Eat

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez

Food.

Sometimes I wonder how and when food went from being little more than a means of survival and source of nutrition to a connector between people, a friend-maker, a relationship former, a reason to get together and see people. I wonder how and when people figured out that combining just the right amounts of flour, sugar, butter, water, and yeast and baking them at 400 degrees yields the perfect loaf of bread. How did people figure out that bread dough needs to rise? How did they figure out that bread dough needs to be kneaded (no pun intended), while a kneaded pie crust is a disaster? When did people begin celebrating family and friendship and special occasions with elaborate spreads of carefully prepared dishes? These are the things I think about, and really, the things that separate us from the animals. I certainly don’t see my dog socializing with other dogs over bowls of kibble. On the contrary, that actually may not go over very well if we were to give it a try.

In 2010, I entered my baklava in the Minnesota State Fair baking competition and finished in second place.

In 2010, I entered my baklava in the Minnesota State Fair baking competition and finished with a red ribbon.

I don’t have a more profound way of expressing the following information, so I will just simply state it: I love food.  I love to eat food, I love to create food, I love to serve food, and when the weather gods cooperate, I even love to grow food. There are few foods that I don’t like, and I’ll usually try just about anything at least once. I do my best to make careful, health- and environmentally-conscious food choices, which is much easier in certain places than in others. And though I love fruits and vegetables and can frequently be seen eating a massive salad, I am an admitted Cookie Monster and may very well have the world’s most insatiable sweet tooth.

Cookies

Following a two-day holiday baking marathon in December 2013.

In my travels, I have found that food is  the best bridge between cultures. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I spent many evenings laughing through my broken Bulgarian with my neighbors over shared plates of salads and roasted meats. Traveling alone in Istanbul and seeing fellow solo travelers sit down to a table for one gave me the courage to strike up a conversation with freshly prepared Turkish food as our first topic. And more recently in Mexico, my husband and I prepared Thanksgiving dinner for my Mexican colleagues, which gave us the opportunity to spend quality time with each other and share some of our own traditions, all with food at the center. Indeed, the greatest beauty of a good meal is that it allows people to sit down as strangers and stand up as friends.

As a runner, I am finding more and more that good nutrition is directly related to my training and racing. In my twenties, I lived by the mantra “run to eat”. Now, however, “eat to run” is more appropriate as I realize that I can no longer eat whatever I want with the guarantee of “burning it off” with my next run. Instead, I look for food that is both nutritious and tasty, and often attempt to create that balance in my own kitchen.

Med food

In September 2013, M. and I prepared and hosted a Mediterranean foods night for our consulate friends and colleagues in Matamoros.

Although I consider myself a better baker than a cook, experimenting in the kitchen is one of my favorite pastimes, particularly as we welcome the cuisine of each country on our journey into our hearts. The recipes I have included in this blog are a mix of my cookbook favorites, my own creations, and sometimes a combination of both. If you have a recipe that you’d like to share, please contact me and it would be my honor to post it.

Guten Appetit!      Bon appétit!      ¡Buen provecho!

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