Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Open Your Back Door

Have you ever wanted to go on a culinary food trip? You know, those ones that you can arrange through a travel agency that takes you on a gastronomical trip through Europe tasting all those delicious ethnic foods and then learning how to cook them. Well, as amazing as those trips are - and I do hope to go on one someday - the economy and my budget forces me to think on a smaller scale, taking "mini" trips or, put another way, foodie field trips. Seriously, I don't care if you live in the Big City or a small little Norman Rockwell town, there are always culinary adventures for the taking.

Asian MarketGoogle is your friend! Start by Googling a nationality and put the word "store" or "market" behind it, along with your town - such as "Asian Market Austin Texas". You will be pleasantly surprised as to what you may find. Now, I live in the town with the flagship Whole Foods store and corporate headquarters, so of course your thinking "why go so far for those delicacies when you can do one-stop shopping?" I'll tell you why. First, when I go to the Asian Market (for example), I am not laden with 4 choices of fish sauce. I get a whole aisle of fish sauces and I get fish sauce from more countries then you can shake a wok at. Why do I want all these choices? Because it's FUN and we live in the land of amazing possibilities.

Second, if you have questions about any of the food, what better way to get answers than go straight to the source. The majority of people that shop in these stores are "regulars" and always seem to have a smile on their face. More importantly,they are generally very willing to answer my silly questions!

Third, if you are looking at this trip from an artistic stand point, nothing screams art to me like all of the labels on the food in an ethnic market. It's like rows and rows of art and color in a food museum. Don't be squeamish of the language barrier - I can usually find a picture on the label that will give me some hint as to what's inside.

I have found that almost every city I have visited has its own unique little pockets of culinary wisdom. Try stepping out through your own back-door... You just may find those same kinds of gastronomical adventures, on a much cheaper "E"-ticket. I'm jus sayin'

Kitchen Therapy

First, I must say "Wow!" It's the first day of Fall, and I'm so blessed that it has come with the pitter-patter of rain. Here in Texas, it's been so very dry that we welcome any form of precipitation we can get. Rainy days make me think of baking and baking makes my mind wander to places that bring only comfort and peace. The last two months have been filled with the usual ups and downs, but they also brought with them the sad news of deaths in the family. I find a bit of comfort knowing that I can walk into my kitchen and let all that pain just melt away when I am cooking.

The kitchen is my therapist, and the food waiting to be transformed becomes my therapy. Of course, on the morning that followed my dog's passing I found it difficult to be as creative as I wanted - so I took a day off. But then, it suddenly occurred to me that taking a day off makes me sulk. Who wants to sulk when there are eggs to whip and sugar to melt and butter to beat into tasty goodness? My whole life, no matter what seems to be bothering me or making me happy at that moment, I have had security knowing that I can walk into a kitchen and release it all - as well as the added bliss that comes along with it.

Once the oven is turned off, you get two choices: indulge in the results of your work right there (which we all know I am trying hard to pass up), or give it away and bless others. When you hand something sweet or something comforting over to a friend, whether they need it or not, it gives such a sense of satisfaction that no words are needed - unless you consider "oooh's" and "ahh's" and "mmmm" words. I'm not trying to take any jobs away from licensed therapists, but hey, if you can find that "thing" that does it for you, then just jump right in because last time I checked, baking cookies was a lot cheaper than therapy - I'm jus' sayin'