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Monday, January 1, 2018

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

It was roughly 2am and I couldn't sleep. The year was 2009, and I had been on unemployment since March. A lot had happened that year, some bad, but mostly good. As I look back on it, I lost my job at IBS due to the recession that kicked up around October of the previous year, and sales were slumping for everyone. I was slated to get married to my now ex-husband on May 23rd, and had already invited almost all of my co-workers to that wedding (how awkward).

It was also the year that I finally started to work on my weight - as not even the anticipation of a wedding was motivating me, but a co-worker of Justin's told him about a product she was using called hCG and it was helping her lose weight. After a ton of research I finally decided to try it myself. 2009 was the year that I finally took control of my weight and my health in general. It was also the year that I got hired on to work at Franciscan Medical Group with Dr. Saffari - a job I still have to this day and am always grateful for. 

But that was all in October and December of 2009. Before that, around the same time as my honeymoon, I discovered a show that would also change my life for the better.

I had been out of work for around 3-4 months and was getting discouraged. I had no official college education (only technical college) so it was difficult to find work. Not working had my circadian rhythm all out of wack, so flipping through TV channels at 2am was not unheard of for me. I had probably scrolled through the list at least twice, seeing Good Eats pass by, when I finally decided that whatever this show was, it was better than the other random stuff on so early in the morning.

I hated cooking shows with a passion. They were so boring. The hosts were always so perfect, so calm and cool and collected; making everything look so easy. Nothing ever happened in these lame, 30 minute spots. Chop the ingredients, listen to a stupid story about how their mother used to cut onions, throw them in a pan with other stuff, talk about their first thanksgiving, cook the stuff. Take a bite. Say yummy things. The end. I wanted to stab my eyes out. (Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa come to mind). It probably also didn't help that I hated to cook in general.

Some shows didn't need to have celebrity guests
in order to make them watchable

My parents had tried to teach me some basic things when I was younger but I just wasn't interested. Cooking seemed like way too much work and gave such meager, useless results. To be bluntly honest (sorry mom) the food I grew up with was not "blow my mind" delicious, so what I had was all I knew, and I didn't know it could be better. Oh so much better.

Poison, poison, happiness. This is how
some oils are made :D

I wish I could remember the first episode I ever saw. I'll say it
might have been Tender is the Pork, because that episode first aired May 26th, 2009, while I was on my honeymoon and the 2am showing might have been a recent repeat. All I remember thinking was that it was entertaining. The guy hosting the show was a geek. He wore glasses, he was smart, he was quirky, and he was funny. And I was learning. I had forgotten how great it felt to learn.

I told the DVR to start recording his show, and I began to watch them almost religiously. It took me a long time before I ever made my first recipe of his, though. But, Alton Brown of Good Eats was the first person to ever convince me that cooking wasn't nearly as hard as it seemed. But how did he do it, you ask? Well, Alton and I are like of mind in the fact that we must know why. 

Why do I need to add cream of tartar to my egg whites? (If I have to run to the store for this vital ingredient, at least tell me why it's important!)
Why do I need to add acid to my brine? (fun fact, when you add an acid it becomes a marinade)
Why did John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, invent the sandwich? (Okay, that one wasn't something I had to know, but it was an entertaining answer)

I think the first recipe I ever attempted of his was guacamole. It seemed easy enough, and turns out - it was! And definitely cheaper than buying it premade in the store. After that, the flood gates had opened. Good Eats was not only entertaining me, but I was learning and actually wanting to cook the things he was making. All because he explained how things worked. Gave me the science. Told me why. Turns out that's all I really needed.

[This is an old list where I was keeping tabs of all the Good Eats applications that I was making. I'm sure it has expanded by now!]

Good Eats ran alongside my new, thinner me (which would take years to accomplish, and I'm still working on it), and gave me the confidence I needed to try my hand at other people's recipes - healthy versions of food I already knew. And in some cases, feel bold enough to change them up how I knew science would allow, and make my own recipes

Crazy, right?

It all led down this path to self-reliance. To not have to buy pre-packaged, processed foods. To know how to eat healthier and to save money. And that's all Alton Brown's goal ever was: he wanted people to learn how to cook for themselves. And he definitely accomplished that with me. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd discovered his show when it first aired - in 1999, I would have been in 9th grade; a prime time to begin learning how to cook for myself. And then sometimes I wonder where I would be today if I hadn't been up at 2am that fateful night, bored and tired and begging to be entertained.

It's interesting to wonder about, but I'm glad I'll never know.

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