By Kimberly StolzPublished January 17, 2012
Do you remember your first time?
My first time was a fumbling mess. I didn’t pay attention to what went where and ended up trying to forget the whole ordeal.
My first time trying to cook was, true story, a, um, gourmet meal of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Boiled the water, cooked the macaroni until it plumped up, tossed in the butter, milk and cheese powder. Notice any missing steps? How about “drain the water?” Yup, forgot to do that. I don’t know what my addled young mind was thinking – that the water would be sucked up by the radiation orange powder and magically turn into the viscous, cheesiest sauce I knew and loved? Whatever the case, the tangy macaroni soup was a total loss. And then there was the year I cooked the Thanksgiving turkey upside-down. I defended myself by claiming that, in shoving that monster in the oven breast-side down, I was the smartie because then all the juices would pool there, resulting in moist and yummy white meat. On this last point, I have been recently vindicated as many cheffy types advocate for this unattractive method.
The point is – there is a learning curve when it comes to at-home cheffing. If you give up after a few gaffes, then a whole world of fun, artistry and expression of affection will be forever lost. Oh, and don’t forget connection. Learning to cook, swapping recipes and finding inspiration has a way of bringing you closer to your loved ones. At special family meals, we always begin with plates and plates of hors d’ouevres. All of the appetizer recipes are courtesy of my step-grandmother, Connie (Constance). Her maiden name was Howland, so in high school she was teased and called “Constantly Howling.” In any case, when she passed away a few years ago, a panic started; who had the recipes and who was going to make them? Luckily, Connie had shared many recipes with me over the years, all of them handwritten in that old-timey penmanship from back in the day. Thus, we were able to keep the finger foods a part of our tradition. When we eat them now, they are more than just snacks, they remind us of Grandma Connie and her culinary kindness. I treasure these handwritten bits, same as I carefully crack open the cookbooks I’ve inherited from my grandma Bev, which are peppered with her comments. Together, both stacks of jotted directives shape the narrative of my family.
Like Rick Lopez, one of our featured tastemakers, I love using my grandmothers’ hand-me-down ideas to then create a dish that has my own stamp on it. Over the years, the pages have become splashed with various cooking liquids, tattooed with wine rings and pops of grease stains, but there is more connection to my family on those dirty, yellowed sheets then looking up a recipe on the Interwebs can ever provide.
This issue of Food City is filled with toothsome and inspiring recipes to share: Everything from celebratory shrimp scampi to how to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Pick a favorite dish, have a dinner party, write out the recipe and pass it to your guests. Ask your mom or your grandmother for a recipe or two. Start a distinctly low-fi collection and it’ll end up a time capsule of your kitchen escapades. Who knows? You may pass these scribblings along yourself someday.
On those days and night when preening around the kitchen is just too much, we are also offering up tastes of new restaurants. Many of these are downtown, bringing the city’s center back to foodie life. Between these destination eateries and the new downtown Hills Market, the doughnut hole that was downtown repast options is getting filled in fast.
And how about Pizzaquest? From cheapie student slices to gourmet pies, pizza defines Columbus almost as much as the Statehouse. Writer Jeff Fernengel set out to sample, savor and select the best takes on the epic genre., with an even more epic challenge: 30 local pizza joints in 30 days.
All of this and more chronicle life in our Food City. Whether it’s whipping up a meal at home for your friends and serving locally-distilled Watershed drinks, or romancing your loved one with a dinner at Rigsby’s, or slurping a warming soup in the middle of a run of cold weather, or naming your band after a favorite local nosh, our adventures with food are our lives. One recipe, one meal, one bite at a time.