding, and my health's better then it's been in years.

Care to come along for the ride?


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