They say that the first step to dealing with any addiction is to admit you have a problem.
My name is Sydney.
I like food.
Growing up in the southern USA led to me having a rather unhealthy diet. Other issues factored in, such as family life, a culture of convenience, and dietary restrictions (learned by trial and error).
For example, my father spent three years working three hours away from where we lived. He would drive up on Friday night and leave again on Sunday afternoon — both bookend meals were fast food as a matter of convenience/an effort to spend more time with each other than in the kitchen. This also meant that most other weekend meals were things quickly thrown together. My mother kept a in-home daycare during the week, so daytime meals would be kid-friendly: macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, etc. In the evenings, she tended toward rices and pastas.
As a perpetual student, I have, many times, found myself tempted by quick, easy, cheap meals. Living in a university town/city means that fast/diner foods are always just around the block. When that assignment is due tomorrow morning at 8am, it’s hard not to justify getting that combo value meal; it means more time to devote to your work, after all!
Dietary restrictions have become a big part of my life. I was never a comfortable eater, yet I never quite knew why. Shrimp was off-limits starting at about age 10. I used to eat tons of popcorn shrimp when my parents went out for seafood, but I began experiencing an allergic reaction to it. Red meat and pork always made me feel ill, so I stopped eating all meats when I was 11 years old. Eventually, I added chicken and turkey back into my diet to ensure I was consuming enough protein. When I was about 17 years old, I finally found the common link to many of my issues. It’s a problem that I find myself forced to explain quite often: I have an intolerance to lycopene. Typically, I just announce that I’m allergic to all red foods; though that statement is not exactly true, it gets the point across without (too much) confusion. Around age 22, I developed an allergy to fish. It is not a terrible allergy, but it makes consumption a real issue; if I desperately want to eat fish or there are no other options, I am able to take an allergy pill in advance and stave off most symptoms.
In 2009, I moved to Northern Ireland. I find my options even more limited here (it becomes taxing to always order chicken goujons and chips while out), as much of the Irish diet seems to be based on how many different animals can fit into one dish. Meat-filled pasties are popular, and meaty pizzas are beginning to dominate even pub menus.
Wishing to eat less fast food and have more variety in my diet, I started cooking in earnest at age 19. I quickly found that I had quite a knack for it. My personality type requires that I have some sort of instruction to follow: sheet music, driving directions, construction instruction booklets, and, yes, recipes. That’s not to say that I’m restricted by this fact; I have no problems adding a spice here, excluding something there.
The purpose of this blog is to share recipes with you. I hope that you can have a bit of your own trial and error and learn that spending a little more time in the kitchen can be fun. Some of these recipes are my own. Others have been collected from various sources over the years. Some are even family recipes that have been passed down. I’m sure a great deal of them came from Alton Brown, as I adore Good Eats.
Many of these recipes can be made with substitutions. Vegetable stock/broth can typically be used in place of the chicken or beef varieties, and vegetarian bouillons are available in some markets. I’m a big fan of meat substitutions; vegetarian sausages, “chickeny” pieces, and “beefy” mince meats are often quite good and a hardly-noticeable swap in a lot of dishes. Because I eat poultry, I sometimes rely on turkey and chicken sausages and minces. Any dish which includes marshmallows is prepared with vegetarian marshmallows (look for halal or kosher if you’re uncertain on labeling. These products will not contain pork by-products for religious reasons). Given the options available, not all of the recipes I offer will seem to fit into my diet; I hope you find a way to make them fit into yours as well. Have a little fun with it, and see what works for you.
And, hey, maybe liking food isn’t such a terrible thing after all.
Note: for the purposes of this blog, dishes which contain eggs but no other animal products will be tagged as vegetarian.
Follow the progression of my relationship with food in Return of the Prodigal Diner (Introduction part 2).