x

God bless Hannah Hart.

(Source: ourdrunkitchen, via mydrunkkitchen)

Homeward Bound/My Cast Iron Skillet.

I am weary, and the house is dark. Humidity takes over my baby hairs, creating a mini halo of curls and frizz. It’s hardly my bedtime, but all I want is to close my eyes and sleep for a week and a half. Instead, I tiptoe through the hallway, past my sweet dog, trying to remember which part of the floor creaks in the living room, finally making my way down the cool stairs to the basement. I flip the switch, and after a brief flicker I’m looking at my belongings, clothes and housewares I’ve not seen in months.

I am in Indiana.

This is a crazy busy trip back to the homeland, if you can call it that. I landed at MDW at 1 am local time, flying above wild storms and below a full moon. Close friends rescued me from the airport and gallivanted with me around my favorite city all day Sunday, letting me soak up the humidity and brilliant sun and microbrews and my favorite burger joint and every single little thing that I yearn for in California.

You must understand, the Bay is where I belong. But Chicago will always be home.

***

After seeing my closest friends for the first time in a year, I boarded the South Shore with my mother, a long-standing ritual from my toddler-hood. I felt so relieved to be back in familiar territory, but could almost feel my face begin to fall as the train passed back into the Region. Was it just exhaustion? Or was it that I truly found where I belong? The madness of the summer had collected in my mind and wouldn’t allow me to get my thoughts straight. I continued to stare out the window, saying, “Hi Grammy’s house,” with my mom as we saw a brief glimpse of a gray house from the tracks, where my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother had lived. The sky and trees seem to vibrate with color and swirl together.

Okay, maybe it was exhaustion.

We get off at our stop- a train ride that takes an hour and twenty minutes from Millennium Station- and we’re in the car driving down 49, a twisted highway in Porter County that leads to the Indiana Dunes. This time we’re heading south, to my parents’ house, away from the dunes. The landscape is familiar, yes- but I am not at home. This is not my home. I do not feel at home. And to be honest it is the biggest relief to have those thoughts flying through my mind.

I think one of the big struggles for many young people starting out on their own, especially starting out far away from their childhood homes, is figuring out if where you’ve landed is a place where you belong. Along with that comes the concern of being more at home in the place you’ve always known, where your family and your favorite restaurant and your go-to gas station and every little thing you’re familiar with is. Sometimes, when the challenges don’t go away (a truth of everyday adult life that we don’t quite realize until we are living it), we just want what’s familiar. We crave that stability. And we contemplate whether we’re just going through a rough patch, or if that feeling of unease is because we don’t belong where we live. And with my recent bout of homesickness, that paranoia lingered in the back of my mind until I reached my home state.

This was no longer my home. Thank god! Indiana is no longer my home.

(Naturally part of me will always long for it, but I am comforted by the fact that I will never belong there.)

***

There were parts of The Region I’d missed. Those clear starry nights. Fireflies dancing in our garden. Sunkissed raspberries, straight from the bush, right into my mouth. Reliably damn good gyros. (My friends and coworkers and roommates can vouch for me when I say I’ve been bitching about not really finding true, authentic, perfectly greasy gyros in the Bay Area.) And, of course, my things.

My mother has been a godsend for getting so many of my personal belongings to me, things that are really important- family photos, clothes that I wear most frequently, books, housewares that have already been worn with love in my new home. But some things are a bit too difficult to ship and not always worth shipping. Heavy items, like my personal files, or my bigger books, or my beloved cast iron skillet.

But finally I’m back, if only for a flash, to go through my things once more and gather what I can to bring to my real home. And you best believe I packed my cast iron skillet.

I received it a few years back as a gift from my uncle’s family outside of Indy. Weirdly enough, I’d never used a traditional cast-iron skillet before. Mom has some pieces from Le Creuset but nothing that looks like it belongs in some kind of historical re-enactment sketch. This skillet is heavy. I need to use both handles to carry it when it’s hot. For being possibly my heaviest kitchen item it seems to have gotten the most use, short of my pasta pot (long live the pasta pot). The cast iron skillet is the birthplace of my sex potatoes, after all.

And yes, I’ll be writing about those when I make them again soon. I only regret I won’t be able to make them for the original folks who created the nickname for my potatoes.

My skillet is now in my hands and I’m suddenly back in my room, rummaging through my clothes and knick-knacks and finally putting the skillet on a pile of things to be taken back to California. I sleep better than I have in weeks, even without a full night’s sleep.

***

My few days in Indiana escape me and suddenly it’s Wednesday night. Nothing of mine is actually packed. I leave the next day. I panic, sort of. I knew this would happen- too many things scheduled to actually make time to do what I flew home to do- but oh well. If nothing else I’m taking that skillet with me. And because I attempt to be a responsible all-American citizen and flyer, I do what I assume is the right thing and check the TSA site for cast iron skillets. (Doesn’t that just seem like a silly thing to type? Or read? Or say out loud?) And in case you were ever wondering or needing to travel with your cast iron skillet, you should know that while there are no explicit rules against putting it in your carry-on, there have been enough questions from the airport people that they had to say skillets should only be checked.

I really wonder what happened at the airports to have that be listed in TSA carry-on/checked FAQs. I also can’t help but wonder how many skillets the TSA has confiscated. And how many people packed skillets to easily injure other people. Honestly when I think of people packing cast iron skillets into their carry-ons, I’m not thinking they’ll try to injure family with a giant heavy metal object. I’m thinking they’ll try to take out their passive aggressive manipulation on their daughters-in-law. Definitely not the case for me.

The skillet rests in my giant red duffle, wrapped in a newly purchased and worn Kuma’s Corner t-shirt (THANKS LIZZIE I LOVE YOU), with my crepe pan wrapped in yet another shirt resting inside of it. It’s way too late. I pass out for one last night in Indiana, wishing I had more time.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? We all just wish we had more time. Time enough to get our affairs in order, time enough to organize our thoughts and actions, just more time. On my trip back to MDW my mind continuously swirled with every little thing that still needed to be done, not that my mind hadn’t been overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to do while visiting the Midwest. I flew back knowing there simply would never be enough time, no matter how long I could’ve stayed.

***

My travels back to the Bay took too long. I wanted to be home. I just wanted to be home in my bed messaging my roommate who is in the next room. I missed how the lights flickered briefly before coming fully on, and how we always leave the light on under the microwave, and our rocky driveway, and my messy bed.

The Bay Area is my home. Thinking these things, writing them down, I realize that the Bay really is my home. So why did I have my doubts when I initially left?

I am overjoyed to see my roommate at SFO waiting for me as I limped my way to her car with luggage, yelling and complaining at her while she opens her trunk, laughing hysterically. It’s 11 pm, and Catherine is a saint for saving me from the airport. (Saint Catherine, patron saint of airport pick up services, quesadillas, and eternal patience.) We laugh and gossip on the road back to our home on my sweet little island. All is well. As I drag all of my things into the front hallway I immediately rip open my duffle and wave my cast iron skillet in her face. “WE’RE GONNA COOK SO MANY THINGS!” I quietly squeal to Catherine, since it’s midnight and Anthony, our other roommate, is asleep. I had been researching bacon fat recipes while in Indiana and sent quite a few of them to her. Bacon fat pie crust will be happening soon. We continued to talk through the night.

I arose the next day- don’t remember when, everything was woozy and sleepy and warm- and don’t remember how I got my legs and feet to function in such a manner that I ended up downstairs, but I do recall consciously hugging my cast iron skillet and smiling like a damn fool.

I said I’d found my home before, and I did. But now I have my most important tools with me. I left my doubts in Indiana. Now I really feel at home.

***

I’m hoping to be cooking with my skillet very soon. Scheduling to feed people has been tough, as I just got through my first week back at work from my bizarro trip back to Indiana and also have not been able to coordinate timing with friends. But as I experiment more and more I’m hoping to document more of what I’m doing and chatting about with friends.

Also if you want to take photos of me cooking while hanging out PLEASE DO. I need more photos. Better photos. All of the above. You get what I mean.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

I FINALLY HAVE MY BABY BACK.

Photos and a longer post soon, but I just had to tell you guys how happy I am to finally have MY cast iron skillet back.

IT’S MINE AND IT’S HERE AND NOW MY HOME REALLY FEELS LIKE HOME :) :) :) :) :)

I made my pasta again last night. But this time I only made a regular batch! Yay regular batches of pasta that aren’t made in woks!

Things have been unbelievably hectic for weeks, leading to a lack of writing. I promise I’ll have some new things soon.

-The Fab Food Girl

Discovery Of Oldest Human Poop Exposes The Original Paleo Diet

HELLA cool. Wish I had the time and resources to better study human evolution for eating and diets.

Salami.

I’m currently reading Delicious!, Ruth Reichl’s latest work and my new favorite work of fiction, while trying to simultaneously write about the book, meeting Ruth, my first experience at Omnivore Books, and all of the things that have been floating around my mind. It has been a struggle as of late to adequately formulate thoughts into words, words into sentences, sentences into essays or articles or whatever the hell you want to call what I do on here that hopefully touch your heart and warm your soul. Because this morning I realized, as I sipped my third bitter cup of coffee (sorry Dad, still haven’t mastered making coffee like you yet), my goal as a writer is to simultaneously sound like Ruth Reichl, Linda Ellerbee, and Nora Ephron.

Not the craziest goal I’ve ever had, I think.

But my distractions from my personal life, friends, requests, work, every little thing I decided to let stress me out these last few weeks have taken all of the thoughts I had formulated and smashed them into bits of colored light, letting them dance around my head, teasing me, as I tried in vain to not let my first world problems steal my attention from my work.

Ha. Hahaha. Like that’s possible.

Luckily, I have this very unfortunate problem where I get swallowed whole by books when I pick them up and start to read, no matter how many times I’ve read the book before. This is why Take Big Bites is one of my favorite books- the prose is clear and true, and resonates deep within me every time I revisit its pages. It’s very difficult for me to put down a book and easily walk away, similar to how I struggle to close my laptop every evening and not watch another episode of Mad Men on Netflix.

Read More

jerriann:

"The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure."

#onlygoodthings

jerriann:

"The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure."

#onlygoodthings

Home.

I’ve been really bad lately at updating on here, practicing any kind of writing, even just thinking about what I might want to write about, for a wide variety of reasons and excuses. I’ve been sick. I’ve been exhausted. I’ve been celebrating, I’ve been procrastinating, I’ve been living.

I have been living.

It’s weird for me to think about this, the fact that I am out and about and making a life and career for myself. The fact that I have a commute where I don’t come home every day in the car with my mom or dad, or where I don’t come home to a giant yellow lab with the waggiest tail in the world.

And, as you can imagine (and have either heard me talk about or read from me elsewhere), I have been homesick.

I don’t even think I’m homesick for Indiana, though I do miss the summer thunderstorms something fierce. I’m homesick for family, sure, hence my nostalgia kick of eating habits lately- polenta reminding me of Grandpa, making a double batch of the chocolate-y chocolate chip cookies (I swear to you, that’s how the name of the recipe reads in the cookbook back home), begging my dad for his chili recipes so I can make them some weekend when I have time to spare and money to spend.

But my whole life, actually, I’ve felt like my real home was elsewhere. There’s always something comforting about my bed, that’s for sure. That’s been the one place that feels home-y. Other than that, though, I feel like I’ve been searching for my home.

It goes beyond family, or finding your people. It goes beyond what you do, where you go, when you rise and when you rest. And it took me what felt like forever to figure that out.

***

My mom will back me up when I say I don’t like change. Or, rather, I don’t handle change well. My parents have moved into a new house every ten years since the year they got married, which is far too often for me. My relationships have been long-term, always- three and four years, respectively. Getting my butt to stay at IU and do well academically was nothing short of a miracle, simply because I don’t transition well. When it comes to me evolving as a person throughout life with your average changes, I have the speed of a 1000 year old tortoise. I’m also ridiculously stubborn and hold grudges easily, which plays into my not liking change.

And yet… I’m here. In the Bay Area. I’d never been here before February. I’d never even been to the state more than once, in high school, in youth group.

I still am having some serious twinges of homesickness- missing friends, missing Bonkie lying on my feet, missing my bed (I have a really great bed, you guys. Seriously. It’s like the one constant in my life that I talk about as much as food.), missing memories from long ago when my closet mostly consisted of Hanna Andersson and American Girl dolls. And to be honest, it’s been distracting. It makes it difficult to focus on writing, and food, and friends, and all of the good things in life we seem to take for granted.

But I had this bizarre miniscule revelation right at the beginning of my lunch today- I’ve felt homesick for so long because I never felt at home with myself.

I’m serious. I always projected my needs for what makes a home onto all the stereotypical things. Family. Friends. Boyfriends. A physical building that stores my items. Food. Clothing. Material goods. And, to be fair, all of those things can provide that sense of security we all associate with the feeling of being home. But I was never secure about myself, and I always lacked confidence in myself. Those of you who’ve known me for some time have seen it, or even heard it come through when I discuss anything.

In order to really feel at home, wherever you are, you must always be at home with yourself.

***

A couple of things happened recently, which I believe led to me feeling more at home with myself and in my own skin.

  • I celebrated my 24th birthday, with all new friends, in a fabulous outfit at a ridiculously awesome bar. I will write more on this later, no worries. This was by far the best birthday yet.
  • I celebrated my one month anniversary in my new apartment, with one of my new roommates- the other one was out… doing… something? Idk, it’s rare that all three of us are home at the same time except when we sleep.
  • I got into the hang of things at work and picked up extra social media work on a slow day, which then got actually used and scheduled and published by my company.
  • I defended myself and all other women online this weekend and had no sense of uncertainty with anything I wrote or said. (This one may sound weird, or trivial, but as I’m sure many of you know, even when given a chance to post anonymously, it can be very difficult to stick up for yourself or fight back.)

I don’t think it was necessarily because of these events that I’m suddenly at home with myself, feeling secure and confident. I still have a lot of serious confidence issues to overcome, and will for quite some time. I am still so very shaky in my voice and my writing- it’s humbling to be friends with such talented writers, lemme tell you, to the point that I want to throw my papers in the air and say “I’M DONE FOREVER I WILL NEVER BE THAT GOOD.”

(Looking at you, you crazy journalists.)

However.

As I begin to settle into things, after my life-changing, eye-opening, overly exhausting transition/move/craziest idea ever in March, I feel confident in the choice I made to move out here and find work. Gangsters’ Paradise (the affectionate nickname my roommates and I have given our apartment) feels more and more like home as I cook more and clean more and sleep more. My roommates and I keep bonding over the littlest things- gossip, romance, GQ magazine covers, etc. My friends keep me in the loop with EVERYTHING, which is so ridiculous and amazing to me because I’ve never been a big social animal before. And I’ve got friends out here with whom I have shared very deep, dark, personal secrets, and I know I can trust them, and I hope they know they can trust me.

At work, I feel less like an employee and more like a team member, which I think is a crucial thing for all companies, and can be difficult to pull off. My input is already valued, even though I’ve only been with the company two months. I’m making friends at work. I’m networking. I’m becoming more confident in what I do and who I am and what that all means.

***

I have no idea where I’ll be a year from now, or five years from now, or ten years from now. I don’t know who I’ll meet, what I’ll eat, where I’ll travel, where I’ll work.

But somehow, that’s not as scary now, because I’ve found home within myself.

I’m finally home.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

P.S. I promise I’ll have some decent food-related writing soon. I’ve got, like, three different pieces I’m working on saved (after one was completely lost Saturday night… ARGH). But I really needed to write this today. Also I don’t currently have access to my food photos at work, so that’s also a thing.


The Fab Food Girl turned 2 today!

Two years ago, I had just graduated from IU and moved back to my parents’ house in Northwest Indiana. I had the tiniest hint of what I wanted to do, but no concept of how to pursue it.
To be honest, it doesn’t feel like all that much has changed since that time. I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my degree in food journalism, how I want to continue working on my cookbook, and what I’d like to do in the future with this blog. That said, in the time that’s passed since starting this blog, I’ve worked in sales, social media, marketing, and events for a luxury chocolate company. I’ve explored new cuisines and networked with unlikely foodies and chefs. I more or less started to create a path for myself and this blog as I moved out to California, with essentially nothing more than some change in my pocket and a twinkle in my eye.
I truly did not expect to be here, or be this far from what I initially thought I’d be doing two years ago. But, you guys- I couldn’t be happier.
Also my 24th birthday is coming up so I’m pretty pumped about that. You don’t even know. I’m going to look FIERCE. Or maybe just adorable.
I should also probably start baking soon.
OKAY. Sorry for rambling. I got sidetracked because my head feels funny from my headcold.
tl;dr I’m so happy I’m here in the Bay Area, and I’m so ridiculously giddy and proud to be known to so many of my friends as The Fab Food Girl.
Only good things and great adventures.
-TheFabFoodGirl

The Fab Food Girl turned 2 today!

Two years ago, I had just graduated from IU and moved back to my parents’ house in Northwest Indiana. I had the tiniest hint of what I wanted to do, but no concept of how to pursue it.

To be honest, it doesn’t feel like all that much has changed since that time. I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my degree in food journalism, how I want to continue working on my cookbook, and what I’d like to do in the future with this blog. That said, in the time that’s passed since starting this blog, I’ve worked in sales, social media, marketing, and events for a luxury chocolate company. I’ve explored new cuisines and networked with unlikely foodies and chefs. I more or less started to create a path for myself and this blog as I moved out to California, with essentially nothing more than some change in my pocket and a twinkle in my eye.

I truly did not expect to be here, or be this far from what I initially thought I’d be doing two years ago. But, you guys- I couldn’t be happier.

Also my 24th birthday is coming up so I’m pretty pumped about that. You don’t even know. I’m going to look FIERCE. Or maybe just adorable.

I should also probably start baking soon.

OKAY. Sorry for rambling. I got sidetracked because my head feels funny from my headcold.

tl;dr I’m so happy I’m here in the Bay Area, and I’m so ridiculously giddy and proud to be known to so many of my friends as The Fab Food Girl.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

The other night I had no idea what to make for dinner because I didn’t know what I was in the mood for. Randomly found a jar of korma curry from a former resident of my current apartment and decided to cook rice and just mix in the sauce. 
And then I got super brilliant and thought “potatoes sound good” because potatoes are ALWAYS a good idea so I chopped them up and fried them up with some curry and turmeric and cumin and garlic and… another spice. Paprika maybe? No. I didn’t add paprika. I don’t remember what I added. ANYWAY. I did that with the potatoes, and then I added the sauce to the potatoes to heat it through and make it yummy and then I poured it on top of rice and now I still have leftovers and it’s just so good and filling.
And that’s my story so there you go.
On a side note, happy one month apartment anniversary to my fiiiiiiine roommates Catherine and Anthony! I love these folks. I got so lucky finding awesome roommates out here, especially not knowing too many people. #gangstersparadise #quesadillasalways
Only good things and great adventures.
-TheFabFoodGirl

The other night I had no idea what to make for dinner because I didn’t know what I was in the mood for. Randomly found a jar of korma curry from a former resident of my current apartment and decided to cook rice and just mix in the sauce. 

And then I got super brilliant and thought “potatoes sound good” because potatoes are ALWAYS a good idea so I chopped them up and fried them up with some curry and turmeric and cumin and garlic and… another spice. Paprika maybe? No. I didn’t add paprika. I don’t remember what I added. ANYWAY. I did that with the potatoes, and then I added the sauce to the potatoes to heat it through and make it yummy and then I poured it on top of rice and now I still have leftovers and it’s just so good and filling.

And that’s my story so there you go.

On a side note, happy one month apartment anniversary to my fiiiiiiine roommates Catherine and Anthony! I love these folks. I got so lucky finding awesome roommates out here, especially not knowing too many people. #gangstersparadise #quesadillasalways

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

so today I decided to make tomato bacon pasta

and I started out by changing out of work clothes into my favorite dress and apron because I needed to feel pretty and happy

so I looked like this

SUPER CUTE RIGHT.

Well.

I kept making the pasta except that it’s really annoying to make a double batch of tomato bacon pasta with a wok with six pounds of tomatoes so I got super stressed and halfway through I thought “why the hell am I making a double batch of pasta for three people anyway”

and I just kept getting angry and stressed

mostly because the bacon grease burned me on my sunburn and it STILL HURTS OWW

so this was the end result

And I just finished cleaning the kitchen.

I’m going to just pass out now kthxbai

P.S. Shout out to Jamesha for keeping me company and trying my pasta! Also HUGE shout out to my roomies Catherine and Anthony for letting me be crazy and cook until like 9 pm and then have a friend over. 

Okay seriously I’m going to bed now

Polenta.

I had a really weird interview a few weeks ago. I mean, the interview itself was pretty standard- I won’t go into details or anything, because I’d just bore you to tears- but leaving the interview something weird happened.

I was offered two packages of polenta.

That’s right.

Polenta.

You guys, I really freaking love polenta. I tried to contain my enthusiasm. I wish I could’ve taken more than just the two packages. And in case you were wondering, no, it wasn’t any kind of bribe or anything like that- these was being marked out because of the expiration dates. They weren’t bad yet but they couldn’t be sold.

So that day I brought home a package of polenta with quinoa and a package of polenta with basil and garlic.

***

My maternal grandfather, the grandparent who I saw the most growing up, was Croatian. He also thought that there was some Italian in our family as well, but we don’t know for sure. One day I’d like to do a bit more research about our family, see who all we’re related to. Well, I’d like someone to do the research, anyway, and then tell me everything. I’m no detective, I just like to eat.

Anyway.

My grandfather grew up eating polenta- it was a staple pantry item for the family. For those of you who don’t know, polenta is basically grits- corn meal. And cooked properly, it is so damn good.

(I look nothing like him.) (Also not much has changed appearance-wise for me, in my opinion. I still intend to wear the most glittery paper crown for my birthday this year.) (Also I’m still obsessed with daisies.)

So when I brought home the polenta I got super super excited because though my grandfather rarely made polenta when I was growing up, I still associate it with him and that part of our family. Also I was super excited because it’s delicious especially when it’s fried and then in sauce, which is what I did the first time I made it.

That pre-packaged polenta you find in the store is already precooked, so all you have to do is heat it. (Unless the directions say otherwise.) So I hacked the quinoa polenta into bits and then fried it up and heated some tomato sauce with bacon from a jar that tasted so good but also like corn syrup ketchup with herbs. I love the convenience of jarred sauces but I’ve been making the tomato bacon pasta for so long I’ve spoiled myself on what fresh sauce tastes like.

But I wasn’t making pasta. I was making POLENTA.

Unfortunately I was so damn hungry and excited that I didn’t photograph anything- sorry y’all. Just stare at 7 year old me above and dream of polenta. I like polenta fried because you can get it crispy if it’s cooked just right, although I feel like this is more easily accomplished with freshly made polenta instead of precooked polenta from a plastic tube. And after you fry it you can just throw it in the oven to keep it warm while you fry the other slices.

I wish I could’ve served this with goat cheese on top. It would’ve been good. Oh, and this was served to roomies like a boss. It was okay. I would’ve fried it differently again. Grandpa would’ve appreciated the effort, I think. Maybe.

***

So I still had that other package of polenta, the basil garlic flavored one, and I contemplated frying it up again, but honestly I just wasn’t in the mood. I’ve just been settling into my apartment and into work and I’ve already had to miss out on some swell shindigs with friends because I’m just so tired and overwhelmed from the transition out here that I basically said SCREW IT and threw it in a microwavable container with some milk and sour cream.

Because polenta can be microwaved.

And because my grandpa made polenta with sour cream, to thicken it up, and add a source of fat.

According to my momma, Grandpa made his polenta with sour cream and bacon which sounded absolutely divine to me. I’m sure this meal for Grandpa was a way of making a hot meal stretch to provide nutrition for a large family during the Depression, and so maybe he wouldn’t have been too wild about it. Who knows. Anyway, I half contemplated throwing bacon into the polenta for a hot minute, and once again my apathetic, overwhelmed, Tina Belcher self groaned and just hit some buttons on the microwave until it started to heat the polenta.

(Also I’m currently obsessed with Bob’s Burgers and just want to watch all of the episodes with my Annie Noelle, who is too far away and should be here next to me eating Indian take out and talking about boys and indie music. Hence the Tina Belcher nod.)

I also had gone a bit crazy a few days prior to making this particular batch of polenta, at a farmer’s market that happens to be inside my work building. I bought challah. I bought super amazing organic strawberries. I bought the most delicious buttery dates I’ve ever had in my life. And I bought cheese because of course I bought cheese. I have a hard aged goat’s cheese downstairs in my kitchen right now that tastes like a parmesan mixed EVER so slightly with some kind of blue cheese, so it tastes amazing but the smell of it makes me gag because blue cheese is the only thing I can’t stand. And then I also bought the most incredibly fresh cheese curds that were garlic infused and oh mannnnnn when I first bought them I was eating them like they were popcorn.

The point is, my polenta was heating and mixing slowly in the microwave, and I tasted it, and though it claimed to have basil and garlic flavoring it obviously didn’t come through well for me, so I decided OH WHAT THE HELL and threw in the cheese curds and kept heating the polenta so it’d get to be the right consistency.

This may have been the best culinary decision of my life.

Oh man. I was so smart to do this. The cheese was so fresh and garlicky it added enough of a kick to provide flavor- and texture too! I knew the cheese would melt well because the sales girl recommended I try melting the cheese on fries, kind of like a poutine. I may try that again sometime, but honestly I’m planning on just stocking up on polenta and making this over and over again.

I also threw in a pinch of cayenne for a kick (because naturally I’ve been fighting back a cold my whole life) and some salt and then grated some of that aged goat cheese on top to just give it a little bit of tanginess and oh man oh man oh man I’m getting so distracted writing about this right now because my tummy is growling I want my polenta.

Anyway, just to wrap things up for this version of polenta- I blended the prepackaged polenta with some milk, because you need to add some kind of liquid to stir in to get the polenta to the right consistency, and then I also added sour cream to add flavor and thickness for an even smoother consistency. Adding the cheese curds not only added flavor and some sweet cheese melty-ness, but it added some essential protein, which is good because polenta is literally just corn meal. That’s it. That’s why it’s super easy to cook- you can pretty much make any kind of dish with it.

I managed to be really good and not eat the whole dish in one sitting. The whole time I thought of my grandpa and what he’d say. I think he’d like my ridiculously garlicky polenta.

***

I never felt incredibly close to my grandpa growing up- I’d always been tight with my Grammy, his wife and my maternal grandmother, who passed when I was just two years old. We never really connected on things just because we had such different personalities. At that point Grandpa really had a hard time eating solid foods so he was eating a lot of soup. Actually, all I remember him eating was soup. And cherry Jell-o with whipped cream at The Purple Steer in Whiting. I was still obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches and cucumber slices.

But what little I know of Grandpa and our family and our heritage, I know he’d be tickled to see me being so damn nifty and thrifty with my food. After all, it runs in the family.

Volim te, Djede. Nadam se da ste ponosni.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

P.S. Apologies for not having a more coherent piece about my family and polenta, I really have been distracted by how delicious the polenta sounds and am about to go destroy something with my mouth and stomach downstairs in the kitchen now.

P.P.S. BAY AREA GET READY IMMA MAKE SO MUCH TOMATO BACON PASTA THIS WEEK YOU’RE GONNA BLEED EVOO AND CAYENNE AND GARLIC FOR DAYS.

I got some more kitchen things shipped from Indiana to MY CALIFORNIA HOME you know nbd
THANKS MOMMA AND FODDER <3 <3 <3

I got some more kitchen things shipped from Indiana to MY CALIFORNIA HOME you know nbd

THANKS MOMMA AND FODDER <3 <3 <3

Some fun, fabulous updates.

Oh man, you guys. I have been up to some crazy shenanigans.

I’ll be blunt- I bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco three weeks ago, not knowing what would happen. I had a major interview lined up the day after I got in, and obviously had no clue what would happen after that.

I didn’t really tell too many folks about this, but I had no intention of coming back to Chicago after buying that plane ticket. San Francisco has been my goal since September, and to leave again now when the timing for relocation seems right just didn’t make sense. But that also meant I was essentially moving out on my own without having any actual position or housing set up.

I got really, really, really lucky.

I am fortunate enough to have family in the city and was able to crash with my aunt for the first few nights in town, as well as my entire trip in February. I also am fortunate enough to have some really amazing friends in the area- Amanda, who was living in the Sunset until about a week ago, and Lia, who lives in Oakland but is pretty much in SF all the time.

So, to keep this from getting completely off the topic of food, I’ll shorten everything as best I can.

  • I flew out here three weeks ago, had an interview the next day that went INCREDIBLY well.
  • I stayed with my aunt for the first few nights while I was figuring out what to do.
  • I then stayed with Amanda for not quite two weeks while I job searched and apartment/room searched (okay, San Francisco, you need to figure out your housing game because it’s horrible and you should be ashamed of yourself).
  • While staying with Amanda and Aunt Linda, I met up with Lia who is AWESOME and introduced me to every new friend ever, which is amazing, and I love all of you guys, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to know you all right now, especially while I’m getting settled in the area.
  • I got a job, for all of a week, at a fudge shop in North Beach.
  • I got an apartment with amazing roommates in Alameda! Cannot express my excitement enough for this one. Finding good roommates is always such a daunting task. Oh, and I love the apartment/townhouse/whatever too.
  • I GOT THE JOB OFFER FROM THE BIG INTERVIEW. 

This all just kind of happened in three weeks. And as crazy as this whole experience has been, I have loved every minute of it.

image

(Look at how happy I am. And pretty. I was pleasantly surprised with my makeup that night, given how little sleep I’d gotten the night before. I’m horrible at making myself look human when I’ve only gotten three hours of sleep.)

***

I’ve been thinking back a lot lately on my last food column for IDS, which wasn’t so much my rambling on about what I ate that week as it was a book review. Y’all know my love for Linda Ellerbee, right?

Yes? No?

Okay, well, I love her. She’s my idol. She’s the reason I got into journalism in grade school.

Anyway.

She wrote this book, Take Big Bites, and it’s absolutely my favorite book in the world. I mean, it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to get paid to write. It’s fantastic. I adore it. Anytime I’m having a bad day or need an escape I pick it up and Linda rescues me from my negative mindset.

In my last column I once again rambled and rambled because, naturally, when you suffer through Dead Week, your brain shrivels up into a wad of used chewing gum, lint, wet paper towels and sadness. (The paper towels are wet from tears of frustration, by the way.) But I wrote this right before I was to start the Disney College Program, and I remember being simultaneously scared and excited as hell.

I don’t know, blah blah blah, I wrote something to the effect that even though I was terrified, Linda would want me to go forth and do the program; I had to learn to be fearless and all that stuff, etc.

Man, thinking back on that now, all of my columns were really poorly written. Oh well.

ANYWAY. I’ve thought about that column and that book since coming out here. The title of the book is Take Big Bites, which I always imagined was meant to be interpreted beyond the typical food journey. I mean duh. 

When I wrote that column I was so scared but so ready to leap into something new. Those of you who know me well already understand why I was ready, and then why I was searching for comfort and safety when I returned from the program. tl;dr it was not a great program. Hence me staying at home, figuring things out, for a year and a half after graduation.

But deep in my gut I knew I had to make some kind of leap again, if only to break my cycle of continuously putting myself in a rut. And so I took a chance and flew out here with one carry-on bag and hardly any money to my name. I needed to take that big bite.

***

I can’t say that every time you make a risk or take a leap of faith that the odds will magically work themselves out in your favor. I can’t promise that any good will come of any risk you decide to take. But I know if I hadn’t made this leap, I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life. And I know that if you don’t decide to make that leap, you’ll never know what could be.

So go ahead. Take big bites.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl

Favorite thing about San Francisco (so far).

Besides the fact that I really love EVERY part of the city?

The gorgeous scent of garlic wafting through North Beach. Man, does that make me feel at home.

I’m so in love with this city.

Only good things and great adventures.

-TheFabFoodGirl