I never really set out to become the Food Nerd. I was just kind of minding my business, making tasty dinners in my damp and drafty apartment, and occasionally blogging about it. I’ve always known a lot about food and cooking, but it had never really occurred to me that anyone wanted to hear about it.
Then, way back in the mid-aughts, my old friend Elling sent me an e-mail saying, “We’re moving to St. John’s to start a free alternative paper. You want to be in it?” Well, of course I agreed. Who doesn’t want to write for a free paper? I mean, imagine the glamour! The fame! The fat free-alternative-paper-columnist paycheques!
After some talk, it was determined that I was to be the official voice of food lovers at The Scope. We didn’t want to do restaurant reviews, since a) Karl Wells had that pretty much sewed up at the time, and b) we had no budget for fine dining (or for any dining). For a while there was some talk of my interviewing local non-culinary personages while preparing foodstuffs, but the short-lived free version of The Express started up an interview-over-lunch column about a week after we thought it up (they were monitoring my brain, I swear it). So we figured, let’s cut out the restaurants and the celebs and just talk food.
Well, actually, Elling’s assignment was “a column that’s like a sex column, only with food instead of sex.”
“Um… sure, I can do that,” said I, not at all sure I could do it, or even what he was talking about, but willing to give it a go.
I’m not certain I’ve ever approached that directive, although I’ll admit that my chocolate beet cake column (www.tinyurl.com/yboeam3) was a smidge lusty, and I may have gotten a little blue in my descriptions of quinoa grains (www.tinyurl.com/ychde8k), but, seriously, they look like sperm. Was I supposed to not go there? I’m a newspaper writer, damnit! I have journalistic integrity!
Actually, I have no journalistic integrity whatsoever. But I do have the encyclopedic knowledge that comes from a lifetime of reading cookbooks as though they were novels. My college years were spent defending Martha Stewart to my Women’s Studies colleagues (you would have paid money to see it, I promise you). I started cooking when I was about seven, and I’ve even earned a few bucks catering over the years.
I’m no chef. I have no desire to run a restaurant or even a muffin stand. I occasionally toy with the idea of having a soup stall somewhere, or delivering lunches to downtown offices, but I keep having babies and they’re not really keen on helping me advance my foodular career. I get asked with some frequency when I’ll have a cookbook out, and I always kind of laugh at that. Me? A cookbook? But I am sitting on 99 Scopefuls of food writing (I missed one issue due to a family emergency, but that’s it, people, that’s it), and I suppose that’s adequate grounds for a cookbook, no? Some of you would buy it, wouldn’t you?
Not to go all sloppy and sentimental on you now, but here’s the thing: the best part of writing this column is you, my readerly friends. I know I act like a dork when I run into you somewhere and you say, “Hey, you’re the Food Nerd, right?” I don’t mean to be so dorky. I just can’t believe that people are still interested in my rants against the grocery super-empires and in my many, many ways to combine chocolate with vegetables. To say that I’m flattered doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Since The Scope ran its first skinny, floppy issues, I’ve moved house four times, gone through several day jobs, weaned a kid off gluten, had a baby, gotten married, and cooked a lot of meals. I’ve sent in my columns from Paris, London, Quebec, Halifax, and Gander. For the first year, I didn’t even have a computer of my own, and I would cobble together my columns at friends’ and relatives’ houses and various people’s offices. And you guys have been there the whole time, sending e-mails and leaving comments and occasionally hugging me in noisy bars. You know how to make a nerd feel loved.
So… here’s to 100 more?
Food Nerd highlights
I’ve said and eaten some crazy things over the last few years. Here are some of my favourite Food Nerd memories:
Making food videos with Rachel Jean Harding, first the now-classic “for the love of the cake” (www.tinyurl.com/yafbgs4), and then the charmingly awkward “Food Nerd vs. the waffle” (www.tinyurl.com/ycaxsfj).
Having people come up to me and say. “I had no idea how easy it was to make éclairs (www.tinyurl.com/ydktrcf) / truffles (www.tinyurl.com/ydjj2yu) / granola (www.tinyurl.com/ybfpbmw) / yogurt (www.tinyurl.com/y8dhewx) / whatever. I’m so happy when I can reveal how simple most foods are to make.
Being a guest on Radio Noon Crosstalk twice, first to talk about kitschy food trends (mmmm, Jell-O salad), and then to talk about local foods (mmmm, arugula salad).
Eating dandelion fritters (www.tinyurl.com/ybo96dl) with ice cream and honey. Like deep-fried sunshine.
Surreptitiously documenting the early days of courtship between myself and my husband, using pastry as a metaphor for love (www.tinyurl.com/ya6753l). Nerdiness. I know.