People tend to look at dietary restrictions as limiting, but in my experience, my own dietary choices have totally fueled my creativity in the kitchen. I recently decided it was time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get some of the recipes I’ve developed into the blogosphere. As such, The Smiling Onion is a collection of unique, gourmet recipes that I think deserve to be eaten!
All of them are vegetarian and gluten-free.
Some of them are grain-free and/or dairy free.
Some of them are vegan.
But I think (and yes I’m a tad biased) that even the staunchest omnivore will enjoy all of them.
I cook obsessively.
I love cats without reserve.
I also love my fiance without reserve (just in case the expression of my love for cats gave anyone the impression I was a crazy cat lady. I totally could be, but I’m actually not!)
Though I’ve cooked obsessively my whole life, I recently graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute Chef Training Program, so I can now legally call myself a chef. Yay!
I also do freelance writing and editing. Contact me for more info.
My Relationship with Food
Food and I are in it for the long haul. We’ve reached the point in our relationship where the infatuation phase is over but we still want to be with each other every second of every day. We know there may be discord, some faults, even some weaknesses. But that makes us even more committed.
Let me explain what I mean.
Food and I fell in love at an early age. If I had to label the start of our relationship, I’d probably say it began when I devoured my parent’s Ethiopian leftovers (which were too spicy for them) at age two. Or perhaps it was in elementary school, when I penned “Crackers and Cheese,” the response to a creative writing assignment that was supposed to follow a character through a difficult time. (I was reprimanded for including too many details about the protagonist’s favorite foods — crackers and cheese — and maybe not quite enough detail about other aspects of his personality.) But what’s a lover to do? Food was at the forefront of my every thought and action. Later on, I kept travel journals that suffered from the same offense – a couple sentences about the Leaning Tower of Pisa followed by an entire page (sometimes two!) about the dinner we had eaten afterwards. I remembered entire trips by what we had eaten – “Paulo? Yes, I remember him. He’s the one who made us that fried eggplant with the raw garlic, right?”
Our relationship extended to the kitchen. My parents were good cooks, but didn’t believe in recipes, so I learned to “cook from the heart” early on. They were ex-hippy vegetarians, so we ate a lot of chickpea curries and tofu stir-fries. I added to this repertoire Fettucine Alfredo, Italian mushrooms, and spinach tarts, in addition to a variety of decadent desserts from Maida Heatter’s cookbooks – what love doesn’t improve with the addition of chocolate? In college, I was ecstatic when I finally scored off-campus housing and was able to cook for myself nightly instead of eating at the dreaded dining hall. Getting my hands on groceries without a car was challenging, but well worth it.
It was after college that the infatuation stage ended. I was in New York for the summer, trying to eat at as many amazing restaurants as I could before returning to Massachusetts, when I started realizing that maybe food and I weren’t getting along so well anymore. I was still just as excited about cooking and eating, but my body just wasn’t feeling good. So I started doing research. I eliminated wheat, and eventually — after some tests and elimination diets — rice and gluten. The results were good, health-wise. I had more energy, less joint pain, and less digestive trouble. But food started to stress me out instead of making me happy. These were the dark days of our relationship, the days you realize that the infatuation phase is over and that this relationship, like any other, is going to take some work. Food had some faults – it had the potential to make me sick as well as healthy, and figuring out what to eat next (which had always been the easiest thing in the world for me) became hard. Really hard.
But just like that, our relationship deepened. Sure, I missed pasta and rice. But I discovered teff, besan, mung beans, and chia seeds. Grains that I had previously relegated to my parent’s earthy past (quinoa, millet, kasha, and others) now became part of my gourmet present. Yes, I had always been what I considered a “healthy” eater: vegetarian, anti fast-food, anti-preservative, pro-local/organic, but my diet had been carb heavy, high dairy, and low protein. I loved vegetables, but they weren’t at the forefront of every meal, and I had only previously baked with wheat or spelt flours. Now I made teff crepes with spicy Moroccan peppers, veggie tarts with a sorghum-tapioca crust and hemp seed bechamel, and chocolate chip cookies with almond and coconut flour. Food and I were spicing things up. And our relationship was exciting again.
And much, much deeper. As my focus has grown from taste and aesthetics to health and nutrition, I’ve become more and more interested in food policy and food reform. When I think about food, I’m not only reliving the incredible roasted carrot and avocado salad I had the last time I was at ABC Kitchen, or planning the sprouted quinoa stuffing with which I’ll fill the Delicatas I bought at the Greenmarket yesterday. Those thoughts are still present, but they’re accompanied by the awareness of Monsanto, farm subsidies, malnutrition, world hunger, and the relationship between income and access to quality food. To food, I want to be the best partner I can be. And to me, that means helping food overcome its limitations. I’m no longer the infatuated, naïve, lover I was at the beginning of our relationship – I’m aware of the discord, aware of the issues. And I’m passionate about working towards change. But my love for food increases every day.
And that’s how I know that food and I are in it for life.