Even though I consider myself to be a “foodie”, I’ve never really blogged about food before. Mostly, I loathe when I’m searching for a recipe online , or I run across someone’s blog about food, and they write a 2,500+ word post about their food experience before actually sharing the damn recipe. Thus, I figured if I started blathering on and on about some of the food that I cook, before getting straight to the point, I would not only be a complete and utter hypocrite, I would also violate my long-standing commitment to the Four Agreements.
CHEESE AND CHARCUTERIE BOARD
So, let’s just get this out of the way first. Here’s a quick breakdown of the cheese and charcuterie board that I created last Thanksgiving:
STEP 1: Choose a board…this can be a cutting board, cheese slate, glass serving platter, the kitchen counter top marked off with tape…doesn’t really matter, just give yourself enough room to pile stuff together
STEP 2: If you haven’t gone shopping, go do that now….get some cheeses, meats, olives, veggies, nuts, dried fruits. Get all the stuff…I’ll wait.
STEP 3: Slice all of your veggies into bite-size pieces…or, better yet, get a sous chef to do it for you (I happen to have a live in sous chef…he is also known as my partner/boyfriend, but sometimes when my mom comes to visit, she gets roped into sous chef duties instead).
STEP 4: Make sure your board is clean…if you don’t entertain often (and these days that would be all of us), then you may need to clean the dust/crap off the board before putting food on it…ew. I like to “protect” my cheese slate from too much oil by spreading a shit ton of arugula over it before adding any of the charcuterie.
STEP 5: Start with a center focal piece…for this board, I chose a big wheel of brie.
STEP 6: fold the meat slices so they look all fancy like…I chose triangles, then laid them out in rows extended outward from the brie.
STEP 7: repeat step 6 using the additional cheeses you chose from step 2.
STEP 8: repeat step 6 using all of the various veggies your sous chef just finished slicing up for you.
STEP 9: sprinkle olives, nuts, dried fruit (I chose dates) around like pixie dust.
STEP 10: drizzle with balsamic and maybe some honey on any of the cheese you have that has some extra funk to it (I’m looking at you gorgonzola)
STEP 11: Set out some small plates, crackers or soft bread and let the grazing begin!
Then, if you care to read any farther, you can check out the endless babbling down below.
Disclaimer: I have received no formal chef training, and I’m not really great at food styling or photography. Nor do I pretend to believe that I will ever be able to own/run a restaurant…even though I have dreams and aspirations of doing so. Provided that we ever have the glorious opportunity to dine out at our favorite local spots again…and that they are still in business a year from now. Local restaurants, and good quality food, are two of my favorite things….I consider it a hobby, in fact.
In pre-COVID times, I spent a lot of time dining out, and my first priority whenever I would travel was to find the hidden treasures in the local dining scene. So far, I have visited nearly every state, and 14 countries on this insatiable quest. In the meantime, I have been cooking nearly every day at home, making no-recipe recipes. For me, cooking is both a form of meditation, and the way that I express my love for another. When I was little, I would help my grandmothers in the kitchen – this is probably the most formal part of my training that I received. They passed their recipes onto me, but when I try to re-create them, they are never the same…I think because when you cook by feel, there is always something that changes, depending on your mood.
Oh yea – that was the second part of my disclaimer….I don’t really follow recipes. They are more like a guide, and for inspiration when I’m stuck on my weekly menu plan. If I find one that sounds interesting, it usually gets modified based either on whatever ingredients are in season, or what’s in the house at the time. The upside is that I get to experiment with different flavors and learn more about the chemistry of cooking. The downside is that when I do make something that I am really proud of, I will never be able to make that exact thing again.
While I can re-create a version of the dish, it will never be exact. Sometimes it will be better, sometimes it will just be okay, but it isn’t the same dish that I served before. I’ve started trying to write some of what I do down, but the trick is that I have to go back and reference it later. Photographs of the dishes help to jog my memory later, as well. Which means I’m trying to get better at styling and photographing food, but I do not pretend to be an expert, and I’m not looking to take anybody’s job. Food photography is an art that I have always had profound respect for, so I’ll continue to leave that to the experts as well.
Truthfully, I’m not so interested in making food that looks pretty in a photo. Rather, I am inspired to make food for people to enjoy over a nice glass (or bottle) of wine, while sharing in conversation and laughter. The final result fully depends on the quality of the ingredients, how engaged I am while I’m cooking, and what my mood is at the time. The more love I put into the dish, the better the food will be. And one day, I’ll be able to cook for people again, because I think sharing a meal with loved ones, especially in times of crisis and dismay, helps us heal…and LAWD knows we could all use a whole lot of healing these days.
Until then, go get some shit from the store, have some fun with the layout, and share your results in the comments section.
Stay safe and be well.