Saturday, December 31, 2011

A House Full of Happy

My sister Julie's visiting, Eric got home two days ago from the States, and life is, in general, pretty wonderful.  2011 has been good to me!  Happy new year, everyone!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where Did I Come From?

It's not a metaphysical question - it's one I'm faced with every time I double down in the kitchen to cook dinner for me and a group of friends.  My mother, who it must be said is an excellent cook herself, nonetheless absolutely hates any activity reminiscent of cooking.  When my childhood home was being renovated, she tried to convince my father to turn the kitchen into a library (it had great south-facing windows and got lots of light) and to put a small wet bar at the end of our den.  "What more do we need," she asked.  "Mini-fridge, microwave, and a small freezer.  That's perfect!"  Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of practice cooking when I was growing up.  Moving to a boarding school at age 16 just compounded the matter - four years in a dorm, followed by two years as a broke-ass, stressed-out grad student did not do wonders for my cooking skills.  And in Saudi, I was too tired at the end of the day to make myself dinner - after three months of eating once a day in the embassy cafeteria and consequently losing 30 pounds, I finally paid someone to cook me a week's worth of meals every Monday so that I wouldn't starve (further).  

So my mom and the rest of my family view my recently acquired interest in cooking with confusion and no small amount of suspicion.  I'm not sure what caused it - perhaps the realization that Indian food is nearly impossible to find in Istanbul, perhaps finding plentiful and cheap produce right outside my door.  Maybe it was an attempt to impress Eric, or maybe I was trying to channel my aunt Gail and keep the baking traditions alive.  Whatever the cause, I like being able to make something that people want seconds and thirds of.  I find some small bit of zen satisfaction in slicing up onions and ginger and tomatoes after a stressful day at work.  I've gotten to the point where I don't always feel hidebound by recipes: I add spices that I think will go well with something, or I fiddle with the amounts listed to suit my tastes.  I'm not quite ready to create my own recipes, and I still need a few friends to whom I can direct all cooking questions.  (Aside: one should always have a friend who is willing to look over the recipes you find and tell you how to improve them.  Recipes in magazines can always be improved by someone with a master's touch.)  But last night, I posted my first recipe onto a website affiliated with a community website I use, and having noticed a sad lack of Arab and Turkish dishes on there, I think I can tell what my contribution to the site will be.

At the end of the day, no matter how much I confuse my family, I've noticed that they ask for seconds when I cook dinner for them.  That's a compliment I'll take to heart!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Home Alone

Eric's back in the States for a few weeks visiting his family.  This will be the longest I've gone without seeing him since March, when I went on R&R.  I have a friend staying with me this week, but he's out dancing, and I'm at home because I'm still fighting off strep throat.

So I spent the evening catching up on Google Reader (apparently I've read 1800+ items in the last 24 hours), contemplating Christmas presents for friends (Turkish coffee and spices, I think), and reading (Hunger Games trilogy, again).  It's eerily quiet in this house - even the cats are passed out asleep.

What to do with my three weeks of empty nesting?