The best food writing, in truth, isn't about food at all. It's life, the details, the little things that happen between waking up and pouring the first cup of coffee to the scoop of peanut butter licked off the spoon before bed. This is what I've been missing. I've been holding back too much of myself.
Who are you doing this all for? Is it you? I asked this while sitting at the BlogHer’15 conference, the white tablecloth draped over my knee and idly picking at a stale blueberry muffin. I drummed my nails on the table. Am I writing for myself? Am I cooking for myself? Lately, the answer is harder to find, my tired arms and back increasingly wondering if I’m cut out for professional kitchen life.
What is keeping me there? Some of it is the chase of someone else’s dream. There’s a perception of failure if you attend culinary school and leave the kitchen world, even if it is to pursue another culinary dream. Like Bill Buford in Heat or Michael Ruhlman in The Making of a Chef - even though they showed up to kitchens day in and day out and did the same hot, sweaty, grueling tasks as the others - they were seen as writers first. Not chefs. Never chefs. It’s your trajectory that defines you.
I get into the kitchen in the morning, open my knife roll and lay out the santoku and a paring knife. My mind reaches out. This isn’t it, I think, and realize that my culinary dream lies elsewhere, in books and photography. Words. Pictures. I am a writer first.
With this comes new directions. This blog may take on a more personal bent, like the past few posts, although it will still be recipe and lesson focused. You cannot write about food without the personal - the very nature of food, how we connect with it, is to betray our own stories and pasts. My love of horseradish and dill betrays my own blood, my past, my ancestors coming from tundras and permafrosts thousands of miles away but encoded into my very self. We are the food we eat. Every meal is a celebration of that.
Part of writing is to strip yourself bare. I can feel the fear rising from my gut to my veins to my goosebumped skin in being more candid. This is it. This is where my arrows point. How else can I document my love affair with food than by placing myself in it? Who can I write for if I don't write for myself first?
I am a writer first. I must remember that.