Hi! Welcome to Yay! Food!
Cooking and eating are among my greatest pleasures, and I want to share my adventures in (and outside of) the kitchen with others. I especially want to share my cooking process, which is improvisational and experimental, and full of exciting flavors, textures, colors and scents from a wide variety of cultures and regions. Video seems like the best way to do this, since a lot of what I do in the kitchen is context-based and spontaneous. So I’ve decided to video a year in my kitchen.
My name is Kali, the Head Cook in Residence, and I’m a fabulous chef. No matter what’s in the cupboards or the refrigerator I can always turn it into a tasty and creative meal, and when I feel like cooking something special, people line up to try it. Ex-lovers have praised my cooking to the point where it put strain on their current relationships. Part of the reason I’m good at cooking is because I love nuance and have a terrific sense of smell. But just as important is the fact that I cook nearly every day, try something new at least 3 times a week, and cook to please my many and varied guests.
Though I’ve catered professionally, and specialized in benefit dinners for non-profits and community organizations, I’m basically a down-home sort of cook. I love fancy appliances (yes, I have a bluetooth sous-vide cooker), but I’m just as happy with a wok or a cast iron frying pan. Occasionally I will splurge on expensive ingredients, but I think that usually I can do just as well without spending that kind of money. You’ll see both kinds of cooking on this blog.
Improvisation in the kitchen
Yes, yes, this is a recipe blog. But you need to understand that I rarely cook with recipes. I mostly write them down for other people. And I read recipe books and recipes for fun, kind of like I read science fiction, fantasy, or horror stories for fun (fortunately, only a small proportion of recipes are horror stories). I have my favorite writers (Chris Schlesinger, Marcella Hazan, Mark Miller, Craig Claiborne, Rick Bayless, Mad Coyote Joe), and there’s nothing I like better than curling up in a big chair on a winter evening and reading recipes and commentary. Most recipes aren’t surprising. They are sort of like books with predictable plots—I read them, and I know what’s coming, and I can guess the ending. Even if it’s a happy ending, it’s less interesting than the endings I can’t guess: flavors I’ve never thought of combining, new things to do with familiar ingredients, a recipe that calls for a food or spice I’ve never tasted. I immediately order such things if I find them on restaurant menus (a recent octopus carpaccio appetizer at the Marzilibrücke comes to mind here—it wasn’t that good, but it was certainly… interesting). When I find recipes like that, I love to try them.
I’m more the kind of cook who bases a menu around a flavor combination that’s been haunting me all week, or is inspired to try something new by the random contents of my cupboards and refrigerator on a week I haven’t had time to do any serious food shopping. In short, I’m generally a recipe-free cook to the point where I forget to write down even recipes I really want to save (including my own recipes). And that’s where this blog comes in. Blogging helps me to remember to record what I do in the kitchen. I’ve always wanted to write a cookbook, but that’s impossible if I never remember what I cooked. And if other folks benefit from my record keeping, that’s a double bonus.
Roommates, friends and family have always laughed at my collection of huge pots, bowls and pans. But I don’t see them laughing when they dig into the food on the table, or when they are happily eating left-overs for the next couple of days. When I make something good, I like to make a lot of it. And a lot of dishes taste better 2-3 days after you cook them, so it’s great to have enough to make it last that long. I tailor my recipes for the way that I like to cook, and most times you’ll find (if you have less than a family of four hearty eaters) that you’ll need to halve or quarter them. Go ahead and do it — they’ll all work fine, and if there’s something special you need to do when you cut a recipe in half, I’ll let you know in a note. (Less salt, more baking powder—that sort of thing.)
Recipes are suggestions, not instructions
I’m not as exact as a lot of recipe writers. That’s because in a lot of cases, it doesn’t matter if you use more or less of a particular ingredient and you should get to know your own tastes and preferences. (The great exception is baking, which is actually a sort of chemistry lab. If you get the proportion of fat to binder to flour to sugar to leavening agent wrong, you can surely wind up with an inedible mess.) When I give you a recipe that calls for more garlic than makes you comfortable… cut the amount of garlic down. Not enough chili peppers for you? Add more! Want to use dill instead of cilantro? Knock yourself out. Great cooking is both a science and an art. But food appreciation is entirely subjective and if you’re not pleasing yourself and the folks you’re feeding, what’s the point? So take my recipes as a list of suggestions from an expert in her own likes and dislikes, and tweak them until they suit yours.
A cook with an eating disorder?
I’m pretty sure I’m far from the only one. I’ve bounced back and forth between anorexia and bulimia for 45+ years. I’ve tried every treatment under the sun, from talk therapy to medication. None of it works very well — eating disorders have an extremely low cure rate. It makes sense: it’s not so different from telling an alcoholic that they need to stop drinking too much, but that they still have to consume alcohol regularly and socially. That’s an impossible situation for most drinkers, but we folks with eating disorders endure it every day. So I live with the awareness that I’ve got a problem, and I try to navigate it rather than to either spend my time pretending it isn’t there, or letting it determine the course of my whole life. I’ve rarely met a woman who was completely happy with her own body, and who didn’t have a complex relationship to food so I’m in good company. Occasionally an issue will come up and I’ll feel like talking about it on my blog. If it doesn’t interest you, just skip those articles.If it does, feel free to write in with comments or suggestions. Those discussions will be moderated, though. It’s my blog and I’m not interested in reading dumb things people have to say about diets and “willpower.”
- The capacity to love
- An open mind
- A critical eye
- A dose of hard reality
- A sense of humor
- A dash of healthy curiosity
- A sense of adventure
- A generous dash of generosity
- Start by spreading the love around.
- Combine an open mind with a critical eye and leaven it with a sense of humor and you'll see, as you mix in the hard reality, a healthy sense of ethics begin to emerge. Place this mixture into a challenging environment, and let it double in size.
- Punch the dough down once (just to take it down a peg), fold in the healthy curiosity and sense of adventure, and then let rest and recover in a quiet place until it is again doubled in size. Form into an oval loaf. Sprinkle with the dash of generosity
- Put the loaf in a 185C, pre-heated oven, and bake 15-25 years, until fully formed. Serve warm.