Gourmet, Iraq & Souvlaki

Freshly PennedSeveral years ago I stopped watching food television. No more Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on PBS, no more Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on Food Network. I also stopped reading food magazines. It helped that Gourmet had folded in 2009, so food magazines really weren’t all that good anyway.

I was trying, for the umpteenth time, to lose weight. Surrounding myself with all that virtual food just made me want to eat. So I gave it up.

This past weekend, I went home to my grandmother’s house for my aunt’s surprise birthday party. On her bookshelf, which I always have to peruse, was Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. Equal parts cookbook and personal journal, it’s been on my wishlist since it was published.

Have you ever connected two completely disparate events, understanding that one had absolutely nothing to do with the other, but they happened in such short succession that you can’t think about one without the other?

I connect my brother leaving for his third tour in Iraq with the closing of Gourmet. He left and not two days later I found out about Gourmet on Twitter. I was fine until I read that tweet. And then I lost my marbles. I was positive (and am so grateful that I was wrong) that my brother wouldn’t be coming home and now something that had been part of my life for most of it was gone, something I’d shared for years with my grandmother. I opened up Ruth’s book and was there, in 2009, all over again, tears streaming down my face.

As I sat there reading, I was reminded of the fact that I used to love food: eating it, making it for people I love, and writing about it. But I long ago rejected the idea of being a food writer. I blogged food for a little bit, making other people’s recipes, but I didn’t love it. And let’s face it, we do not lack food bloggers. I wasn’t doing anything original and it bothered me that I was making these recipes and publishing them without permission from the authors.

Reading this book, I started thinking about how my relationship with food has changed. I no longer eat certain foods for health reasons, I no longer spend hours planning meals and cooking, I actually kind of don’t love being in the kitchen anymore. Food has become nutrition, not all of the other things that it can be: love, connection, fun, history, nostalgia.

I read the entire book in a few hours, marveling at Ruth’s writing style and drifting in and out of years worth of memories of cooking with my grandmother. As I closed the book upon finishing, I made a promise to myself that I will fall back in love with food.

Sometimes, something as simple as a book can give you back a part of yourself. Thank you, Ruth.

Sort of Souvlaki

Something that has happened in recent years is that I’ve stopped making recipes in the strictest sense. I do a little research, read a few recipes, then throw something together. Then my mother will ask for the recipe and I’ll tell her there isn’t one. It annoys her to no end. But, I AM my grandmother’s granddaughter, I do this stuff by feel.

I marinated cubed pork loin in lemon juice, fresh oregano, salt, fresh garlic cloves, and avocado oil for 24 hours. Don’t do that. 4 hours is better because the acid in the lemon chemically starts cooking the pork rendering it tough if you leave it too long. I then roasted it on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

Throw it on a salad and call it lunch.