Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Culinary Journey Begins...

Food has always been an integral part of my life.  In fact, my earliest childhood memory is dinner at Ridgewood BBQ in Bluff City, Tennessee, with my family when I was three years old.  My dad is a beef cattle farmer, and I grew up in the country where you spend summers breaking beans, shucking corn, shelling peas, and picking blackberries.  My mom even had a separate canning kitchen in our basement.  My Southern cuisine roots are solid and inescapable.

As idyllic as that may sound, I always longed for a bigger, more exciting life, even as it related to food.  After having tacos at school for lunch, I asked my mom why she never made them for dinner, and she told me that dad would not eat Mexican food.  The only non-Southern cuisine in my house was Italian, and even that was limited to Spaghetti, Lasagna, and Cheese Manicotti…all covered in meat sauce, which is not to be confused with a complex, rich Bolognese sauce.  Meat Sauce = Ground Beef + Jar of Store-Bought Spaghetti Sauce.  Minute Rice so gluey you could easily form it with an ice cream scoop a la school cafeteria style was the only rice served in my home.  Needless to say, I did not like rice, because I thought this was its very definition.  My food experiences at home echoed the same options as local restaurants.  I lived in a world of meat and potatoes.  For all practical purposes, International Cuisine did not exist in my corner of the world until a boom of Japanese teppanyaki restaurants took over Northeast Tennessee in the late eighties.  That changed everything about food for me.  For starters, I discovered that I liked rice, but beyond that, I realized how exciting new food and flavors can be.  I did not immediately break out of my shell and become as adventurous with food as I am today, but I did make a point to visit my first Chinese and Mexican restaurants and begin my explorations in food.

In the passing years, life afforded me many opportunities to grow in my love for food.  Most people would never expect to hear that Birmingham, Alabama, opened up the food world to me in a significant way, but it did.  The city is home to great chefs like Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club and Frank Stitt of Bottega, Chez Fonfon, and Highlands Bar and Grill, where I had my first tastes of fois gras, sweetbreads, and braised rabbit.  I nurtured my love for Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese food while living there, too.  My work travels frequently took me to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Hong Kong, which instilled a more adventurous approach to cuisine, as well as a greater appreciation.  In 2007, I moved to Miami, Florida, where I remain today, and I discovered an even larger food playground.  By all accounts, I arrived at the cusp of a new age for dining in this city, and it continues to reveal new exciting restaurant openings.

In addition to seeking out new cuisines through restaurants, I spend many weekend nights in the kitchen cooking new dishes.  Undoubtedly, I am not a chef, but I am a great interpreter of recipes and a solid cook.  I find that the more time I spend in the kitchen, the more I appreciate a great chef’s work and the complexities of a dish. 

Earlier this week, I heard a story on NPR about an Algerian couple who owns a diner in Iowa, and one of the men commented on the Algerian Trinity of onion, black pepper, and cinnamon as the common flavor profile.  I immediately abandoned the real crux of the story and began thoughtfully considering that I had never heard of such a trinity.  Sure, I knew that onion, green pepper, and celery comprised the “holy trinity” in Cajun cooking, but this Algerian Trinity was news to me despite the numerous food magazines, blogs, and books I had read.  My first inclination was to go home and research Algerian cuisine.  Then, I had a Julie and Julia moment.  I drove home, compiled a list of fifty-two international cuisines, and randomly assigned each to a week in 2012.  And so I begin this blog where I intend to share my discoveries of international cuisines as experienced in my kitchen on a weekly basis.  This blog will be a journal of what I learn, successes, and failures.  I’m looking forward to an interesting year of cooking and a culinary journey around the world in 2012!


  1. Love it! Totally rooting for you and excited to see where your journey leads you!!

  2. I'm very excited to see what each week brings! Good luck!

  3. Wonderful project. I think gastronomy is one of the best and most pleasurable ways to learn about a country, its people, culture, traditions and much more. Congratulations.