I’m now writing for a new series in the Edmonton Journal called Taste Alberta. It’s kind of a dream gig: I get to talk to farmers and food producers, usually eat something, and write about it. I’ve been interested in food all of my life, and cooking it since I was very little: I have memories of standing on a chair in the kitchen, helping my mom make gyoza. Later, I would bake a batch of muffins in the morning because, in high school, I was ALWAYS HUNGRY. And in university, I landed my first restaurant job, washing dishes and doing a little prep in a French kitchen. It was a natural thing. As it turns out, you have to cook if you want to eat like I like to eat.
Anyhow, being a “foodie” has become chic, food has its own TV network, and there are scads of folks who would kill for my job. But I’m not a foodie. My taste are not rarified (have you seen some of the things I’ve cooked?), and I’m fully aware of the economic hits you’d take following the various severe edicts of a connoisseur. I just want to feed myself and the people around me with love, and yes, that usually means organic, free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free farmers market items. But it also means spending $2.50 to participate in my local collective kitchen to prepare a few cheap meals at the end of the month. It’s about cooking together with my boyfriend (last night’s completely improvised gnocchi in a tomato cream sauce was a riot!), and eating together with great conversation. Food is part of the social experience for me; it’s not a competition of better, rarer, most fashionable. Quite frankly, I can’t afford to do that. So I eat in, eating what I make. Not always the best, but friendlier and cheaper, leaving me with a sense of accomplishment that I don’t get from restaurant dining, great though that is (I’m writing some restaurant reviews too. Wait for it!). I cook in part to make myself something good, but the other part is that my life as a freelancer is often chaotic and uncertain. In the kitchen though: comfort, predictability, and the freedom to fail.
So I’m not a foodie. I’m interested in eating well, not correctly. I love the pleasure of eating, but not isolated from the function that food plays in society. I can’t forget that the best meals I’ve had were the made-from-scratch dinners my mom used to make. Once I told her this, and she said, “I’m sorry about that. It was only what we could afford.” As it turns out, she was only trying to save money by using the cheapest cuts of meat, which of course take more time but turn out tender and delicious! I carry that tradition on. Women who need to save money and time, but enjoy having hands in the kitchen for chatter, and ultimately, the transfer of culture and values.