On History

The blog move is kind of annoying. Making things work in WordPress that worked in Serendipity is surprisingly touchy and difficult. It’ll all be worth it in the end, but it’s seriously obnoxious in the meantime.

Work, computer! Just do what I want! Magically! Magic is how computers work, right?

One of the things I’m having to do is go through and read all the entries and look for coding errors or similar problems. It’s astoundingly slow going. It’s good for mostly-brainless activity, but as I’d like to get this done by the 22nd of October, it’s also something I’ll have to do while I have brainpower. Thus, it’s really dull.

There’s been some upsides, though. The first being that I’m seeing the list of cookbooks we own, and thus recipes I’d been so excited about making & then forgotten. Like the pumpkin custard I mentioned in The Everything Thai Cookbook.  I’d completely forgotten about that, and now I have a pumpkin in my house to try this tonight.

Much more importantly, it means I’m seeing meals we had once, loved and planned to make again. A few of them, I remembered and we did make again. Many more, I did not. For example the Salade Aux Ladrons was a huge hit in this household, and we never made it again. Which is stupid, because we’re in our third CSA year, and every year the lettuce selection overwhelms us1.

This happened more with earlier recipes, I think. When we were more in the grip of “challenge” and the excitement thereof. We were very busy looking forward, in the beginning. To buying cookbooks. To trying new recipes. To minimizing repeats. Later recipes have stuck in our heads more, partially because they’re newer but partially because the sheen of “challenge” has worn off.

My blog in 2010 was full of verve, energy and enthusiasm. And, frankly, had more fun writing. I recently discovered the delightful phrase, “like a fruit-maddened toucan” in my archives. I also found I’d admitted to peaches making me feel inadequate, despite being my favorite fruit. We had a pretty awesome blog in 2010, if I do say so myself. We wrote almost 150 entries in 216 days.

And, in January 2011, it all came crashing down around my ears. I still haven’t totally recovered. Going to Edible Institute 2011 made my whole blog concept feel terrible. (Not that it shows in that post.) And, frankly, that made it a lot less fun. In time, that stress wore me down.

My blog in 2011 was a bit depressed. I wrote 139 entries in 2011. Which seems almost as good as 2010, until you realize I had over 100 more days to write entries. So far, 2012 is even worse. It’s a wasteland. I’ve, so far, written 48 entries. A mere 48! And that’s with 290 days under my belt.

If it seems like I lost my way there for awhile, it’s because I had. Or maybe I didn’t know the path I was walking in the first place. MetaCookbook just seemed like a challenge we launched on a whim, full of fun and giggles, and hey, if we learned a lesson about being rabid consumers of anything along the way? Bonus!

What it turned out to be was my place to learn to cook, surprisingly publicly, to learn to blog, to indulge my interest in eating, in food sourcing, and so on.

I actually wrestled, a lot, with keeping my archives in the relaunch. Did the recipes I cooked matter? Would anyone care about my recipe commentary? Would anyone care about my other thoughts of back then?  Did I care?

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, but it took months of considering before I realized I did care. And I think others will too, though I cannot say. Now, as I’m trying to steer MetaCookbook in a new-ish direction, I realize something very important. These archives are not just the blog’s history – they’re my history, and my direction, right there for the world to see. I wouldn’t be at a place where I care so much about food without having maintained, even haphazardly, this blog. I doubt I’d’ve learned to cook decently without this blog.

And that’s what it came down to, for me. I’m not an incompetent cook anymore, like I was in high school and undergrad. I’m not a mediocre cook, like I was in grad school. I’m actually a good cook. And I’m a cook who’s come to realize that it isn’t just cooking that matters to me, it’s all the stuff surrounding food. Where it comes from. How it’s produced. What the science behind it is. What wines and beers go well with it. Who else cares about it, and why they do.

So, that’s where MetaCookbook took me. It’s where I’m going more purposefully now. Where does that leave the challenge that launched it all? I don’t actually know just yet. Part of me feels I’ve learned a lot just in what I’ve done. Part of me says, “Fuck it. I had a challenge, and I’m going to meet it.” And, frankly, part of me just wants to say, “It might not be reasonable to wait 13 years for a new cookbook, Natasha.”

We’ll see. For now, there will be more repeats in the home. There will be less leaning on Eat Your Books and Mark Bittman. There will be more science. There will be more beer. There will be more blather.

And there will always be more food.

fn1. We made the Salade Aux Ladrons last night. I overcooked the egg yolk again, worse this time. Trust me when I say the egg yolk is necessary.