Friday, June 6, 2008

Why Me? Why Now? Why Zuni?

Why me?

A few years ago I spent a glorious ten days with the Lauer’s at Sea Island in a house with a beautiful kitchen overlooking the marsh where Jane and Amy and I cooked dinner (almost) every night for the nine to eleven people who were ready to eat. After calling my office repeatedly to get a recipe emailed to me from my computer and not being able to get any on Saturday and Sunday, I realized there had to be a way to have my recipes where I could access them wherever I was and where I could direct my friends when they called for a recipe. Each idea I had was more cumbersome than the one before.

Then my adorable elderly father died unexpectedly, and for the first time in my life, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. During that sad period, I had an “I could have had a V-8” moment. Do a blog. My own blog. And somehow in the middle of a dark winter’s night, I opened my laptop and figured out what to do. And I was right. It is a huge convenience for me. I live in the city, and weekend in the country, and visit friends, and now – just about anyplace I am – I can get my hands on my favorite recipes.

What I didn’t know was how much I would like to write, how much it would enhance my already passionate enjoyment of cooking, and how many people I would “meet” because they read my recipes, and I read theirs. It’s been quite an adventure, and the journey goes on.

Why now?

This is a question I am answering mostly for myself. I am so busy at work, I have a ton of personal projects going on, and I already write a blog. Am I crazy?

The first blog I ever read was the Julie/Julia Project, a blog on Salon in which Julie Powell was documenting her resolution to cook her way through the 536 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year.

Before that I didn’t even know what a blog was. I found it late in the day and had a lot of back reading to do. I laughed out loud, I rooted for Julie to finish on time, and when I got to the Smithsonian to see Julia’s kitchen, I was as interested in checking out where Julie left the stick of butter as anything else in that wonderful room.

And after that I loved her book, Julie & Julia.  It isn't the blog in print; it's about writing the blog – and how it changed her life.

It’s different now; there are lots of really great food blogs out there, and I would love to read them all regularly and explore new ones. But I can’t. Just like I can’t read every great book there is - although not for lack of trying. So I’ve picked a small number, and they are like my friends that I check on regularly to see what’s going on and how they are doing.

One of them is the French Laundry at Home where Carol Blymire is breathtakingly cooking her way through Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook.

Carol's blog is beautiful, interesting, enlightening, inspiring, and hilarious. And every time I read the newest post, I think how cooking through TFL is changing and enhancing the way Carol Blymire cooks. I remember I felt the same way about Julie Powell’s cooking her way through Mastering. And a little voice in my head says………hmmmmmm.

Why Zuni?

I have a lot of cookbooks. I mean A LOT of cookbooks. What I call a rude amount (it’s a personal joke) – what some people call a ridiculous amount – what some people call an insane amount. The question usually is, “What are you going to do with all these books?” It is, of course, an exaggeration, but I’m beginning to feel like Cecily Brownstone. But I don’t have a lot of cookbooks that make me say “I’d like to cook every single recipe here.” (There are exactly three - Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, Patricia Wells' Simply French, and, of course, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.) And I’m not looking for a project. So the idea comes. I put it away. But it keeps coming back...Zuni.

I have four copies of the book. Three are in places I cook often, and one is at my office. I give The Zuni Cafe Cookbook as a present all the time. The book is wonderful - it is physically beautiful, the hand of the paper is sensual, the writing is excellent, and all that is surpassed by the recipes, which are long, thorough, easy to follow, reliable, and delicious. There isn’t a recipe in it I don’t want to cook when I open it. (And I’ve already made the pasta dish with gizzards and hearts – a number of times – and I make the chicken stock with a chicken that still has its head and its feet all the time, thank you very much.)

The answer is

Why not?

This isn’t a race. I don’t have a timetable. I’m not going to rush. Too much of what I do at work is time-dependent. So as I wend my way through The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I'm going to have fun and learn all that I can. It will require lots of reading, lots of procuring, and - best of all - lots of cooking.

I’m not going to post recipes. If you’re interested, get a copy of the book if you don’t already have it, and follow along. Even if you don’t want to follow along, get a copy of this fabulous book.

Silvano in the Sink
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Carol Blymire said...

Best of luck to you -- I know you're gonna love it. Let me know if you ever need anything. :)

EB said...

Oh man... so excited!!! I cannot wait.

White On Rice Couple said...

What a great project! We'll be opening our book and following you every step of the way! This is going to be so much fun and it's such a marvelous idea. The cookbook is just wonderful and the recipes do look so exciting!

Ai Lu said...

Just curious -- besides Zuni, what are the other two cookbooks that you would like to cook every recipe of theirs?

Ai Lu

Victoria said...

The other books I considered cooking through were:

Simply French - The Cooking of Joel Robuchon - by Patricia Wells. It's as much a philosophy of cooking as The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and

Sunday Suppers at Lucques, a beautiful collection of wonderful-looking recipes.

Perry said...

Victoria, I was *googling* a totally unrelated topic and happened upon your blog...THANK YOU!!!!
I'm really looking forward to reading it all the way through, and then, hopefully, on to trying some of the recipes :>

Great writing,great pics, thanks again!