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Cooking Without Borders

August 31, 2009

Lately, it seems that several different influencers having been drawing me to the pleasures of cooking. And I’ve really been longing (and practicing) to become better at it. I’ve always been able to put together a decent casserole, but I’m talking real cooking: tarragon-spice-using and citrus-zesting and melt-in-your-mouth pastries-from-scratch type cooking. First of all, it’s relaxing; the other night I came home from a long day and baked some scrumptous peanut butter cookies. But also, cooking is so sensual–the touch, the smell. And I LOVE the idea of being able to create something delicious–out of nothing, essentially–simply by combining all these not-so-delicious-by-themselves ingredients.

Some of these recent influencers have been my friend, Catie, whom I met while hosting at a restaurant in Myrtle Beach where she’s a chef. I talk with her in the kitchen when I should be up at the front, greeting people. Another: Pat Conroy, of course. The influence on so much in my life: my views on Charleston and South Carolina, my writing, and, now, my (future) cooking. At the book signing where I met him, I realized you could have two of his books signed, so I immediately purchased his cookbook. It was the only book of his that I hadn’t read in full. It’s delightful. A few of the dishes are a bit complicated for me right now; he’s from the school of making chicken stock from scratch. Scratch! That’s three to five hours of just boiling the chicken! That’s before you even start cooking what you started off to cook in the first place! But, he’s also from the school of “dying is more fun in the South.” Which, although a bit snarky (thanks, Eric!), is kind of true, in a way. When loved ones die, Southerners tend to comfort each other through the cooking and sharing of rich, heavy, fragrant, delicious, comfort foods.

Food really means so much to people everywhere, though. Not just in the South. And different areas of the country identify with certain dishes so strongly–they’ve almost become a part of peoples’ identity.  Charleston has its shrimp and grits, Maryland, its crabcakes, Maine, its lobsters. New York City has its pastrami and cheesecake. Boston has its chowdah. Key West, conchs. This list could go on for quite some time. But food has become so much a part of socializing, of showing people you care. I suppose I think it’s important to do it right, and with flair.

Tonight, Catie was showing me how to make this dough called pate a choux, and with it, you could cook gnocci OR puff pastries. Two entirely different dishes, using the exact same dough! I was riveted. She laughed and said “I know–don’t you just love food?!” Yes, yes I do.

pate a choux...mmm

pate a choux...mmm

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 1, 2009 1:37 pm

    Loved reading your blog Sarah. I’m happy to see you writing about the yumminess of food too. Can’t put it into words…just keep writing! I want to read more!!

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