[by Naveen]

I'm lost: what am I doing? I don't want to be a food blogger taking photos of restaurant meals like some safari-goer collecting trophies. I don't want to be a tourist visiting a country just to take pictures of the monuments and buy some trinkets at the gift shop. I can pick any random recipe on-line and buy pretty much any out-of-season ingredient at the local supermarket and more exotic ingredients at Whole Foods, but that doesn't seem like cooking. That's stamp-collecting.

Running analogies come to mind. I don't want to be stuck doing two-mile jogs: I want to run a marathon someday. I keep seeing ways to take my dishes a step further: farmer's market asparagus instead of generic spears from Shaw's. Growing my own fresh herbs and grinding my own spices instead of sprinkling from the numerous small cylinders in the cabinets. Practicing my knife skills. Getting into a rhythm of reprocessing leftovers and extras to minimize time and food waste. Being able to deconstruct the separate ingredients in a cocktail or the various flavor notes in a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Constraints make cooking more real. Wary of budgetary overruns, I'm skeptical about long ingredient lists. Falling behind in my grad school research makes me feel worse when a recipe takes far longer than expected to prepare.

Why do I cook? It's more than food. It's partly the Zen-like state of mind that comes from focusing on technique. However, it's different than the quest for perfection that drives many professional chefs. I think it's my way of expressing my insatiable curiosity and the continual drive to go further.


Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili
from 101Cookbooks.com, with Goya dried bean mix, some leftover pearled barley, Boston Organics chard, red chili powder from New Mexico.

Breadsticks from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" - more trouble than their worth, in my mind. Flatbreads seem to be a much more practical invention. Every culture has their own variety and there's now an entire cookbook devoted to this global endeavor.

Home-made granola with dried apricots and chopped almonds. Not cost-effective and I'm not sure I want to turn this into a weekly routine. Making oatmeal every day isn't quite my style either. I'm still on the lookout for the perfect breakfast after my morning run.

My first cast-iron skillet. I seasoned it in the oven and it was so beautiful that I took a photo. Paring knife, spice grinder, and food processor are next on the list for kitchen acquisitions.

So many recipes, so little time. But even if I cooked everything, so what?

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