Sunday, September 19, 2010

Project Food Blog -- It's all about the passion

I sort of fell into blogging as it was not something I really set out to do. I was posting food photos--things I baked and cooked--on flickr, and after so many recipe requests, I started Veggie Nums Nums to share the recipes with my flickr friends.

The blog grew little by little, and so did my enthusiasm for blogging. I am passionate about food and cooking and ingredients, and a blog is the perfect venue for sharing my passion.

I come from a cooking family. My Grandma W was a lunch lady at a grade school for her whole adult life. She was an outstanding baker and cook, and treated us to homemade All-American favorites. She instilled in me a love of cooking at a very young age, and I spent hours in her kitchen baking cookies and cakes, and lots of other good things. Plus, we had lots of fun--she was a hoot and frequently had a glass of her homemade fruit brandy at her elbow when we were scooping out cookie dough.

My Grandma and Grandpa D were both born in Italy where the love of good food is an integral part of the culture. That taught me the importance on fresh food and quality ingredients. Though they would not have considered themselves to be "gourmets", they were very particular about what they ate--buying bread from a certain bakery, and cheese from a favorite Italian deli. Most of their vegetables were home-grown. I grew-up eating things that many of my contemporaries had never heard of, or if they had heard of it, they were not enthusiastic. I, on the other hand, loved pungent Parmigiano-Reggiano, Brussels sprouts, radishes, lupini beans, and dandelion greens. Sunday dinners were a weekly occurrence, and a lot of life was lived crammed together in my grandparent's small kitchen, sitting around the kitchen table.

My Mom didn't approach cooking with the exuberance that I do, but she was such a free spirit and creative in everything she did, that when she did cook something besides the basic dinner or grilled cheese for lunch, it was something wonderful and mysterious. She would spread her cookbooks over the kitchen table, and have a bunch of exotic (to me) ingredients--Tabasco sauce, white pepper, and champagne vinegar--lined up on the counter. My love of reading and cookbooks comes from her, as does my curiosity to try new things.

In addition to my love of cooking and reading, I also developed a passion for animals and animal welfare. In my teens--30 years ago--I became a vegetarian, in an instant. My boyfriend at the time, (and current good friend), called me a hypocrite because I didn't want to eat at a restaurant that had a live lobster tank, even though I had no problems eating burgers and bacon. In that moment, I decided that I would never eat meat or seafood again.

Initially, being a vegetarian was very hard. I had no idea what I was doing, and prepared foods like veggies burgers were unheard of. For the first several years, I existed on pizza, cheese sandwiches, and pasta with tomato sauce. I think my Italian grandmother had nightmares worrying about what she could feed me. Eating out at a nice restaurant almost always meant salad, and French fries or a baked potato.

Little by little, I learned to cook my own food and to seek out veg-friendly products. Vegetarianism as a life-style is now rather main-stream, though when I first gave up meat, I didn't meet another vegetarian for several years. I had a very steep learning curve, and really, no one to turn to for guidance. Traveling could be a huge challenge. On a trip to Curacao where we stayed in a small town on the beach, for two weeks the only food I could find to eat was peanut butter and jelly and plain white rice. I think Dave and I both lost 10 lbs. during that vacation

After I was married, Dave and I moved from a small town in Illinois, to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was such an eye-opening experience. Were we surrounded by health food stores and vegetarian food options at almost every restaurant. We had a blast discovering new places and things to eat. Though Dave was a meat-eater when we met, he converted to vegetarianism right after we were married.

I think my dual "mental citizenship"--Midwestern girl/California girl, is a big plus in being a food blogger. I come from the land of big food, family barbecues and spaghetti suppers, but I've also experienced the land of Chez Panisse, raw food and local produce straight off the tree. And, I love both worlds!

I believe my strengths as a food blogger are my passions for cooking and eating, my love of books and learning new things, and my exposure to other places and people through my travels. Dave and I plan trips around food and have no qualms about driving 2 hours to track down an elusive ingredient (we drive a hybrid!). I've even started experimenting with growing some fruit and herbs in our very tiny suburban backyard.

There are some traits that make me less well-suited to be a blogger. I am very impatient, especially with window-dressing type things--food styling and fancy photography. Though I do enjoy taking pictures and writing up posts, I am happiest when I'm doing actual cooking and eating. I'm also quite nocturnal--most of my cooking, baking, photographing and writing is done between midnight and five in the morning. I rely very heavily on flash photography!

My goal as a food blogger is to enlighten you to the endless variety of vegetarian cooking, and to inspire you to try some of these recipes at home. Whatever your culinary orientation--omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, raw food devotee--I believe that you'll see something here, (many things, actually), which you'll find good to eat. I may not be the chattiest writer, and I'm most definitely not the most skilled and detailed photographer, but I do have a huge love of all things food and cooking and my biggest wish is to share some of the love with you.

Chi mangia bene, veve bene...
He who eats well, lives well...


  1. This is such a great post! I love it!!

  2. Such colorful photos! Very nice.

  3. I loved learning these things about you! I totally enjoy reading your blog so much. You are an insipration to me...that's for sure! Everything I have tried of yours has been amazing!! Your pictures are great also! :o)

  4. Nice entry! I like your writing style and your photos are great.

  5. I'm glad that you decided to stick with the contest. It will be fun!

  6. I enjoy cooking more than the photography aspect, as well, and I also created my blog based on incessant requests for recipes! To me, I just want to show "this is the recipe, and this is what it looks like when I eat it"; if I get a "money shot", awesome... if not, oh well. It still tasted good. ;)

    Thanks for sharing your stories! :D It's nice to learn so much about you. ;)

  7. Great Post Michele!! Contrary to what you wrote, you are an amazing photographer. The stories of your grandparents brought back such good memories.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. What a glorious combination of colors! I can so relate to your story: You don't have to be labeled as "gourmet" to eat better, which means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

  9. This is such a nice post. I can't believe that you made such a quick decision to become a vegetarian - what an adjustment! You make such wonderful-looking food and you show what a huge variety there is to eat even without meat.

  10. I'm making a point to find all the other vegan/veggie blogs in the competition and vote for them. Best of luck!

  11. hi michelle... as a fellow vegetarian I have always thought SF would agree so much better with my lifestyle than my home in Puerto Rico. I hope I can find a husband in the future that could be a vegetarian too. Life would be so much easier in that sense.
    Much luck in PFB. I hope we both get to advance to the next round. Check out my post and let me know if you like it too...

  12. This is a great get-to-know-you post, Michele. You sound like a lady after my own heart (I always felt that anyway through your posts)! The photos are great as usual. And I love the new look.

  13. Hi, I've just spent the last ten minutes or so reading your blog and I am just like you! I am from Ohio and my husband is from the Bay Area too. When we were dating I used to love going out there because of how vegetarian friendly it is. I used to kid my hubs that my favorite restaurant was Fresh Choice.
    Anyway, now we live in Slovakia and I am always on the search for vegetarian meals with ingredients that I can find. Living in Slovakia, I especially enjoyed your story about Sofia- there are a lot of Russian influences here that I can relate to from what you said.
    Good luck in the challenge.

  14. Hello found your blog when searching for spinach recipes. Your baked Tofu looks good, I am going to try it. I also have been a veggie since my teens and am now 55, altho everyone tells me I look much younger! I work in a middle school and the kids can't believe I am the age that I am! I think your recipes look great and I am looking forward to trying some.
    Ann Marie

  15. Thank you all SO much for taking the time to comment! It's really neat "meeting" you and I'm looking forward to checking out your blogs.