About

This food blog really came about by accident. Back in June of 2004, Jeremy and I started a family blog when he was accepted into the New York Academy of Art. Its purpose was to keep each other, and family and friends who were interested, apprised of what we were up to for the next two years: Jeremy as a graduate art student living in New York City, myself living and working in Salem with our ferrets, both of us eagerly awaiting the end of the temporary separation. We knew it was worthwhile, though, because Jeremy learned so much from talented contemporary artists and had great experiences living in the Big Apple. You can read all about it in the archives of JcSparks.com.

The experience helped me grow in unexpected ways as well, aside from the fact that I had never really lived by myself before. I don’t drive, so we sold our car when Jeremy left for school. I walked everywhere: To work, to the library, to the mall, to the grocery store. I didn’t like the idea of eating by myself at restaurants, and we didn’t really have the disposable income for that anyway. More cooking meant working on my meal planning, which had never been my strong suit. But when you have to carry all the food you need for a week or more on your back or in your hands for over a mile, you start considering the weight and bulk of things. Root vegetables, liquids and canned goods are darned heavy, never mind the flour and sugar. Fortunately, I could have orders delivered from time to time. I began spending more time poring over recipes and working out meal combinations, even experimenting a bit with new concepts and techniques, figuring that if I screwed it up in practice, I would be the only one to suffer from the mistakes. I checked out new cookbooks from the library, and chose my produce seasonally because it was fresher and less expensive that way. And I began building a pantry of staple items to always have on hand when the fresh groceries were getting low and I didn’t feel like literally running over to the store.

These sorts of steps may not seem like a big deal, but for me they were. You see, I’m a very picky eater. I have been as long as I can remember, and I’m sure my mother is nodding her head vigorously in agreement right now. All my senses are quite delicate and easily overwhelmed, so I need my foods to be simple, straightforward and not overpowering. I need to know what I’m eating, and the texture in my mouth must be just so, or I lose my appetite. Jeremy, bless his heart, is always encouraging me to try new things. He’s not a picky eater, and has been very longsuffering with my food limitations, so I owe it to him—any my family and friends as well—to work on expanding my culinary horizons. I allowed my curiosity about ingredients and techniques to get the better of me, and since I had absolute control over what I cooked and how I cooked it, I found ways to trick my picky-eater brain into trying new things. Soon I had a repertoire of wonderful new recipes I could hardly wait to share with Jeremy, and I seem to have turned him into something of a foodie along the way.

It’s still very slow going. I can’t help the visceral reaction of distaste I get from so many foods, most connected with strong flavors or textures I perceive as unpleasant. But because I am gaining confidence in my abilities as a cook—with a kitchen full of good tools, a pantry stocked with indispensables, and a fridge stuffed with high quality ingredients—I am more willing to give things a try, and sometimes I really surprise myself.

Whew, that was quite a ramble! All of that was just to say that as I became more and more interested in exploring the world of cooking, I didn’t want to clutter up our main blog, which was more for news and general interest, with recipes and excited rants about food. Jeremy set me up with a blog of my own, and for the past year or two I’ve been using it mostly as a private catalog of recipes and notes, not quite a journal, but more of a reference for myself. I’ve started posting here more and more, though, thanks in part to a new camera lens, and I decided it was time to go public. In addition to being a (for the most part) daily accounting of what I’ve been up to the in the kitchen, I hope this blog will also prove to be a useful resource to other picky eaters out there, children and adults alike.

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3 thoughts on “About

  1. Michelle
    July 10, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Do you have any tips on making homemade yogurt into a nice, thick consistency (like store-bought)? I have made it for years, but it is not thick enough….especially once I add maple syrup to sweeten. I’d love to hear your ideas!
    Thanks!

  2. July 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Michelle, you’ve got more experience with making yogurt than I do! From what I understand, more fat in the milk equals a firmer texture; you can also try draining your yogurt to remove some of the whey (save that for other uses!), which can give you a texture as thick as cream cheese if you let it go long enough. I’ve also heard of incorporating powdered milk or gelatin into the warm milk when adding the yogurt culture, but I haven’t tried these methods myself yet (and the gelatin would prevent you from draining off the whey later, if you did want to make yogurt cheese). Good luck!

  3. Wendy
    February 10, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Hello Julie, I happened upon your recipe for sweet potato cinnamon buns and made them yesterday…… They were by far the best we’ve ever had!!!!! THANK YOU so much for the recipe! Absolutely amazing!!!!! : )

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