January 01, 2011

Turn the page...

Two thousand eleven?

Or twenty eleven?

A new year, a new decade, a blank slate with infinite possibility.

Honestly I'm less concerned about what we're going to call it; I'm still trying to figure out how the heck we got here... so quickly. As I flip the calendar forward I find myself reflecting on the moments that in many ways define the lens through which I see the world today. Some represent key ingredients in the recipe that is my life. Others seemed insignificant in the moment, but provide the salt, seasonings and structural elements critical to a balanced dish.

1978 brought us Saturday Night Fever, Space Invaders and the very first cell phone. My parents balked at spending 70c a gallon on gasoline as they sat in blocks-long lines waiting to fill the tank in the Nova. We celebrated my tenth birthday in Lake Tahoe where I learned that for the rest of the world "ethnic" wasn't synonymous with Italian. We dined at a Greek restaurant whose name I've long forgotten, but I can still taste the beautifully balanced complexity of the moussaka and the strange lasagna the waiter called pastizio, the brightness that lemon and a sprinkle of salt brought to the fried potatoes. My horizons expanded 100% in that experience.

1983 gave birth to both the internets and Microsoft Word, while 125 million television viewers watched the 4077 fold up the M*A*S*H tents for the final time. For this high school freshman, the adventure lay in Paris, France with seven other teenage girls and a social studies teacher with a sense of adventure, a touch of insanity or perhaps a bit of both. My parents' goal in providing this opportunity was likely to expand my horizons. Perhaps on some level they succeeded: my strongest memories include a pillow war launched over the Atlantic with a rowdy college soccer team from Spain and my first exposure to French wine and steak tartarre.

Mark Wills reminds us that a space shuttle fell out of the sky in 1986, the year that ushered us one step closer to email and offered me closure on twelve years of Catholic education. I won a scholarship that spring with an essay on a topic I'd have to dig through boxes of memorabilia to remember. I left for college that year with no clear idea of what direction my career path would take, but I knowing that ultimately I would write. For myself, if no one else was interested.

Technologically 1989 introduced us to Microsoft Office, the 486 PC, Nintendo's Game Boy and the first GPS satellites. Personally I embarked on a brand new journey in 1989. While I would have told you I was fat in high school (and alongside some of my size 2-4 friends I certainly felt that way), after three years of dorm and cafeteria food I could no longer ignore the freshman fifteen not-quite-forty and with two of my sorority sisters joined Weight Watchers, beginning a twenty year love/hate relationship with the bathroom scale.

While Windows 95 and the introduction of java script were the hot topics in technology, in the spring of 1995 some combination of chance/fate/circumstance put me at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Concord, across the table from the man I would later love like no other. Half a year later, across from the same man at a different table I glanced at his chicken ceasar salad and quipped 'dude, I can taste that pepper from here.' And thus began fifteen years of food and life adventures.

In 1997 the world bids farewell to two iconic ladies of the 20th century: Princess Diana and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and we're introduced Dolly the genetically engineered lamb and Harry Potter. Personally, Kyle's birth in June creates another branch on the family tree -- and over time an opportunity to pass on heirloom family recipes to the next generation.

While the rest of the world fretted over the consequences of the Y2K bug, my family came face-to-face with the "C" word for the first time in late 1999 when my father -- a lifetime smoker -- was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. In the six months that followed I saw the healing power of food at a new level as he taught me his holiday recipe secrets, I spent six hours in December looking for fresh cherries for turnovers, we found an excellent source of take-out chiles rellenos and twelve new ways to serve chicken livers to quiet the chemo cravings and bring peace and comfort.

A $415 million, eight-year federal study completed in 2006 finds that a low-fat diet does not decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, or stroke and high fructose corn syrup begins its ascent as the latest ugly red-headed stepchild of the food world. And on February 5, 2006 I tiptoed softly onto the food blog scene. Some 1790-days, 28 daring baker challenges, 33 Tuesdays with Dorie, hundreds of dinners out and a handful of holidays later I'm still here. Sometimes vocal, sometimes more silent, but ready to see where the next five, ten, fifteen years will take us...