What makes a food blogger? In the time since I began Play with Food, I have met and spoken to so many bloggers from all over and each one has a different answer. There are those who are writers who love food and use their craft to share their passion with others. Some are talented photographers who capture food as art, and can make your mouth water with their images. There are ethnic cooks who strive to share their culture, and specialty blogs reaching people with special dietary needs. There are humorous food blogs and even food blogs that rant and rave.
And then there is me. I am just an ordinary woman who grew up in Winchester, a small town in the Shenandoah Valley where apples are king. My dad died when I was very young, but my mom met and married a wonderful man who raised us as his own. Both my mom and dad worked, so once I was old enough, I was often the responsible one, watching my younger brothers until our parents were home. And thus began my passion for cooking. Encouraged by my dad who would eat anything I made with great gusto and endless approval, I explored and experimented. Some things, such as the time I made a giant biscuit to go with hamburger Stroganoff because I thought it would be more dramatic (you can guess the center was pretty doughy), or the time I heated milk on top of the stove in a Pyrex dish (I definitely wouldn’t recommend, since the dish shattered- luckily, I wasn’t hurt) were failed experiments. But each time I cooked something new, whether it turned out or not, I gained skills, and confidence. I learned how to plan, prepare, combine, cook, and serve food that would nourish the people I loved. I learned to love that feeling that came when someone asked for seconds, or savored each bite, or asked for a recipe.
Once I was married and had a family of my own, there were different challenges-very tight budgets, feeding children at varying ages and stages, and father-in-law who was a very-non-compliant diabetic. I also went back to college to finish my degree- no easy feat with 4 small children (I have 6 now!). I learned how to make a pound of ground beef spread out over five people, how to cook a flank steak to make it tender and delicious, or make a pot roast that could masquerade as Sunday dinner, Wednesday beef and noodles and Friday’s carnitas. I collected cookbooks by the score, recipes from friends and neighbors, tore pages from cooking magazines, always looking for ideas.
That brings me to what makes my blog, Play with Food, special. While food is an important centerpiece of my blog, it is folded into family, friends and fun. One can eat anything to survive. Food and mealtime is a time to get everyone together so I am always looking for a way to make a meal an occasion and to build occasions around food. During football
season, we all gather for “football food”, cheering on our team. We started a tradition- Chinese New Year’s Eve- in order to entice our teenage children to choose to stay home on New Year’s Eve, with chopsticks, homemade eggrolls, and my famous “hot beans” or twice-fried beans. We celebrate the Olympics by having food from a different country each night (we are not above the American hamburger, or Italian pizza to get through the games!). We check out markets and restaurants, and food producers, and wineries everywhere we go, expanding and extending our knowledge about food and ingredients. Every recipe that has become a family favorite has a story behind it (like the pimento cheese recipe my husband got from a nurse while I was in labor!) .
It is those stories that I capture and share that make my blog special because it communicates that every cook, every family has a story to tell, to save to share. I’ve not taken a class at Cordon Bleu, nor have I traveled to Europe nor have I tasted shaved truffles (though I would really love to!). But I have made an amazing Peking duck, drying the skin by hanging it on my cabinet knobs over the sink. I have cooked a venison tenderloin kissed by a sauce of cherries and chocolate and brandy. I have made my own bison jerky, and served ~20 people dinner every night for fourteen nights with no power after Hurricane Isabel. My blog allows me to include others beyond my own family and friends, encouraging them to realize that every time they break bread with others is a special occasion and an opportunity to make a memory. Sharing food is a powerful thing- it can bring enemies together, it can bond us, it can soothe our hurts, it can make us remember, and make us forget. Family, friends, fun, those are the not-so-secret ingredients that take food that is ordinary and makes a memory, and a meal, that is extraordinary!!