“a long and often difficult process of personal change and development”
I don’t know about long (I’m only 30) and difficult (it hasn’t been that tough), but here is a brief synopsis to how I got where I am.
I started baking instinctively; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t bake. In fact, I have a vague childhood memory of being three or four years old (the age of the picture below) and hiding under the kitchen table because it was past my bed time, but wanting so much to take part in my dad’s cookie baking. I remember pulling out cookbooks and baking when I was home alone after school (dangerous), and making cookies for my friends birthdays throughout high school. I’ve always loved to bake, always loved how it makes people happy. And I’ve always had a baker’s thumb – rarely does something not turn out – I’m lucky that way I guess.
Cooking, on the other hand, came a little later (comparatively). I vehemently believed that I. Did. Not. Cook. (I guess I didn’t realize that baking was cooking) However, I do remember pouring over the holiday menus in the Joy of Cooking and attempting to instruct my parents on their menu decisions. My father was game, and very sweetly made several of my culinary castles in the air come to life.
Moving into my first college apartment at 19, it dawned on me that for the first time in my life, I was going to have to (gasp) cook for myself. I asked my dad to teach me how to cook so I wouldn’t starve. He taught me to make pasta sauce, believing that you covered all the cooking fundamentals are covered in making a good sauce – dicing, sautéing, reducing, and simmering. He was right, and I was hooked. I fell in love with cooking, especially cooking with and for other people.
This was also around the same time I became a vegetarian. One day, at the age of 18, I stopped eating meat after growing up thinking vegetables were garnish. Something just shifted, and meat was completely unappealing. There was no ethical dilemma, just a taste factor. I was fully vegetarian for a couple of years until I spent a semester in Barbados and enjoyed the amazing fresh fish there. I was a pescadarian for several years (but never really cooked it myself).
Three years ago, I read the Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, and decided to try out being vegan for a month. It stuck for six, and dabbling in macrobiotics (inspired both by the Kind Diet and Jessica Porter’s Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics ). I loved how it opened me up to new flavors and ideas about cooking; it got me excited to cook again after starting to feel bored in the kitchen. These two books changed how I thought about food, and while I currently am only vegan-ish, am grateful for the foundation of eating whole foods that they gave me.
So that’s where I am now – not 100% anything and I like that. I lean towards whole foods versus process foods, and try to make things from scratch when I can. I generally prefer eating vegan, but can’t deny my French blood and crave a good cheese every now and again. Even though I’m not completely vegan, I love “veganizing” and making dishes gluten-free, both for the challenge (and shock value when I tell people) and to make sure that everyone can enjoy it.
I was definitely not an athlete growing up. I was a gangly awkward girl for most of my life, with couch potato tendencies. I danced a bit off an on through childhood and high school. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I started exercising regularly. I remember going for my first run, and the 3/4 of a mile was TOUGH. I worked up to 5 miles or so and ran through most of college, mainly to keep the beer and pizza in check.
Post-college, I’ve become a runner, and finished four half-marathons. I’ve also completed a sprint triathlon and a metric century ride. I’ve been practicing yoga off and on for the last ten years, and in the last year have gotten really into it. I’m considering going for teacher training. The inner gangly girl is still shocked that I became an athlete as an adult. I guess this is all to say – never write yourself off for not being athletic. You’re capable of more than you can imagine, you just have to make room for it in your life. You may surprise yourself.
Canning is not something I grew up with. The idea of food preserving always intrigued me, the act of taking something perishable and making it . but canning seemed very complex and unattainable. Then I took a class on making jam at the Workshop in San Francisco and saw how easy it was. My dad has fig and pear trees at his house in Calistoga, and decided to try making fig and pear jam (mainly because I had visions of pairing them with my Thanksgiving cheese plate). After the first time I made fig jam, I was hooked. Several canning binges ensued, and I had to cut myself off after I ran out of storage space and was keeping jam under the bed. This is my second year canning, and I’ve moved beyond jam into some savory preserves – pickles and salsas.
Canning satisfies something in me the way that baking does – only it is shelf-stable so you don’t have to worry about eating it before it goes stale. I love that opening a jar of preserves is like opening a memory – eating the flavors of another season transports you to another time. And I love being able to give a homemade gift during the holidays.
I read cookbooks for fun, geek out about canning, get excited about making things from scratch, and practice yoga almost every day. Some people call me a vegan Martha Stewart. That’s a great compliment, but she’s a little too in the clouds for the rest of us mere mortals. I try to keep things reasonable (although I’m sure some of you would argue with that).
I prefer making things from scratch, and I love celebrating life through the small details. I like cooking vegan-ish and gluten-free-ish because it means that everyone can enjoy it, and feel good about what they are eating. I started this blog because I love learning about food, canning, and living a healthy life and want to share it with you, and to show that being healthy doesn’t have to be hard.
I disclaim: I am not a licensed health professional, nutritionist, fitness instructor, yoga instructor, or anyone else qualified to make strong recommendations about what to eat and how to exercise. I have done a bit of research, and present what I’ve learned here through practice and life. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and do what’s right for you. My opinions are mine, and your decisions are yours.