See, here’s the thing about me and food.
I love food. I love eating it, particularly with friends, like I did tonight (salmon, green beans, roasted potatoes, salad. Yummmm). I love watching food shows, and there are occasions when I like to cook. But really, for me, food is about consumption. Clearly, I love it too much, as I’ve packed on more pounds than I need over the years.
A quick query of facebook got me several very different, but extremely apt, definitions of “foodie.” From the funny (hipsters who like to eat, if you plan your vacation around food, you’re a foodie) to the profound (foodies”delight in the adventure of exploring the world of food” or “contemplate food” rather than simply eating it.) None of them apply to me. Though I obsess over food (mostly how I can eat less of it and yet still satisfy the part of me that loves the tastes), I don’t take much delight in the intellectual nature of food; I just like to eat it.
This is why my culinary triumph today is so, well, weird. We’ve recently had a couple of cook-offs at my office. The first was chili (and mine was damn good, if I do say so myself, even though I was the only one who voted for it). The second was a bakeoff. I tied for 3rd place! Before you lecture me on how that’s 2nd runner up and really quite lame, hear me out.
Here’s how it went down in my head:
9pm, the night before the bakeoff: Crap, it’s the bakeoff tomorrow. I should bake something. Oh, who am I kidding? I work with a bunch of foodies. Anything I make will be pedestrian compared to their creations.
9:03: I could make my famous oatmeal cookies. Yes, I’ll make those. But maybe I’ll find a way to spice them up; throw some coconut or maybe a savory spice in there to cut the sweetness.
9:05 (after checking facebook): Damn, my coworkers are making some impressive stuff. Cookies aren’t going to cut it. What do I do?
9:06: Just don’t bake, Jodi. You can’t compete.
9:08: I’m gonna bake. Maybe I can find a cool new recipe on the interwebs.
9:20: Dude, these recipes are way too hard.
9:21: Ok, what do I know how to bake? Oatmeal cookies. Chocolate Chip cookies. Dump cake. Death by Chocolate. Oooh, that’s a good one. But it’s so…it’s almost cheating. A box cake, pudding, Cool Whip. And the sugar! Dear god, it’ll melt your teeth. How can I make it more adventurous and less lame?
9:25: Hmmm, remember having chili powder in your hot chocolate? Can you make that happen in a Death by Chocolate?
And that, friends, was how it began. I changed the sickly sweet chocolate cake mix for the only slightly less sickly sweet Devil’s Food mix. And, I added ground red chili pepper and cayenne pepper. And then I tasted the batter.
10:15: Damn it, it tastes like chocolate cake. This wasn’t worth risking salmonella for.
10:15 and 5 seconds: Whoa. There the heat. Ok, this might just be awesome.
So into the oven it went. When it cooled, I replaced the Skor bar (yes, that’s in the recipe) with chopped dark chocolate and craisins, mixed it up, popped it into the fridge and went to bed with hope in my heart that maybe I wouldn’t embarrass myself the next day.
Today, as I headed down to the bake off, doubts assailed me. Visions of rum frosting, french delicacies, and intricate layer cakes filled my head. Then I saw people tasting my stuff. One colleague hailed me from across the room – “Hey! Did you really make this? It’s awesome!” Even my foodie friends thought it was good. Granted, it needed more cranberries, and there were many entries much better (I voted for the winning entry, a sumptuous coconut creme cake), but hey! I held my own.
And I won’t deny, I LOVED telling the story of how I was trying to add that layer of heat to the sweetness. My foodie friends looked at me like I was nuts, clearly wondering what happened to the Jodi they know.
Honestly, I have no idea. But it was fun. I can see why foodies become foodies. My favorite moment was when someone said my efforts were very “culinary.” That was cool.
However, I’ve got a long way to go before I become a foodie, as defined by a friend on facebook who most definitely is one – I don’t yet “view food as a way of life, not merely intake with a prescribed end result.” But I think I might be getting there.