The oh-so-appropriately named Cinnamon Cooper writes the column One Good Meal on Chicago-centric website Gapers Block, in which she doles out inventive recipes and cooking advice. Cactus salad, Icelandic food, even microwave cookingshe's game. Serious Eats gets to know her a little better in this week's Meet & Eat.
Favorite comfort food? Lots of different types of comfort foods. Homemade, extra-cheesy, macaroni and cheese; tacos; and sushi. I hope I never have to pick between them.
Guilty pleasures? Pleasure should never be guilty. If I start to feel like I'm eating the wrong things, then I just start eating more of something else. I try to eat a variety of foods because it's nutritionally sound to do so, but mostly because I get bored easily. But I love eating and won't deny it. I'm appalled by the diet industry and the guilt it has created for people around food. We need food for our souls as well as for our bodies. Instead of focusing on what we shouldn't eat, instead of telling us that some food is bad and food that comes in green packages with "all natural" labels is good, we should focus on exanding what we eat. Try to eat one new thing every week. Try to stay away from packaged foods as much as possible, and learn how to make things yourself.
Describe your perfect meal. Amazingly enough, this would probably have more to do with the people I was with than the food I was eating. As long as I'm eating with people who are enjoying their food as much as I am, I'm happy. Whether that's a burger, fries, and a pitcher of beer at an outdoor garden or whether it's live-kill lobster sashimi with ginseng sake at the best sushi place in town, it's all about the enjoyment of the food. That said, eating something I've never had before is always an experience I look forward to.
Food you won't eat? Well, it used to be uni (sea urchin), but Sushi Mike got me to eat some, and while I thought for a minute I was going to hurl, I ended up loving it. Now it is just natto (I have tried it), kiwi (no anaphylactic shock for me, thanks), and I'd probably shy away from bugs because of the texture.
What unexplored food would you like to try?
Fugu. Sure the idea of dying in Japan from eating what appears to be an incredibly mild tasting fish sounds appealing while watching it on the Food Network, but will I do it when I go to Tokyo? Who knows. Otherwise, it is food that I probably don't know about, I try to eat everything that sounds appealing.
Favorite food person? That's a toughie. I've got a soft spot in my heart for Emeril Lagasse for really making me think I could cook. Mario Batali cooks up things that my carb-loving heart desires. Sushi Mike (at Tanoshii in Chicago) has made me cry while eating more than any other chef. But I have to give the biggest portion of my heart over to Julia Child, who made me realize that it was OK to make mistakes and eat them, too.
When did you realize you were a serious eater? About ten years ago, when I gave up being afraid of making mistakes while cooking. I was living in a new city, near an ethnic market that had things labeled "produce." I wore out my Joy of Cooking trying to figure out what things were and what to do with them. I couldn't afford to eat out much, and I was feeling adventurous anyway, so I set aside most of my food issues and dove into the world of exploratory cooking. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
What do your friends and family think of your food obsessions? My family still finds it hard to believe. Before I moved to Chicago, cooking was mostly a chore I tolerated. But after I've cooked for them now, they're mostly happy with my new-to-them ability with food. My friends also enjoy food a lot. It's a frequent topic of our conversations. And they enable me with their Flickr recounts of where and what they've eaten. Its fabulous to have friends support you in an obsession and enjoy it with you. I'm lucky to have people around me celebrate food and understand how important it is to me.
Favorite food sites? I'm so fickle in this regard. I mentioned that I get bored easily, right? The one site I can't thank enough is Paul McCann's Food Blog. It was the first food blog I came across, and it still has the most links to other food blogs. It is my portal to foodiness. I've also recently discovered a new site call Rouxbe that looks very promising. I've used up my freebies and am saving my pennies to buy a lifetime membership. The videos are amazing, the voice-overs are enticing, and the directions are so much easier to understand. But I have to admit my love for food is best expressed in book form. The Joy of Cooking, Julia Child's books, and the New Best Recipe by the publishers of Cook's Illustrated magazine are where I would suggest new cooks start out. I reference these all the time.
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