Twelve Grapes

“Are you trying to connect me to my culture?”

There I stood in the grocery store, clutching an enormous bunch of grapes. I was mid-argument, insisting that we needed them for New Years. It was tradition, I insisted, although I had never practiced it before and didn’t know exactly whose tradition it was.

I had seen mention of eating twelve grapes for New Years — one for each upcoming month — in an old, unopened cookbook titled simply, Phillipine Cooking. Clearly written by secondhand English speakers, it has become my favorite cookbook. It is brimming with ridiculous, unintentional humor and recipes specifying measurements in kilos.

As I stood in the aisle with a handful of large, seeded grapes, I could see perhaps why my native Filipino boyfriend thought I may be attempting to pigeonhole him into a stereotype.

But I was also very excited to have learned this wonderful new food tradition, just in time for the holiday.

We ended up buying the grapes. I was excited. I was about to enter (totally amateurishly) into a foreign food tradition. Food history is my jam.

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Of course, if you only eat twelve grapes at midnight, there’s still a hearty bunch left on the vine come the morning of January 1st.

And I don’t really even eat grapes.

So they sat there. It’s been a week and I’ve noticed a slight shrivel in their swollen purple bellies. It is as if their New Year’s resolution was to lose weight and aim for raisinhood.

So I did what any thrifty culinarian would do. I boiled them down with a little sugar, a dash of cinnamon, a hint of lemon zest … and folded them into hand pies.

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Not the healthiest resolution, I’m sure, but tasty nonetheless. And none of those grapes went to waste!

Also, if you’re curious: the original tradition, it would seem, has Spanish roots. This would make sense — the Philippines were conquered by the Spanish and left a flurry of mixed cultures and traditions behind. The goal is to eat all twelve grapes in the twelve seconds preceding the New Year, and must be calculated to finish with the ringing chimes or church bells welcoming in the year.

To not do so, some believe, is bad luck.

(But I believe that putting your spare grapes to use will even all that bad luck out in just a few bites.)

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Introduction? Appetizer? Maybe Both.

“You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

 

If you were to look at my Google Search history, I imagine you’d laugh.

‘Quotes About Goat Cheese’ tops the list, followed closely by, ‘What Is A Filbert?’ For the record, a filbert is another name for a hazelnut. You see, 99% of my search history is food-related research, and not one iota of it has been driven by schoolwork. Curiosity, plain and simple, fuels my searches. Well, curiosity and a cappuccino served in a unique mug at my favorite coffee shop.

[Side note: any coffee shop willing to serve customers in actual mugs rather than sleeves is a winner in my book. ]

Anyway, despite the fact I am a shameless food history nut–no pun intended, after mentioning those Filberts–I always do my research away from home. I feel so much more productive studying food in a venue other than my apartment. Unless, of course, Anthony Bourdain is unraveling mysteries of the culinary universe on the Travel Channel, in which case I will sit with a pen and my notebook posed to jot down his clever phrases and outrageous discoveries from the comfort of my living room.

I devour food blogs. (Check out these favorites– Eat This Poem, Happyolks,and Plated Stories are my current top three.) I own more chef biographies than I do pairs of shoes. I have so many culinary magazines I could wallpaper a two-story house and still have enough to collage the patio.

I will also admit, I’m a menu thief. I find seasonal menus especially enchanting, better than a newspaper or a snapshot. It’s a moment in time. This is what’s seasonal, this is the price, this is right here, right now, this is what is good. Sometimes I smuggle them out in a large bag. Sometimes I ask. Sometimes they’re just given to me.

I am a culinarian. I am an epicurean. I am a student of gastronomy, I am obsessed, and that is perfectly okay, because I am not alone.

Although my favorite food blogs feature high-quality snapshots of gorgeous lighting and plating, I myself am an amateur photographer at best. My Instagram has less then 300 followers. I rely on a fancy camera that I don’t know how to use–point, shoot and sort through them later, that’s my motto.

So this post, this first interwebby combination of words, serves as sort of a preface. I love food, I adore it. I want to live in the cheese section of Whole Foods.

You’ll find a lot of good food here, and a lot of inspiration.

Welcome!