Be one with peas.

Clipping fingernails is risky. You can’t just trim them willy nilly like I did yesterday without considering the consequences. Today I bought three pounds of fresh peas in the pod from the farmer’s market and had to shell them with blunt thumbnails. I admit it—I wasn’t thinking.

Happy first birthday, Sweet PeaThree years ago if you told me that I’d love peas, I would have laughed at you. When I was a kid, mean lunch ladies in hairnets dumped cans of gray peas into steam trays to sit for four hours. They should have dumped them into the garbage directly and saved us all a lot of trouble. Well, one recipe changed my mind, and I’ve been in love with peas ever since. The canned peas are still on my hate list, but frozen peas often please. Fresh peas, however, uplift. A quick steam, a tiny pat of butter, and a sprinkle of salt elevates them even more. Too much butter or even a little black pepper distracts from the purity of the sweet popping green. I can’t think of a better meal for a birthday.

Three years ago if you told me that I’d celebrate the first birthday of my food blog I would have said, “What’s a food blog? And are they as awesome as they sound?” Yes, they are! Not mine, I mean in general, which is why I had to start one myself. You write about food! And people read it! Then you do it again! The 3% of so of you who don’t have food blogs should really start one, just like I did.

It was mixed first year, as first years tend to be. My very first photograph won third place in originality in a DMBLGiT? contest, but then I argued that burnt rice consumption results in hot sex. I successfully baked a pie for the first time in nearly 20 years but then advocated using your pets for cooking. I hosted DMBLGiT? in January but then had to go and mention Barry Manilow. I suffered, sweated, and made mistakes (I meant to reference The Exorcist, not Poltergeist), but I also made exciting new obsessions discoveries, disseminated pasta porn, and shared ideas. I was even nominated for an award! Then I had to go and nominate myself for Supergeek of the year.

I regret nothing. Not even the thumbnails. They would have just turned green anyway…green with envy because they didn’t get to eat these awesome birthday peas!

Fresh peas

Unplanned dinners and other hair-raising tales.

Last year, Cook’s Illustrated offered a free subscription to volunteers willing to check their local grocery stores for the availability of specific foods. This was a fantastic idea. I’m a fan of CI and have subscribed to their web site for several years, but my biggest complaint has always been the strong East coast slant. All too often, they’ve rated products that I couldn’t find or ignored ubiquitous Midwestern brands. I immediately volunteered and was selected.

Bird[Pictured: This photo has nothing to do with this post. I’m so used to posting with a photo that I can’t not post one now. The bird is either very young, very old, or very stressed. Back when my hair was short, I woke up looking like that more mornings than not. Okay, I still do.]

It started out easy. CI would occasionally e-mail a survey about specific foods and I’d happily hunt down the items and write down the information they wanted. For the first time, I looked at shelves—really looked at shelves. You miss so much when you shop on auto pilot. Did you know that there are 100 jillion different crackers, from toasts to water to wheat free? I never noticed them because they’re stored above the cheese, and when you’re looking at delicious cheese, you don’t give a moo about crackers. Did you know that there are 100 jillion different cheeses?

Lately the surveys have become difficult. CI has to prepare months in advance, so they request information on out-of-season items, information that I can’t find just by browsing. I have to talk to people; that’s embarrassing when you aren’t intending to buy. So far I’ve managed to give the impression that I’m asking for future reference…until yesterday.

Me: Excuse me, but when do you usually carry bunch spinach?
Young, eager produce guy: You want the crinkly kind?
Me: I mean, do you usually carry it just in the summ—
Young, eager produce guy: I’m sorry, we have just the flat kind out now, but there’s a big box of curly spinach in the back! It’s fresh! I’ll get it!
Me: Oh! Uh—
Young, eager produce guy: [Runs off, comes back with box] This spinach is better for you than the flat kind anyway. It has a lot more iron and minerals!

In conclusion, I’m making curly spinach paneer tonight. Thanks for the extra iron and minerals, Cook’s Illustrated. I wouldn’t have done it without you.