Inspiration from a Butterfly

I was recently tagged for a meme by Paz, a cooking novice like myself (but growing by leaps and bounds) from the other coast and author of the fabulous New York City blog, The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz. The meme is The Butterfly Effect Meme, and to avoid any kitchen poxes that may come forth from not participating in a timely manner, here it is!

The Butterfly Effect Meme asks you to name food items or events that changed your foodie life. Specifically you are asked to recall “an item, person, event, or place” that affected you profoundly – something that created a moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment.” It doesn’t have to be “big, splashy” things. Instead, it can be something “small and simple” – something that changed the way you view the world.

These are the categories:
1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life

An ingredient:
A single ingredient that has changed my life? Now, that's tough. Not to deviate from the meme (does that qualify me for a pox too?!), but I don't think that I could name just one...I think just as the experiences of eating different foods in certain places or certain things were what stood out to me when trying to name "5 things to eat before you die" for that meme, I think that there has not been so much a single ingredient that has launched the foodie inside as the taste of quality ingredients...like farmer's market vegetables, soft and tender vanilla beans, spicy tellicherry peppercorns, fragrant freshly ground spices, and varieties of things like spices and chocolates from different countries that taste of the different environments they came from. I love this simply because it's like exploring the world through food the way that it should be, and it makes the experience of eating that much more of an adventure and far more fulfilling because sometimes there's no need to cook elaborate meals or dishes because you want to be able to taste each ingredient. This has also moved me away from just using all convenient foods as now I've learned to make several things from scratch...and I must say, they taste far better when I know I've "labored" over them (compare whipped cream to cool whip, for example, or homemade bread), and beyond that, I rather enjoy the labor! Quality ingredients and my love of food and cooking have also helped me stock my pantry over the last couple of years so that I always have most of what I need for recipes I want to try, which has made cooking easy and more affordable month by month.

A dish, a recipe:
Two words: Chicken stock. I had never made my own chicken stock before I started reading blogs and letting myself fall in love with food and cooking. Now I make it often, especially this time of year when it's cold and rainy outside and my body craves comfort foods. I save chicken carcasses, or when I can afford it, buy whole chickens just for stock. Once it has simmered away on the stove for hours scenting the house with its delicious fragrance, cooled and been skimmed free of fat, then I freeze it in aliquots (that's the scientist in me - I mean "portions"), and use it often. Now, I have even done it so many times that I don't have to get out books or recipes to make it (those of you who have been reading here for a while know the weight of that remark!). I love just throwing things together in the morning and waiting patiently for the fruits of my labor. Plus, it's inspired me to try other things that I would have bought at the store but now can make at home - like marshmallows!

A meal:
I've already written about this in the last meme I wrote: my birthday meal in Puerto Vallarta, where LB and I threw caution, and money (yikes!), to the wind and shared an extravagant and incredible meal at a cliffside restaurant. We tasted an exquisite fois gras, just how it should be served - thanks to our French waitor (go figure, eh?) - with Sauternes. We sipped cocktails and wine and the restaurant even ended up giving us a free dessert because they could tell how excited we were and how we purposefully taking our time to enjoy every course and learn as we went. It was worth every penny (we split the cost) and every moment of that evening with my LB was the perfect birthday present. Second to this meal would have to be my solitary breakfast of sustainable caviar in the Ferry Street Building in San Francisco, California, written about here. Both meals were presented beautifully, made of excellent ingredients and eaten mindfully - the experience, the food, and my surroundings were all important in making them memorable...and increasing my desire to have more of them!

A cookbook or other written work:
When LB and I first met, he didn't cook much. Not that he didn't enjoy cooking, nor have a few good recipes up his sleeve (mmm...his mom's apple pie), but he and our current roommate lived together like the bachelor's they were. Did I ever mention that my roomie eats mostly microwaveable meals? :) But LB liked making meals for me, and complained that he didn't have recipes - his cookbooks were limited and didn't contain recipes for simple things, like just plain, hearty, delicious pork roast, for instance. So we went on a mission - we went to our favorite bookstore here, Smith Family Bookstore, scoured the shelves for cookbooks and found The Joy of Cooking, and it's been a member of our own little family of cookbooks ever since...and we both use it so often and have loved it so well that it's become lovingly tattered and spotted with various cooking experiments over the years. I love it! You can find recipes for almost anything in there - even cactus paddles, which LB brought home (with an enormously cute smile) one day and we had to figure out what to do with them, and it's become a trusted friend whenever I have a cooking question.

A food personality:
I'd have to say here that Alice Waters is probably the one food personality that I admire most. I love her philosophy on food, on eating, on restaurants, and on how children should learn about food (Edible Schoolyard). She promotes fresh, organic food, small farmers, Slow eating, and so many other things and programs that I believe in and full-heartedly support when it comes to food. Her cookbooks also have amazingly delcious recipes (well, the one I have anyway - Chez Panisse Vegetables).

Another person in your life:
I'd like to have come up with this one first, but full credit goes to Paz: other food bloggers. I knew I liked to cook and enjoyed food, but from the first day when I discovered food blogs out here in cyberspace, you've been here with me, dear readers...encouraging me, supporting me, giving me hints and tips about things I'm cooking. You come by, leave your comments to brighten my day, and inspire me to no end with all of the amazing food that you post about on your own sites. I love learning about each of you and from you - your cooking, your histories, your cultures and experiences. You're really the people that have changed my cooking, watched it grow and helped me to become a better cook in general (from novice to amateur perhaps?!)...and I keep posting here because of you. In addition, many of you have become my friends, and I will always be thankful and grateful to have each you in my life.

A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam...
and for a brief moment it's glory
and beauty belong to our world...
but then it flies on again, and although
we wish it could have stayed,
we are so thankful to have seen it at all.

Author Unknown

Now it's your turn - this meme has been going on a while, so I'm not sure who has done it or who hasn't. If you haven't participated yet, please do!

For now, I'm going to tag: (only if you have time, of course)
Vickie, of The Moveable Feast Food Blog
Nerissa, of Deetsa's Diningroom
Anna, of Sunday Night Dinners
and Natalia, of From Our Kitchen

9 comments from you:

Blog Intro said...

I think my produce guide could improve the quality of the ingredients you use. FruitSeasons.com

Blog Intro said...

I think my produce guide could improve the quality of the ingredients you use. FruitSeasons.com

SaltShaker said...

Thanks for participating in the meme and I love the ode to aliquots of chicken stock... no poxes forthcoming!

Eugene, Oregon? I almost visited there once, after having met the owners of the Palace Bakery while on a wine/food trip in Alsace. They made the place sound so intriguing...

michelle said...

Saltshaker, Hi! Thanks for making up such a cool meme and for stopping by to see what I had to say! Glad to hear I've avoided a pox (though I should probably check around to be sure that I haven't acrued other ones from rusty memes in my drafts)! Eugene is a great place, as is Palace Bakery! That's great that you've met the owners, it's good to know that the people I'm supporting are nice enough to make others who meet them from afar want to come and visit!

peanut and planet said...

i too tend to think of frozen portions of food as aliquots. i think my next fooding is going to be chicken soup.

and now, back to doing tissue culture.


Natalia said...

That was a difficult one! But I finally put my post up. I hope my answers are as thoughtful as yours are!

Rachael said...

Oh wow, I loved reading that...

Rachael said...

Oh wow, I loved reading that...

michelle said...

peanut and planet: ah yes, once a scientist, always a scientist! thanks for stopping by!

natalia: i'm late (as usual), but i'll go check on your answers! i can't wait to see what you wrote about!

rachael: aw, thank you!