Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eats & Smiles: Reflections on 2012

It's interesting how quickly things can change in one's world. Times like these seem to leave you less energy or inspiration for other things... like cooking.

It's been a whirlwind.

My December was filled many casual drinks with old friends and a few with some new ones. I managed to have some quality time with friendly and family faces. My world became bigger and smaller in the span of thirty days. The two biggest bits of news... We got engaged! In a completely amusing moment of shock and surprise, I found myself saying "of course" to a pledge of becoming a Mrs. Then, our world became a little bit smaller as our New Year's Day found us in the emergency vet and saying goodbye to our dearest and first furbaby, Wally.

Ironically, I had started the month of December with writing a love letter to the Edmonton Humane Society, thanking them for bringing both Wally and Jack into our lives. It was published this last week...

Tears of joy.

And tears of sorrow.

So, yes, it's been a whirlwind. To put it mildly.

In a wannafoodie world, I definitely chipped away at some of my foodie goals for 2012, which included:
- Mastering the creme brulee
- Making bread and -shocking- making cheese
- More brunch with friends
- Curing and preserving
- More Mexican
- More Soul
- More ice cream
- French cooking
- Infusing
- Donuts

Well, I definitely made some fantastic attempts in some areas and didn't chip away at others. I made a few creme brulees and pot de cremes... some turned out more like runny custard toppings or chocolate fondues. They were all still tasty!

I made many many loaves of sourdough bread and other sweet breads a la Peter Reinhardt. My momma launched her bread company and proved that she is truly a bread master. The "bread touch" is in my genes... somewhere! I'll tap into that even more and figure out if I can master these doughs.

It's so funny to read about making cheesemaking a goal for 2012! When I wrote that, I had absolutely zero idea that Valerie, Ian, Addie, and Deb would be launching Cheesepalooza that August. By August, I had made a few fresh cheeses but the challenge gave me such a framework of both learning but also of support that made this 2012 challenge much more attainable than it may have been on my own.

There were many more brunches with friends but also dinners with friends, drinks with friends, camping with friends, and so on. Food is so much better when you get to enjoy it with others. We even challenged ourselves and made a multi-course meal for New Year's Eve, where we made the meal together, then sat and enjoyed the meal together, complete with some pretty decadent wine pairings for each course. It was infinitely more comfortable, casual, and celebratory than being in a restaurant... having to dress up, pay through the nose, worry about finishing up by a certain time, and -the worst- figuring out how to get home on that very busy evening!

There was no curing, as I had no idea how all-consuming my cheese challenge would become, but there was more preserving this year. We have come to completely hoard our stash of preserves, carefully selecting jars for consumption, and enjoying the fruits of our labours and the bests of the season previous.

There was a bit more Mexican (and an amusing attempt at a campside mole) but no more attempts at Soul. Still some work to do in this area.

There were a few more ice creams and sorbets. I was particularly pleased with a pumpkin pie-chevre faux ice cream. It was little more than pumpkin puree with homemade chevre, pumpkin spiced syrup, and a bit of gelatin (after finding inspiration from my Momofuku cookbook in the use of gelatin).

I succeeded in adding more French cookery to my repertoire! I made dulce de leche filled puffs in Argentina of all places for Brunch with Friends 3... a little Europe meets South America. I read French Kids Eat Everything, which pushed me to think about my own eating habits both in terms of the what but also the when and how. It reminded me that it never hurts to add a bit more ceremony to your daily meals. I took a French Country cooking class, which was fantastic! Then we remade that menu with our own inspiration for a family dinner. I read Julia Child's and Laura Calder's cookbooks... reminding myself to cook ingredients simply and preserve their integrity through elevation and simple sophistication.

I didn't manage to attack any infusions but sure did enjoy some mixology attempts... I now know that my perfect negroni substitutes cinzano for the red vermouth. I will also substitute aperol for campari, if I am feeling like toning down the delightful bitterness.

Oh donuts... donuts... I sure managed to eat them but did not manage to make any. I sure need to get on that bandwagon.

So, all in all, it looks as though I managed to chip away at some of my foodie goals better than others but am so happy with my progress. I definitely feel as though I have a broader repertoire than when I started. I'll continue to work towards achieving more of these goals.

And eating a lot more salads... I do have a wedding coming up now.
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