Home Cooks Are Us

These past couple of days, I’ve been filling out job application after job application and cranking out cover letters like it’s nobody’s business (please oh please hire me, somebody!). I applied for positions at a few of my favorite food publications out there, and more than once, I’ve written about my belief in the power of the home cook and how one doesn’t need to have chef-level cooking skills to have the privilege of calling him- or herself a chef.

It reminded me of one of the weeks I spent in New York City this past fall.

I had this brilliant idea at around 3 a.m. on a night when I had to wake up at 7:15 the next morning—you know, when all the brilliant ideas come about. I thought, man, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a food blog out there that focused solely on home cooks and the foods they make that are closest to their hearts? Professional chefs are fascinating, don’t get me wrong, but that has been done before by every food blog ever. What about the next door neighbor, the great aunt, the TV repair guy? Everybody cooks, and everybody deserves a spot in the limelight (well, the camera flash light, but you get what I mean).

I had this idea that, just like with any reporting assignment, if I could use my contacts to make friends with kind strangers who cook, maybe I could get invited into their kitchens to witness them in their natural, cozy surroundings, cooking whatever food is important to them no matter how complex or easy it is, and then interview them to get a bit of history into the dish, it could be an amazing project for me and for anyone who follows it.

As you may have guessed, it was pretty hard to find people to let me into their lives in this kind of way. I didn’t foresee that part. Oops.

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But one person did, Guillermo from Spain, who invited me and some of his friends to his Brooklyn apartment to cook tortilla española, his favorite dish from home, just the way his dad taught him how to make it before Guillermo moved to the United States. His enthusiasm for food and for food heritage were perfect for my cooking project, and although it didn’t immediately pan out like I hoped it would during that 3 a.m. inspiration session, my experience documenting his cooking will undoubtedly inspire me to pursue it farther in the future.

Someday after these job applications are done and I become a famous journalist, I’m sure it will be much easier to find subjects. 🙂

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Minnesota Dreaming

Lately, my mind has been very tied up with job hunting. I graduate from college this June, and then what? For once, I am not really sure where I will end up, what I will do, who I will live with (or nearby), and so on. I started a big old Excel spreadsheet with jobs to apply to, but I end up spending the time I would normally fill out applications thinking about what city I want to end up in.

A month ago, I was convinced that city was Chicago. But after researching job markets a little more, I’m starting to think Minneapolis.

I grew up in a suburb of the Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities) metro area. When I was about to graduate high school, my biggest focus was getting out of the area and trying out different places of living, partly because I wanted to branch out and break free, and partly because I didn’t know what was out there—not that I know now, in any way.

I fear I have somewhat lost my sense of adventure these past six months. Whereas before, I was eager to live in different places all over the world, none for more than a year at a time, just to experience new things, the stress of moving so often has finally caught up with me. Since leaving home and going to college, I haven’t lived in a single place longer than nine months, and it gets to the point when I wonder where exactly my home is.

I have lived in the Chicago area since September 2011, and suburban-rural Wisconsin before that. The height of my living-related sense of adventure was somewhere in June/July/August of 2014, when I was gearing up to spend the fall working in New York, a city I had dreamed of calling home since I first visited in the summer of 2009.

But I found that, when I lived there, I wasn’t all that satisfied. I grew up with nature and space, and what I got was throngs of people, highly engineered nature in the form of Central Park (gorgeous, but not “nature” by any means!), and a disjointed sense of not belonging because I knew I was only a temporary resident in Manhattan and because I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t fall completely head-over-heels for the city life.

While I’m very fortunate to have had the experience of living there, I worry that it has made me more hesitant when it comes to seeking future opportunities. I’ve found that where I live is almost as important (or maybe even more important, depending on how I feel if you ask me) as what I do in that place. I need a certain blend of booming city life and a veneration of the outdoors. I need affordable living expenses and available jobs. I need society as well as community.

This leaves me with places like Chicago, Portland, and so on, but lately I’ve been spending a lot of time lusting over all that is Minnesota, from the hotdishes to the heritage, the laidback culture to the (relative) lack of unemployment among people my age.

Old me never would have guessed, but I might want to move back to my home after all.

It’s kind of clichéd, really, but I don’t care. You sometimes have to see the world to truly appreciate where you come from, and I’m having that moment right now where I miss home just a little bit.

It’s not even March of my senior year of college yet, and I still have so many papers to write and so many classes to attend before I get to put that degree to use. Nothing can possibly be set in stone yet, but a girl like me can dream about what she wants out of her future as early as she wants to.