AFTER 20 YEARS of writing for Taste, I’ve decided to pursue other interests. This will be my last column for Pacific NW magazine. As a freelancer, I had the opportunity to write about whatever struck my fancy (within reason), as long as my editor approved. Over the years, my interests changed: from kitchen gadgets and grills in the early days, to negronis and tinctures in a craft-cocktail phase. Recently, my work shifted toward farming and sustainability.
As I think about the various topics I’ve addressed, I wonder whether a focus or theme threaded together the work. We focus on Northwest ingredients, chefs, growers and producers, so geography is an obvious theme. So much cool work is happening right in our backyard: a renaissance of local grains and distilleries, creative cooking, innovative shellfish restoration, sustainable farming, seed saving, plant breeding, research on climate change. I have loved learning about these subjects and the people behind them.
When it comes right down to it, people are the stories. I’m grateful that this job allowed me to meet amazing chefs, farmers, restaurateurs, mixologists, bakers and more who generously have shared their time, passions and recipes.
It’s one thing to eat a loaf of bread, but you will remember it far more if the baker shows you how to make it. When you see and smell and maybe even knead the yeasty dough. When, over the heat from the oven, you hear the baker’s knowledge and love of that particular bread. It’s much more than a loaf of bread; it is a human connection. It is a story.
I hope this was another theme in my work: Food gives us connections. In one of my columns, I talked about making a friend her favorite apple tart. In another, I remembered the time when my mom brought me comfort food after I’d broken up with a boyfriend. Another piece covered the joys of cooking together in at-home classes. In 2014, I wrote a story on old family recipes, those treasures that are handwritten on paper cards and saved for decades. Readers wrote in afterward and shared fond memories of favorite dishes that had been passed down from their own parents and grandparents.
In a lifetime, a person might be known for certain defining details — perhaps an endearing expression, Old Spice after shave or red lipstick. But they are also remembered for what they cooked. Tuna noodle casserole. Gingersnap cookies. Matzo ball soup. Like scents and songs, these dishes are tremendously evocative. To taste is to remember.
Ultimately, food is an important way of relating to one another. Of sharing our tastes, interests and cultures. My stepmother makes pierogi and kolaczki at Christmastime. One of my close friends who was born in India taught me about different kinds of dal. A Korean American friend gave me the scoop on how to make a killer bo ssam.
By cooking for each other, we share our stories and ourselves. In my job, I’ve been able to call someone and say, “Will you show me how you make that? What’s the history of that dish? What does it mean to you?”
While I’m no longer writing for Taste, I plan to keep asking those questions. So many people in the Seattle area today were born in another state or country. We have so much to learn from each other. In these uncertain and polarized times, food brings people together. When we are open and curious and take the time, we can make meaningful connections.
To share a quote from the writer and artist Brian Andreas: “ … It may be the real reason we are here: to love each other, to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good.”