Two Years of Writing a Food Column
Today marks two years of writing my Foodie Underground column. How I have managed to produce a column every single Monday for 104 weeks is beyond me, but somehow it’s still going. Hence the celebratory post and birthday torte recipe. Enjoy!
I know for a fact that at least four people read this column: my mother (she has to), her friends Lisa and Sally (I shamelessly email it to them every week), and the guy who runs Portland Food and Drink (probably because we live in the same city and he thought that my take on bone luging was funny).
There are, of course, a few more fans than that. (L.A. Weekly, The Washingtonian, and The New York Times seem to agree, which makes this writer proud. At least, I’m happy to see the foodies are not so underground these days.)
Today Foodie Underground turns two. Or as I like to look at it, today Foodie Underground and I are celebrating our two-year anniversary, because writing a weekly column is kind of like being in a relationship.
Just like in a new relationship, in the beginning, you start off happy and giddy.
“You want me to have my own column?” you say to your editor, excitedly planning all the things you and your column will do together. The first few months are great. You’re spinning with creativity and thinking about your column 24 hours a day. Everything you do reminds you of your newfound love. Life is beautiful.
Slowly however, the reality of routine hits. You. Must. Write. The. Column. Every. Single. Week. A few Monday mornings you drag yourself out of bed, put on a French press and stare at your computer screen, glancing at your watch, realizing said editor is going to be very upset if you don’t get this thing done soon. Things feel a little boring. You’re not as inspired as you once were. Where is the spark? Should you break things off and move on to something else? You find yourself asking your editor for ideas to “spice things up.”
But as you get farther into your relationship, things stabilize and the positive feelings return. You hit a comfortable stride, evolving and developing your relationship, that creativity takes on a new face. Then you hit the “we” stage, the point where you realize you and your column have become one. Much like a partnership, you start to do fewer and fewer things apart. You’re never alone on a Saturday night when you have a column to get in the can for Monday.
You come to realize how very much influenced you are by your “other.” Such is the case with Foodie Underground. In the last week alone I have been contacted to see if I know anything about hay smoking (yes, it’s a thing…or at least was in early 2011), told that I should write a food advice column, and received an email from my mother to see if I had ever tried combining chocolate and sea salt with ground coffee (I have not, but it’s on the to-do list now). These are all things that didn’t use to happen. Invitations, Twitter, products, events…these relationships, er, columns, are work.
To add to the realization that my food column and I are inextricably linked, last week an office mate asked me what he should get for lunch, and I told him to go to the taco truck down the street. “How big are they?” he asked.
“Here, let me show you a picture,” I responded, pulling out my phone, which happens to store a lot of food related photos.
“Of course you have a photo of that,” he smiled.
“Want to see what I made last night?” I quipped back, not waiting before whipping my laptop over to his desk to share more food photos.
Call it an obsession verging on insanity if you must, but writing this column has forced me to think – really think – about food in new and vital ways. What we eat, how we eat, where we eat, who we eat with, people who don’t eat, people who eat too much, where we get our food, who prepares our food: Food is everything.
We must eat to live, and ultimately, so much of our everyday lives – health, emotional well-being, energy levels – is affected by what we put into our bodies. In the western world, most of us have access to foods that our grandparents and even parents could only dream of. And yet we’re stuck in the middle of a health epidemic. Obesity rates are rising despite a bounty in supply; food deserts. And unfortunately, when talking about good food is equated to a certain level of pretentiousness, we get distracted from the real issues, and solutions, at hand.
Yes, that truffle-infused fennel-crusted bacon-studded brioche you’re staring at looks good, and you could certainly pair it with a glass of sparkling water, but what have you done lately to deal with the questions of food justice?
As I wrote two weeks ago, you might be surprised to find out what’s normally on my dinner plate. Although I like bourbon drinks out of mason jars as much as the next single-speed riding urbanite, I’m as weary as you of the predictability of the trendy culinary world and the people who are obsessed with it. Kind of like this:
I may have a not-so-secret love affair with foodie capitals like Brooklyn and San Francisco – the first Foodie Underground ever mentioned both. Last week, I ate an entire roasted fish at a restaurant that had a very fitting name, only one word, of course. And on occasion I do things like learn how to make cheese. But the truth is that I just want to explore new places, discover good food along the way, and make sure that we’re putting the spotlight on programs that are ensuring that everyone, no matter where they live or what socio-economic bracket they find themselves in, can do the same.
Fortunately, I have supportive friends, who could just be putting up with me because they know that eventually I will cook them dinner and it will probably involve arugula, or even a polenta olive oil cake, and although Foodie Underground and I are tied at the hip, they don’t seem to care too much. That leaves me to keep thinking and talking about food, which as I have come to learn, makes me one happy girl.
Two years of this is cause for celebration, and in good Foodie Underground spirit, I had to come up with a fitting celebratory dessert. The result was this little gem, which I am hoping at least a few of you try to make yourself. It’s a combination of some of my favorite flavors, has the obligatory sea salt, is gluten-free and vegan (because porquoi pas?) and is relatively painless to make.
Enjoy, and then go out and change the world with good food.
Date and Orange Chocolate Ganache Torte with Lemon Almond Crust
(The Official Foodie Underground Birthday Cake)
Note: I use two 6 oz./4.5″ tartlet ramekins for this recipe.
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- zest of one Meyer lemon
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 cup dates, chopped or cut into small pieces
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 4 oz. baking chocolate, 100% cocoa
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Prepare the crusts by melting the coconut oil and mixing with the rest of crust ingredients, until a dough forms. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
- Split dough into even parts and press into greased tart pans. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
- While the crusts are cooling, combine dates and orange zest and juice in a saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir regularly, until orange juice has been soaked up by dates. Pour date mixture evenly into baked crusts.
- To prepare the ganache, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Heat coconut milk together with sugar in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges, then pour over chocolate. Let sit for five minutes, then gently stir until mixture has a smooth consistency.
- Pour the ganache over the date mixture and let cool. Note that these are best served when the chocolate has set, so store them in the refrigerator, and remove about 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Garnish with sliced almonds, orange zest and a lemon slice.
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to independent markets to the culinary avant garde.