Introduction: Yes, This Pancake Started Everything

You may be thinking, it looks simple enough. Also, why all the holes?

While I was taking the picture of that damn flatbread pancake, my vision was blurred by tears of joy. The climactic moments from all my favorite Disney songs were pouring through my head. That picture represents days of waiting and hoping, sweat and tears (thankfully no blood), research, even a night of despair before the ultimate triumph.

Not every recipe will hold this operatic range of emotion for me, I know. But I’m very glad this one did. For my entire life, I have viewed food with such a mixture of adoration, longing, and hatred, you’d think it was another entity in my circle of influence. Perhaps some sort of abusive lover without whom I could not survive, but who wouldn’t stop slapping me with pound after pound of excess weight. I just assumed it would always be that way. I would always push it away until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then hold it close to me like a security blanket. I thought I would continue to yo-yo in weight upwards until I was one of those people you had to hoist out of their apartment with a crane.

In recent months, I have been taking the first serious steps towards health in many years. I started working out again, watching my calorie intake, and now reluctantly stuff spinach into my fruit smoothies. I have lost thirty pounds, and am well on my way to getting back in shape. However, when I started, I knew none of these changes were a permanent solution. If I always thought of food as my enemy, as something I should avoid like the plague, I would never be able to sustain a better diet and lifestyle. The solution to this problem, however, continued to evade me.

Then, one day, I had an irresistible craving for Ethiopian food. For those of you who haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. By far my favorite cuisine, extraordinarily flavorful and creative. Living in Portland, Oregon, I had ample access to wonderful Ethiopian restaurants, but having recently moved to a smaller town, I discovered I had much fewer options. So, naturally, having been a home cook since childhood, I decided to try making it myself.

The dishes themselves looked easy. Time consuming, perhaps, which is why I had never tried to make it myself in the past, but definitely doable.  One of my favorite parts of an Ethiopian meal is the injera, a sour flatbread used as a serving vessel and in place of utensils. When I started looking into recipes for injera, I soon realized it might be more tricky than I first anticipated. It takes special flours, days of fermentation, skill and patience, and there are such a wide variety of methods and variations, I didn’t even know where to start.

My first instinct was to just forget about it. If it takes that much effort and time, it’s not worth it, right? I’m a busy woman, I have a full time job, a novel I’m writing, and I run and play in several tabletop gaming groups, besides making the time to work out, do my errands and chores, and live a productive adult life.

But then, the glimmer of an idea formed in my mind. Perhaps this dismissive attitude is what’s wrong with my relationship with food and eating. Maybe I need to stop thinking about whether or not a dish is worth the effort. Maybe instead, I need to focus on the end product. I’ve always felt more fulfilled when a project is difficult to complete, but the end product is spectacular, something to be proud of.

So, why should food be any different? If I want to learn how to respect food, rather than fear it, I need to start by deciding that for me… Cooking is worth the effort. I have made a list, which I add to by the day, of recipes I’ve always wanted to try and always discounted as not worth it. Recipes like traditional ramen broth, puff pastry, paella, or even just interesting and new cuisines I’ve never tried to make before. I intend to attempt a new recipe every week, and capture the process in notes and photos, with total honesty regarding any failures along the way.

I hope you decide to follow along, learn from my mistakes, and rejoice with me in my victories, as I continue on a steep path, full of stumbles, towards a better, healthier future.

 

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