I somehow missed the first birthday of my blog, a numerically-significant step going from 0 to 1. Blogs can't drop the usual hints that a gift will soon be in order. In my defense, I didn't forget, I just could have sworn it was April of last year when the whining first began.

To those that read these ramblings and enjoy, I want to thank you for your support, and based on the number of hits to the site, there are more of you than I thought. While I've shared much, and you've tolerated much thus far, I'd like to share a little of what I've learned about food, writing, and myself in the last year.

The blog was, I imagined, some small way of reaching out to people. To say, "It's not just you, Starbucks coffee does suck." Restaurants that were doing good should know it and be talked about at length and prodded to keep it up, while the ones that were doing bad needed to know that we noticed the "lack of effort". Whether that has ever made a difference remains to be seen, but no bartender who serves me on a regular basis dares make me a martini without vermouth. It's a heartening, if liver-threatening, sign of progress.

Writing requires sharing something of yourself, and if you do it right, at times it's the literary equivalent of stripping naked in front of your friends. It's easy to share that of which you are most proud while hiding that of which you are most ashamed. A year ago, I stood in the eye of a hurricane of change; divorce is no less distressing for being such a wide-spread activity. With the process in the soul-less hands of the legal process, my frustration could only be aimed at those who abused, misrepresented, and misunderstood something so straightforward as food. Law and change are complicated, food needn't be.

It takes guts to chide others about something you have hardly mastered yourself and it's arrogant to think yours is the only opinion. Yet, without someone having an opinion, nothing moves forward nor upward. Apathy breeds things like "The Cheesecake Factory", McDonald's, Starbucks, and vermouth-less martinis while passion breeds El Bulli and the French Laundry, bread and cheese, Blue Bottle Coffee, and antique Absinthe collectors.

I've learned that food is a life-long companion whom I hope to understand sufficiently, if never completely. It's an obsession (in my case), and a passion at the same time. I've no real opinions on politics (other than a certain hesitation with the current administration), no clue about sports, with religion, I've a clear favorite but know embarrassingly little about the rest. On food, however, I stand firm. I'll talk out my ass about it for an hour, criticizing the food of others while woefully lacking in recent kitchen practice myself. I'll harshly ridicule "the vegs" (-eterians and -ans) while at the same time corralled into a limited diet thanks to a well-deserved ulcer; an effective, if unconventional way to lose weight. One might say, I couldn't live without food and, even if I could, I would eat anyway.

And then there are random things:

I cook better in a large kitchen than I do in a small one. Size matters, damnit.

I can use a cheap knife almost as well as I can an expensive one, but cheap pans are useless. Good countertops are key, expensive cabinets are pointless. An expensive sink is quieter, an expensive faucet "feels" better. A cheap exhaust fan is as useless as a cheap pan.

I've learned that when you're "into food", people are afraid to cook for you, and that is a shame.

My grandmother was the best cook I'm ever likely to know, and unfortunately, most of her recipes died with her.

I may never again get to go to as many amazing restaurants as I used to, but I'm grateful, humbled, and more knowledgeable for having been allowed to. It taught me what food can be.

Most of all, I'm grateful that, during 4 seasons of change, there were a few constants in my life; food, wine, and friends; all essential and all comforting - often in tandem - and to each, this blog is dedicated.

Happy Birthday foodandwhining.



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