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March 28, 2005

Food glorious food

Dr. Dregs and I came to the unpleasant realization a couple of months ago that we were spending far, far too much money eating out -- and what's worse, we weren't even eating particularly well. We had all of the usual excuses: we were too tired to cook after working all day; we didn't have time; we couldn't agree on what to eat. We knew we needed to change our ways, but once you're out of the habit of cooking for yourself, it's hard to re-establish it. We thought about what we could do to make eating at home more appealing. A little thought brought us to the conclusion that we didn't eat at home because we didn't want to eat at home. Why didn't we want to eat at home? We were in a major "food rut" as far as our usual home dining choices were concerned. The solution (we hoped): branch out and try some new recipes.

Both of us have always liked to cook, and I had devoted quite a bit of time and effort to becoming a competent baker. But baked goods alone obviously weren't going to be the answer. We weren't unwilling to cook, and I was very interested in becoming a better cook, but what we needed was some inspiration.

We turned to cookbooks, of course -- relying primarily on a few old standbys: The Joy of Cooking (from whence I learned many of my baking skills, as well as basics like how to roast a chicken), Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking(which once upon a time made me brave enough to attempt making pasta by hand), and Pam Anderson's How to Cook Without a Book (a great primer on many basic techniques despite its limitations). But we needed more than collections of recipes to really inspire us.

So (I am almost ashamed to admit) we turned to TV. Having long been fans of Iron Chef, we had seen bits and pieces of other shows on Food Network, but had rejected them as boring, annoying, and/or useless. Then we discovered Good Eats. For those of you living under the same culinary rock as we used to, "Good Eats" is an eminently practical cooking show that also manages to be entertaining. The host, Alton Brown, is a major geek (not just when it comes to food), and sometimes the dork factor of the show is almost unbearably high. But most of the time, the show provides clear demonstrations of useful techniques, presents good recipes, and explains the science behind cooking in an entertaining way. We also started watching America's Test Kitchen on PBS. This show is even dorkier than "Good Eats," but similarly presents excellent, tasty (and exhaustively tested) recipes along with the necessary techniques to make them. With TiVo season passes for both shows, we were in business, and finally inspired enough to start cooking more for ourselves.

So that's my lengthy introduction to what I intend to turn into an ongoing series of posts about food. Basically, these will be reviews of specific recipes we've tried, along with ways we have improved (or intend to try improving) them. When the recipes are available online, I will link to them. Bon appetit.

Posted by at March 28, 2005 7:59 PM