March 10, 2009

Why Puff and Choux?

This blog was born on February 24, 2009, but the gestation period began long before. Honestly, the idea to write about food didn't occur to me until around Christmas, but the idea of writing about something I loved started right after college. It just took me five years to figure out what I was passionate about. That process is still ongoing.

At first I thought that I would be a travel writer. Perhaps it was instilled in me from birth, but wanderlust is a "disease" I constantly battle. My grandfather was a Scottish immigrant, and I sometimes wonder if he is the cause. I was only six years old when he passed away, so my memories of him are like quick snapshots in time, somewhat too fuzzy to remember if the event actually happened, or the advice was actually uttered, but I sometimes wonder if he quietly whispered to me,"Go see the world. Don't miss out because you're too scared to go far."

This is the only logical conclusion I can come up with. The man traveled from Scotland to the United States, landing in New York. I've heard the very short story of how he built a motorcycle from spare parts and took the United States head on, driving cross country to the West Coast. I find it odd that the details of his trip only belong to the beginning (New York) and the end (the West Coast, no particular city or state, just the vague geographic area). But I've heard the story so many times from several people that it must be true. The details of what happened in between the time he first turned the key in the ignition to when he parked his bike for the last time are a mystery, and I often catch myself daydreaming about what he saw, who he met, how a young man from Glasgow ended up in the suburbs of Oklahoma City.

Although he was only present for the first one-fifth of my life, I believe I am probably more like him than any of my other relatives. Perhaps the relentless need to travel, the inability to sit still for too long in one place was passed down by gifted DNA, or to some, a genetic defect. Defect or not, I've been lucky enough to travel the world, have lived in three countries and continue to find myself boarding a plane, watching the world zoom by from my seat on a train, or behind the wheel on road trips to small towns and big cities.

At the age of 23, I took a weekend seminar through New York University entitled "From Traveller to Travel Writing." Although I had visited Europe and many of the 50 states, at this point, I found myself at a loss of what to write about. The teacher's mantra ("A location is not a topic") haunted me and my inability to focus on a specific subject caused me to lose interest in travel writing. It was a sad death of an interest as I would sometimes catch myself on a trip and for a quick second think that a tour of Parisian patisseries selling only French macaroons or a tour of a local farmers market would make a great travel piece, but just as quickly as I had the idea, I would file it away as something I would never put to paper.

It wasn't until I decided to learn how to cook in the autumn of 2008 that food writing even entered the equation. And it was several months after I discovered my passion for the pastry arts that a blog even entered my train of thought. But entered it my thoughts it did. Night after night I found myself lying awake in bed coming up with article ideas focused on pastries. Instead of counting sheep, I made mental lists of all the chocolate factories, bakeries, doughnut shops, and patisseries I could visit. I thought of the food tour I took in October 2008 and cursed myself for not jotting down notes. I devoured articles on pastry during my lunch break and would give up my sack lunch as to allow time to jog to the nearest sweet shop to try out baked goods I had never heard of and had names I still can't pronounce.

At this point, my day job was working at public relations agency in a role I was never particularly fond of. I bring this up because it was with this job that I doubted my writing abilities for the first time. If there was one thing I prided myself on, it was my writing. I had always won people over in the past with my words, but for the first time in my life, I was told by a superior that my writing was "stupid." It was like a blow to the chest, the wind completely knocked out of me. My writing was stupid? Was this man mistaken? How could I have received praise for my skills as an author from the time I won the Think Ink Creative Writing Award in the third grade for my story about a potato to when I was tasked with writing all the company outing e-mails at my previous job if my writing was poor? How could I have any sort of readership on my personal blog if people didn't at least find my posts mildly interesting? I was at a loss.

And I cried. I cried that some man who I found, funnily enough, to be a horrible wordsmith, had the nerve to call my writing stupid. I took that as a personal insult to my intelligence as I was, in his eyes, the source for the unintelligible dribble he saw in front of him whenever I asked him to proofread my work. Ultimately, I was "laid off" from this job, and I think my pink slip was directly tied to the fact that this man thought my English diploma was a sham - my university had obviously had pity and granted me a degree, even though a giraffe was more skilled than me in the writing department.

Ironically, it was the loss of my job that pushed me to finally publish this blog. I'm not sure where the confidence came from, as I felt utterly drained when it came to my ability to convince myself that I was, in fact, talented, but without any hesitation, Puff and Choux took its first breath and entered the world.

I've never claimed to be an expert writer. I've been told by a handful of people over the years that they love my work, but I've never claimed to be the end all of the written word. In fact, when people ask me what my hobbies are, I usually lead off with the line,"I enjoy pretending to be a real writer."

However, I am passionate. I love writing about topics I'm interested in, and I like to think that a little bit of my personality comes across in everything I produce. Whether, you enjoy my humor or are irritated with a comment I made, if I can evoke an emotional response from my readers, I feel like I've achieved what I set out to do.

I don't know where Puff and Choux will take me, if anywhere. A lot of people have asked me in the past few weeks what it is I hope to achieve with this blog, and I give them the only honest answer I have: I don't know. As long as I'm writing about what I love, from local bakeries in New York to cookbook authors I've had the pleasure of meeting while vacationing in Portland, Oregon, I'm happy. What else could a foodie want?

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