Forgive me, Reader.
For I am apparently incapable of posting travel photos unless they were taken over a year ago. And since so much time has elapsed, I am also terrible at coming up with words to accompany them.
What do you eat when you eat alone? I, for one, am no stranger to solo dining. I wholeheartedly embrace and sometimes even prefer it. Most nights when I know I’m going to be dining alone, I phone in a takeaway order to the surprisingly good Chinese place right below my flat right as I’m leaving work so that the food is ready for pickup by the time I’ve arrived. Nothing makes a perfect solo night in like some overpriced Hong Shao Rou and a couple (or five) episodes of Mind of a Chef. This is the laziest option, and I fall back on it much more than I’d like to admit.
Cooking a solo dinner for oneself is a bit trickier. It raises questions like, how much effort am I willing to put into cooking a meal if I am the only one eating it?
Or, do I deserve to eat something nice?
Which all really boils down to the most pressing of questions, do I love myself?
For me, the answers to the above are most certainly: a little, yes and yes. I’m not the type of girl who can eat cereal for dinner without getting a little depressed. (Although I did have a brief love affair with Special K Red Berries while I was studying in the UK. Don’t judge me.) When I’m cooking for just myself, I try to cook things that I would be delighted to eat on any day, but that don’t take more than half an hour to prepare. The list is short and includes Nong Shim instant kimchi ramen with an egg and spinach. But I’d like the share the few standbys I do have, just in case you ever find yourself alone on a weeknight and want something super tasty to pair with your Pinot Grigio and Sex and the City reruns. (Not even being facetious – this is an accurate description of how I spend some of my evenings. Let’s not forget that all those Cathy comics drew their inspiration from somewhere.)
I didn’t realize how easy it is to make Spaghetti Carbonara until I saw an episode of “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” on the Food Network where Anne Burrell shares her recipe. (Sometimes I can’t believe this is how I spend my time.) I add some arugula to mine to make the dish a bit more balanced. Note that I use fewer eggs than the original recipe calls for because I don’t need my carbonara to be that rich. If you do, add more eggs. One pot, five ingredients, 25 minutes. Because we deserve it.
Over the past four months, I’ve written and posted multiple entries with these photos, only to change my mind and take them down. I’ve been having a hard time finding a story to accompany these photos.
I don’t want to write a travel blog. I’m sure that anything I could write about Iceland has been written before a thousand times; I’m sure there are hundreds of blogs out there with more interesting things to say about Iceland than I do after having only been there for four days. Why should I assume that my personal take on Iceland would interest anyone other than myself? I’m self-involved, but I don’t like to kid myself.
But I still wanted to post these photos. They are nice photos, and I enjoyed taking them.
The problem was coming up with a text to accompany them, since I’m also reluctant to post pictures without words. It just seems like a wasted opportunity. I had the opportunity to subject the world to my words and ideas, and I didn’t take it.
I considered weaving passages of a completely fictional story between the photos. But that seemed too non-sequitur; these photos are personal, and to post them alongside a story that has nothing to do with me seemed a bit odd.
I tried writing a story about my earliest memories of food and cooking. Stories from when I was a child, barely tall enough to reach the stove. Stories from when I was a college student, living on her own and cooking spaghetti for the first time. But that also seemed weird, and somehow forced.
I could tell those posts would end up not working because I had such a hard time getting them down on paper. I toiled over those posts. The words didn’t come flowing out, as they tend to do with my very best posts.
And so, as I sit here drinking Spätburgunder and eating Käsespätzle out of a take-out container (how German can one get?), I will write about a topic that comes easily to me — my own life, in recent memory. This trip to Iceland took place almost exactly a year ago, and I’ve been thinking about how much my life, and how much I, as a person, have changed since then.
So, what has happened to me in this past year?
It’s easy to see what direction my life has taken. Wellness, adulthood, coming into my own as a professional womyn. So what does that mean for this blog? Well, there might be more health-conscious recipe posts than I’m historically known for. And, I might experiment with some more varied content. What does that mean? Basically marrying my love of food and data in the form of data-driven food-related blog posts. I’ve always been interested in food trends and other people’s eating habits. And I’ve spent the last decade or so of my life learning how to (and making a living by) drawing insights from data. What if I did posts like this one on death row meals but backed with quantitative instead of qualitative analysis? Yeah, it’s a tall order (heh), but we’ll see how it goes.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Two months ago, I had every intention of firing up this blog again. I bought the domain, I migrated everything to WordPress.org, I even bought that weirdo light that everyone recommends for taking food photos at night and started looking into expensive photo editing software. I formulated a plan for publishing regular updates and for cultivating a meaningful online presence. None of these plans came to fruition. Instead, I found myself busy with all sorts of other things, such as ending a serious relationship, taking a soul-healing trip to Iceland with my best friends from college, packing up all my things, leaving my home, unpacking all my things in a new and very different home, and undertaking a complete makeover of my daily routine.
Cooking and blogging were put on hold while I worked to reestablish baseline stability in my life. That tumultuous period still isn’t quite over, but my will to cook at least seems to have healed.
Today it’s all about breakfast burritos and the women who love them. I’m talking specifically about me and my friend Steph, who is the closest thing I’ve found to a foodie soulmate on this continent and who played a prominent role in the making of this post. Welcome to the food blogosphere, Steph! Seeing as how we’re both from in and around LA, breakfast burritos are just one of those things we get mad cravings for that can’t really be satisfied in Berlin. Luckily, they are super easy to make at home.
Dürüm wrappers make a great stand-in for tortillas if you can’t find them at your local supermarket. I mean they basically are tortillas, right?
The anatomy of a breakfast burrito:
Fry the bacon. Heat the beans through in a sauce pan. Scramble the eggs, in the bacon fat if you wish, adding cheese to them right before you turn off the heat. (You do know how to make proper scrambled eggs, right? An ex-boyfriend once showed me how and the difference was so marked that I’ve never forgotten.) Slice the avocado. Toast the tortillas (over the flame if you’re cooking with gas, or in a dry sauce pan). Assemble and eat immediately with plenty of hot sauce!
Kai’s family is coming to Berlin for Easter, which means I gotta up my Kaffee und Kuchen game. Kaffee und Kuchen, like afternoon tea for the British, is an integral part of the German Feiertag, particularly when visiting with family and friends. So now I’m starting to think about cakes that I could present to the family. Tasty, honest cakes that have my own weirdo foodie spin on them (and that hopefully don’t look like shit.)
Although I’ve managed to conceive of and execute novel and tasty recipes that fall into the sweets category, I am by no means a baker. Baking is always a bit of a strain for me, mostly because I always find myself torn between my desire to make something super creative and mind-blowing and my laziness and general distaste for baking. I’m always integrating some new flavor combination or ingredient into my baked creations. I just can’t leave well enough alone!
Coupled with the fact that I am still essentially a baking novice, this can sometimes lead to suboptimal results. I can’t tell you how many desserts of mine have had to be salvaged in the critical moment using hacks from Chowhound, because I pulled a total n00b move like adding liquid to melted chocolate before it was sufficiently cooled. Baking is like the open-heart surgery of cooking: one misstep and your patient dies.
Luckily this cake turned out pretty dang tasty, in spite of the fact that in my first attempt to make the frosting I accidentally made the melted chocolate seize up and had to walk to the grocery store to buy more white chocolate at 10.30PM on a Tuesday. Did I mention that I made this same freaking mistake the last time I made a cake recipe that called for melted chocolate? What I lack in attention span I make up for in perseverance.
The flavor combi was good, the components (aside from some questionable candied orange peel) were solid, and no one got hurt. I’d call that a success.