Culinary New Year’s Resolutions, Version 2.0

Last year around this time, I wrote a post entitled Culinary New Year’s Resolutions, and it was such fun, I decided to look back at what I had resolved to do, see how well I managed it and then write up a new batch of resolutions, and invite my readers to add their own culinary resolutions in their comments.

Last year, the first resolution I made was to cook more Thai food and blog about it.

I did rather well with that resolution, and lost no time with getting into it, as I posted about Pad Thai on January second. Later that month, I also posted about Red Curry and Mu Pad Prik King. However, it wasn’t until July, and the heat of summer that I really got the kitchen hopping with Thai cuisine, when I posted about Tom Kha Gai, Panang Nuer, Green Curry, Massamun Curry, Tomato Basil Salad, and Kaeng Kari Gai.

I am pretty pleased with the way that resolution turned out, so I will not repeat it this year. That is not to say that I will not post about Thai food anymore–far from it–but, I won’t feel the need to make a formal declaration of resolve about it.

The resolution to cook more fish, however, fell by the wayside a bit. I was rather waylaid by the fact that I was pregnant and was wary of the issue of mercury in the flesh of many of my favorite fish, most notably salmon and tuna. However, I have been eating wild-caught salmon by Ecofish recently, as their fish are all tested for mercury levels and are certified as being safe, so look for some more fish recipes this year, too.

I also promised to actually cook from some of my many cookbooks last year, and I did, sort of.

As I stated in my post, “No Note-For-Note Cooking Here,” I am just not good at following recipes word for word, so I just don’t. Nearly every time I have done so, I have regretted it, so I just use recipes as starting points. If I do that and I blog about it, I always state that in my post, and state the source of the initial inspiration–I believe in giving credit where credit is due. But, still, I did present recipes from my cookbook collection, including one I adapted from Martin Yan’s recipe (Ghengis Khan Beef, the recipe for which is included in “No Note-For-Note Cooking”), from Grace Young’s excellent book, The Breath of a Wok, and one from the wonderful cookbook, The Fifth Taste, which I called Hillbilly Deluxe Dinner. I also gave an oatmeal cookie recipe which I took from Rosie‚Äôs Bakery Chocolate-Packed, Jam Filled Butter-Rich No Holds Barred Cookie Book by Judy Rosenburg’s, and changed completely into “>Oatmeal Fruit and Nut Cookies.

There are other examples of recipes adapted from cookbooks, of course, and they have been such an inspiration to me, I will continue in that vein in the coming year.

Last year, I also promised to cook more from magazines and newspapers.

Oops. I didn’t do so well with that one. I keep meaning to, but I keep not doing it.Oh, well. And this is even though I read lots of cooking magazines, and see lovely photos and good sounding recipes. I just never get around to cooking them. I don’t know why.

So, I should repeat that one this year, and I might try it again.

What I can promise to do is still look at food writing in magazines and newspapers with a critical eye and report on what I find there. THAT part of it, I am good at. Just not so much the cooking part….

In a similar vein, I also resolved to write more book reviews. THAT, I am pleased to say, I kept up with, and it was a lifesaver when I was pregnant and nauseous and didn’t really want to cook or eat. It is hard to write a food blog when food makes you queasy, but the fact that I love to read about food and will curl up with a good cookbook the way normal people do with novels saved me. If you glance over at my archive categories and note the categories “Book Reviews: Cookbooks” and “Book Reviews: Non-Cookbook Food Books,” you will note a total of forty-nine entries.

I think I can safely leave that resolution behind and just keep up the good work when it comes to reading books and writing about them.

I promised more essays last year, and I think I delivered pretty well on that score. I wrote about a myriad of topics, from manners, picky people, Omega 3′s and mercury in fish, blogging ethics, the ethics of meat eating and eating locally, and in doing so, usually fomented vociferous discussion in the comments section.

Have no fear, I will continue writing provocative essays–it is one of strongest abilities as a writer, and I will be darned if I stop doing pushing the envelope of this blog!

I also promised to teach classes and blog about it, but the pregnancy surprise rather nixed that idea and Kat’s presence will likely keep complicating that for a little while yet. However, I still intend to start a small cooking school here in my home, and use the upstairs kitchen to do so. And when I do that, of course I will blog about it here.

The only other resolution I did not keep as well as I could have was my promise to write more about the local Athens food scene, and there is a reason for that.

I am working on a book about that subject.

So, what are my resolutions for this year?

Expect to see more of what you saw last year, though not as often. I am really going to work to post three times a week minimum, but I am not going to push myself harshly on that score. As time goes on and the depression wears down a bit more, I will try and write more and more, but bear with me for a while longer as I get my writing chops back in gear.

I am going to seriously work on my book proposal and start interviewing sources for the book and get on the task of finding an agent. Wish me luck.

As for cooking–look for more Chinese recipes, more in-depth cooking lessons, (including how to stir-fry tofu!) and more Indian recipes. I just met a lovely lady from South India, and she has promised to teach me about South Indian vegetarian cookery, so look for me to share what I learn with everyone here. I’ll still be cooking Thai, of course, but I am thinking of going into some Vietnamese and Korean cookery as well, as there is no place here in town to get any really good Southeast Asian cuisines.

All of that said–what sorts of culinary resolutions have you made? Where do you plan on stretching your foodie-wings this year?

20 Comments

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  1. I’d like to cook on a more regular basis. I was trying to do that last year, but 2 major foot surgeries and 6 months on bedrest rather put a kink in that plan. January 1st was actually the first day I was allowed to walk, and in that vein I’ve been slowly starting to cook, although I’m not allowed to carry anything heavy (like a pot) so I still need some help.

    Comment by Becca — January 3, 2007 #

  2. So nice to see you back….

    (a little peek at the new one would be fun…so glad she is doing OK)

    Comment by dindi — January 3, 2007 #

  3. Speaking for myself, I LOVE your cookbook reviews. I bought a few of them based on your recommendations, and have been enjoying them immensely. I buy cookbooks often just for the “armchair travel” aspect of it. I went to India for three weeks this fall, and came back with enough cookbooks (and cds/dvds) to open a nice-sized bookstore. My books filled a bag of their own. No kidding.

    So…my resolutions:
    1. Indian Pickle-Making. I have always been a bit intimidated by this, but have some excellent resources at hand now, so will be plunging right in.

    2. Eat more whole grains. I tend to fall back on lovely old white rice. In pilafs. Steamed plain. Stir-fried with veg. I need to branch out!!!

    3. Use all the beans in my pantry – or ditch them. No more malingering legumes.

    4. Get back to cooking for friends more. Especially Thai food, which is so great to do for a crowd. I used to do this a lot. This year I just worked. And worked. And worked. Oh, and read food blogs. Well, enough of all that (except food blogs, of course). Balance, moderation, and socialization in the new year.

    Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy 2007!!!

    Comment by Diane — January 3, 2007 #

  4. Athens? Georgia? What’s your opinion on Five and Ten? And is the Ru San’s in Athens as good as the one in Atlanta? (hmmm…maybe you’re in Athens, Greece … or some other Athens in the US)

    Comment by deb — January 3, 2007 #

  5. I resolve to get back on the good nutrition wagon, and resist the temptation to eat things I love, but am allergic to.

    Comment by Hadar — January 4, 2007 #

  6. Cooking classes? Keep me posted and I will be there with bells on!! Columbus is just a hop, skip and a jump plus is it a beautiful drive down RT 33.

    Deb – Barbara and I both live in Ohio. Athens, Ohio is home to Ohio University and a lot of very cool folks.

    Comment by Rosie — January 4, 2007 #

  7. So glad to see you up and about.

    Ah ha! So you have found yourself a South Indian teacher – well done! Look forward to you blogging about my other favourite cuisine!

    Comment by Anita — January 4, 2007 #

  8. I would love more time to cook unfortunately i can’t see it happening. I love your blog when i do get time to browse the net, keep up the good work.

    Comment by James — January 4, 2007 #

  9. Mazel tov!

    I have an in-house small person myself, which kind of plays both ways when it comes to cooking. Happily, though, he particuarly enjoys Korean food, which is our principal household cuisine. Less happily, his father (Korean-American) is less interested in exploring less-familiar Korean food than I (Slovenian-American) am. On another hand, our jobs have us cohabiting only four days a week. On yet another hand, I live in Rock Springs, Wyoming five days a week, and this isn’t a great area for Korean-relevant groceries. Taking yet another hand from my manual library, I do go to Denver (where Sheeyun lives) weekly when weather permits, and there are super groceries there.

    So I’ll resolve to make more different Korean dishes. :D

    Comment by Mary Ann — January 4, 2007 #

  10. Since you are good at reviewing books, is there any advice for me? I am about to publish my very first cookbook soon.

    Comment by hong thaimee — January 4, 2007 #

  11. My resolution if you can call it that is always to try something I’ve never done before. It takes many forms and cooking always presents the challenge.
    Yes, I’ve enjoyed your book review, well just the entire year everything! Thanks.

    Comment by tanna — January 4, 2007 #

  12. I know I don’t comment here often, but I do read your blog (I kept checking in while you were taking care of your daughter, and I am glad you both are doing well). My culinary resolution this year is to start off culinary school on the right foot- learn as much as possible. I’m excited to start! I look to your blog for inspiration when I want to make something special (I made your aphrodite cakes for christmas- they were divine!)
    Warm wishes to you and yours!
    -Ana

    Comment by Ana — January 4, 2007 #

  13. My culinary resolutions (you’ll see I theme, I think)

    (1)Eat more locally grown food
    (2)Finish reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma
    (3)Plant more herbs in our small patch of soil on the porch

    Barbara pretty much singly inspired all of those.
    - Kerrie

    Comment by KCatGU — January 4, 2007 #

  14. I am repeatedly defeated by yeasted breads, most notably pizza dough. I always over work it and have only made it succesfully one two occassions, one of which was supervised by a pro cook friend of mine.

    SO I resolve to get over my fear of my flour jar and practice more baking from scratch including pie crust, pizza crust, naan bread, and maybe even an actual loaf of bread.

    Comment by Benjamin — January 4, 2007 #

  15. Benjamin–I too am resolving to get over my prejudice against making yeasty items. Good luck to you!

    Comment by Violeta — January 4, 2007 #

  16. I resolve to master sauces thickened with flour. I can’t make a gravy or bechamel to save my life. I make beautiful roasts and pan-sauces but gravies are a mystery (and my mac&cheese is an abomination).

    p.s. glad you are back – are you guys swimming in Athens like we are in Cincinnati? Where’s the snow???

    Comment by Tammy — January 5, 2007 #

  17. Glad you are back! Missed you. Glad the family is doing well.

    My food resolutions:
    1) Tupperware and feeze food more(not eat the same thing for 3 days strait)

    2) Bring more food to work. Eating out all the time is bad!

    3) Eat locally more.

    Comment by Jeff — January 5, 2007 #

  18. I saw your new posts and read them with glee! Happy new year, and glad to hear things are going better.
    I like the idea of culinary resolutions, and maybe will make some myself.

    Comment by lucette — January 5, 2007 #

  19. So good to see you back. I’m so glad you’re blogging again.
    I like the idea of culinary resolutions. My resolutions are not to be intimidated by recipes but to try the. And the second one is to cook something new like baking a bread :)

    Comment by mandira — January 5, 2007 #

  20. I am glad to see so many culinary resolutions here! Bread-making and cooking more often seem to be favorites for everyone–good luck with your resolutions!

    I am very happy to hear that folks like the book reviews and find them helpful. I have scads of new Indian cookbooks to review, so look for more reviews on the horizon…

    Advice on writing a cookbook–well, how about this: know your audience and write to them. One of the things I have found most successful in my writing is that I am obsessive about explaining everything thoroughly. This makes my posts long, which I am told turns off blog readers. Well, that may be the case sometimes, but I have actually been thanked in email by plenty of readers for giving such careful, thorough instructions, especially for tricky techniques like stir frying and pastry making.

    So, if you are writing to beginners, or if you are writing about an ethnic cuisine to those unfamiliar about it–be thorough and clear in your explanations. Go step by step. Leave nothing out, and then give your recipes to beginners to test, to make sure they work. We who know how to do something often take our knowledge for granted and cannot thus explain it easily–do not fall into that trap!

    Also–give stories and cultural backgrounds with your recipes. Readers love that.

    Thank you all for the welcome-backs, too! It is good to be back in the office, writing again. I never really stopped cooking–I slowed down a lot, but I didn’t stop! But, I will admit that without blogging, I did fall back on tried and true recipes! Now it is time to branch out and cook creatively again!

    As for pictures of Kat–I have decided to do a short post every Saturday primarily of pictures and updates about the wee baby! Sort of a “Weekend Baby Blogging.” Have no fear, though, cat lovers–I have plenty of pics of both baby and cats to put up that have double the cute factor!

    Comment by Barbara — January 5, 2007 #

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