I’m out. Project Food Blog is over for me. It was one of the craziest things I ever did and I don’t regret it (I don’t think). In fact, I sort of surprised myself because I started this competition absolutely sure I would not win. I am not sure I even wanted to win. I mean aside from the money. But please notice I did not say I wasn’t competitive. I am competitive, but there is a difference between competing for competition sake and competing to win.
But as the contest went on and I kept moving forward, I started to notice that maybe, just maybe I wanted to win. It didn’t define me. It didn’t change my blog. But I noticed it. Then I got past the baking round, which seemed like a miracle to me. Not only did I start wanting to win. I started to think I could win!
That’s where I dropped the ball. That’s where I got off track. Because the minute I digested the news that I was not to be among the top three, my first thought was not that the contest was ending. But Sippity Sup was ending. I couldn’t imagine how I could continue it. Because in that moment it seemed to me to be permanently broken.
But then one of my most enduring memories popped into my brain seemingly out of nowhere. It is of my mother standing on one leg like a flamingo in our suburban Michigan kitchen about 1972. I’m just a shy guy in grade school. Hanging out in my mother’s kitchen– trying to avoid the neighborhood kids and their entirely too serious games of pick up football or basketball.
I don’t know if her stance was some throwback to her childhood ballet, or if she just found this pose comfortable. But there she was standing in the kitchen left foot crooked up and resting just above the right knee. Forming her legs into a perfect representation of the number 4. She’s leaning over the counter (still on one leg) reading a book. That book is Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Long before Julie Powell began to teach herself to cook by blogging her way through this classic, my mother had decided to master the art of French cooking on her own, with no audience (save me), and Julia Child was indeed her muse.
My mother loved to cook. No matter how much she complained about it. I mean here she was, a busy wife and mother with all kinds of obligations I can only imagine, taking the time to read a cookbook. And I mean reading it like a novel. I had never seen anyone do that with a cookbook before.
Most of the kids I grew up with did not venture beyond meat and potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, or mac and cheese. But that was not my experience, or at least the sum total of my experience. We ate everything. I mean considering the times, my brother, sister and I were kids with pretty sophisticated palates.
But my mother could also be a bit of a pop princess. She dressed like Mary Richards (she and Mary had the same figure). She rocked to the Eagles, Elton John and Queen. To my pre-pubescent horror, my mother wore bikinis (other mothers did not wear bikinis)!
She was “with-it” in other ways too, even when it came to food. High trends (sake, sushi, fondue, Cuisinart) and even low trends (Jell‑O salad, smiley face cookies, crunchy tacos, the Joe Namath popcorn popper) none escaped my mother’s attention and curiosity. Hence we kids were exposed to all of this as well. Yes, even sake.
What I am trying to say is you don’t realize the imprint these things make on you. I mean, there I was just a kid watching my mother read a cookbook so I could avoid team sports and the beginnings of a long thread were being formed. It takes time and requires some distance, but eventually, you’ll understand that the thread was left for you to pick up and follow. If you are able to knit that thread into the fabric of your life then you’ll know what happiness is.
I come to this place in my life and this blog after doing so many other things, both professionally and personally. Before this contest, if someone had asked me why I started a blog about food I’d have probably answered, “I sort of fell into it”. But this contest has helped me see that this is simply not true. I had been preparing for it since I was a small boy.
I think my mother would have gotten a kick out of my blog. But like an old school journalist or some modern day chefs, she may not have particularly liked it; or even blogs in general. She was a woman of strong opinions. Though I’m sure I’d disagree with her, and say so (I am a man of strong opinions). Sadly I am left only to imagine what she might say. She passed away in 1993. Long before I ever saw the thread she left for me that led me to this blog.
Now while it’s true that I am disappointed to be eliminated in the writing round. The one round I felt most at ease in. I have to remember that blogs are funny things. Because there are certainly better cooks than me who left the contest before I did. There are better writers and there are better photographers too. Still, I am proud of myself and of the skills that brought me to this place today.
I do want to say something about what I might have done in the final round. Because I had given it some thought. And without being too dramatic (or disrespectful) I have to compare it to a beloved still-born child. So, rather than mourn its passing I thought I’d honor it with a few words.
You see, I love the unexpected. So for my final post, I considered boiling an egg. I can imagine the lovely spare photos I might have done. I can see the prose– short and sweet and just my style.
It would have been a humorous post. I might have started with the phrase “he can’t even boil an egg”! There is so much irony in that statement. Because of all the ways you can cook an egg, boiling an egg takes the most finesse. It’s easier to teach a cat to bark than it is to create a perfect soft-boiled egg. By perfect I mean that the egg has to have a white that is completely cooked– and a warm, oozing generous yolk. You need to know just the right moment to pull that egg from the boiling water. Too soon and you’ll find a nauseating mass of barely congealed, translucent jelly and a cold, sick yolk; too long and you’re halfway to hard-boiled without actually getting there. Sure it’s edible, but it’s not perfect.
Perfection starts with a fresh, but not too fresh egg. That egg needs to be 70 degrees. Now the last time I checked, an egg has neither mouth nor sphincter, so getting a thermometer into that baby is a rather difficult task. But my research tells me this is where you must begin.
But I didn’t get much further in my research because as I was standing in my kitchen, leaning over a cookbook, reading about eggs. I looked down and saw a thread. A bright red thread. Now how did that get there? Naturally, I picked it up and began to follow it.
Well as you have probably guessed it didn’t lead to a boiled egg or the final round of this contest. But, I can’t wait to pick up that thread again and see where it actually does lead me. Because like my mother, I cook to please people, I find it makes me happy. No matter how much I complain about it. It’s a bit dumb. It’s sentimental. It’s who I am and was always meant to be.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD
My Previous Project Food Blog Entries
FoodBuzz Challenge #9: The Hollywood “District” is on my beat