When I was 12, I planned to write a cookbook.
Actually, a bake book, because I loved baking. I was going to call it "The Rise and Fall of Everything." (When you bake, most of your worries are around whether your food will rise to the occasion or flatten out like pieces of concrete.) For some reason, cooking did not interest me so very much.
All that changed about nine months ago. And it is very clear to me that in that time, I have been busily birthing my inner foodie. Cooking has now become my hobby, a main source of relaxation, a delight of my life.
I am harboring thoughts about that book I had planned to write, particularly because I work under extreme conditions. My husband, Ralf, is allergic to all sorts of things, and a number of those things include food. Regular food, like bread.
I won't go into all the accommodations we've made over the years. Suffice it to say when we decided to do our bit for the planet and eat exclusively vegetarian nine months ago, the demands on my creativity multiplied.
I like challenges. So I began reading cookbooks at night, over breakfast and while vacuuming the rug.
I began muttering the names of interesting spices in my sleep. I began collecting them and pulverizing them minutes before tossing them lightly into pots and pans.
I have never loved shopping. But this past year I discovered stores that sold exotic foodie items, and I began getting to know the owners. I suspect they doubted I was serious when I first showed up.
"Do you know how to use this?" one asked me, as I made my way to the counter with a bag of marsala.
"I do," I said, trying not to seem offended.
The last time I was there, I bought a rather surprising number of onions. The same gentleman raised his eyebrows at me.
"So many onions?"
"Yes," I said firmly.
"Well," he said, smiling sweetly, "they say that you can't cook anything without them. What are you making?"
"Curried vegetables with dahl, lentil sambhar and broccoli lemon soup, among other things," I said.
"Ahhh," he said.
"The curried vegetables with dahl is one of my favorite recipes," I added.
That did it. We were off and running, discussing all the amazing things you could do with curry and turmeric and freshly ground sesame.
It's become a little obsessive. When Ralf asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I asked for a chopper. I do chop a lot of onions. I crave a second cookbook holder. My favorite kitchen tool is my garlic press.
My home is now a house of extraordinary culinary creativity. Recently, I decided to make a lasagna recipe without the lasagna (yes, I know there are gluten-free pastas, but I didn't have any on hand). I made lasagna with kasha, a kind of buckwheat once popular in eastern Europe.
It was fantastic. The recipe now reads: "Lasagnaless lasagna with kasha." I scribbled notes.
I am rethinking that book title. "Cooking With Anything But: Vegetarian, Gluten Free and Still Edible"?
Let me know what you think!