About… Me, in the real world
This side of the screen my name is Diana. Born in the States, I grew up – and still live – on the other side of the big pond, in a beautiful corner of south-western Germany with my better half. Since I finished university I started focusing on the pretty things in life for a change and got back to the kitchen, knives blazing. A lot of dishes and untested, waiting recipes had fallen victim to the general numbness during the exam prep. With that chapter of my life over and done with, I have the time, drive and excitement to go wild in the kitchen again. Hear me roar!
Like most children I was merrily pesting my grandma and mother, nosing around their kitchens before I proceeded onto doing the same in my own kitchen once I was old enough to do so. Having grown up with the phrase „if you want to eat something tasty, you have to know how to prepare it“ I did my best no to give in to the allure of the instant-whole-lot-of-don’t-worry-about-it-with-noodles when I moved out of my mom’s. Somewhat obsessed with my shape, I made the effort to look up some of the ingredients in the most popular convenience foods back then and, spooked out of my skin, settled on getting close and personal with my kitchen, cooking myself so I could control what goes into my food.
In the beginning, as you can imagine, a tendency to experiment rather than to follow the textbook led to some hideous results. But the shere fun of it alongside the necessity to feed rather than kill myself kept me going.
Cooking up something nice, to me, is more than just preparing something to eat. I look up ingredients, their historical or cultural background, nutritional or even medicinal values, preparation techniques and so on, it’s as much of an adventure as a serious session of binge-playing a good game, a trip to a different world, if you will. Which brings me to…
About… Me, Nahdala
Yes, I’m a female gamer. That world is not as much of a boys club anymore as many males would still like to believe. I do however fit the (also proven not to be accurate anymore) stereotype of female gamers being more into the RPG/Fantasy/Adventure type of games. Finally a stereotype I’ve got no problem with.
I think my thing for RPGs started in sixth or seventh grade, when the boys were firmly in the grips of the Forgotten Realms or or similar pen-and-paper AD&D roleplaying games and all I could do, as unworthy female, was watch them. As soon as BioWare popped Baldur’s Gate I grabbed a copy and was lost to the world for a couple of weeks. After playing my way through the PC-based worlds of the Forgotten Realms (who needs boys! <Insert sound of a 12-year old sticking out her tongue here>) and bookworming my way through the related novels I went on adventuring through the entire Final Fantasy series, where I came across the name Nahdala. I don’t actually remember which one it was, and the name was just mentioned in passing, like in „fire the cannons, Nahdala“ or something along those lines, but it stuck with me. I started naming my main characters Nahdala in every game I played since then. The grand (online) advenutres of Nahdala have brought her to Vanadiel (Final Fantasy 11) and Tyria in Guild Wars 1 and 2, where she, Nahdala Darkwind, Necromancer, is still roaming about, up to no good.
Those of you who know the genre will probably get the connection to food – those of you not in the know: in RPG’s, at least in most of the ones I know, food items are a way to boost your character’s abilities, skills and such. So you can probably imagine how popping the n-th plate of sole sushi or omnomberry bars on the screen makes you think about having one this side of the screen as well.
About… My Cooking Style
I’m a imaginative cook, drawing inspiration for dishes from countries, cuisines and cultures I have already had the chance to experience, those I wish I could visit sooner rather than later, ingredients I come across in markets, things dumped on me by any form of media or just flavours and aroma combinations that just pop up in my head for no apparent reason. By now I have gathered a neat library of recipes, aromas, techniques and related knowledge in my head, enough to push uhm…„interesting“… results of my experiments close to the edge of extinction (huzzah!).
One of the most important items in my kitchen is my spice and herb collection. I love spices, period. Spices hold a strance fascination for me, it still surprises me how one cardamom pod or humble peppercorn can tweak the flavor of a dish, varying with the state of the spice (fresh, dried, roasted, crushed etc) I used. Most of the time I make my own spice blends from scratch, as you will see in a couple of my recipes. They’re not just fun to make in my book, they make wonderful little presents.
I cook healthy while not stubbornly soldiering down that road (most of the time). I’m lucky enough to actually like the things that are nutritionally useful and healthy and to not crave sugar-rushes or deep-fried, bacon-wrapped sticks of butter. I always keep the amount of fat and sugar to the bare minimum, the ingredients as fresh as possible, the nutritional value of all things at a maximum. And it’s always quality over quantity for me.
About… Kitchen Enemies
Everybody has a thing or two they don’t like to eat or work with in the kitchen, be it a certain ingredient or tool. There’s a couple of ingredients I usually avoid as in: wouldn’t use at home (much) or order in a restaurant if I had a choice, but only a few I really really hate.
Pork – Not a lifestyle-, diet- or religious choice, I simply can’t stand its taste in any shape or form. Weirdly enough it hasn’t always been that way. Sometimes it even bugs me since I used to love a nice slice of parma/serrano/black forest ham and by now the thought of it alone makes me gag most of the time. Sometimes, when I’m really in the mood for it, I have a slice of ham and revel in it, but there’s no such thing as a second slice… I suppose aquiring tastes works both ways. Oh well, makes my household healthier.
Brussels Sprouts – I just hate them with every fiber of my being.
Juniperberries – No matter how big the pot, I always bite down on the one berry the cook couldn’t find. That’s also the last nail in the coffin for anything Gin related.
Rhubarb – That moment when your grandma decides to never make her stellar strawberry tartes again and replaces them with something sour and bitter? Some childhood traumas just stick with you.
Clingfilm – I’m not easily ruffled, it takes a long time to drive me to the point of annoyance turning into white rage. Clingfilm however has a way to shortcut around my usual defenses, sticking to everything except the one thing you want it to cling to to begin with. Too bad it’s also one of the most ingenious household inventions.
Grates and mandolines – So far I’ve never cut myself with a knife (well, once…who put the paring knife into the drawer with the blade facing up?), but my knuckles have taken some serious hits over the years, mainly from zesting lemons and limes on my small cheese grate, from my nutmeg grate and the mandoline I actually threw out after slipping off with a fennel bulb and almost taking off the side of my thumb.
For me my greatest adversary is actually…
My kitchen – To say it’s small is an understatement, but I’ve learned to manage it over the last 10 years. Cooking 3 courses for up to eight people with only 2 stove plates, no oven and a large cutting board wedged across my sink as work surface is a logistical nightmare, but it’s possible with a couple of rounds of real-life Tetris. If you’ve looked at my recipes already, you might have noticed that I always place the state the ingredients are used in, like ” finely chopped” in the ingredients list instead of instructing you to “finely chop” something in the recipe itself. The reason for this is simple: with a bath towel sized kitchen mise-en-place is everything. I always prep everything I need and store it in stackable containers before I start cooking. Apart from space-related issues it also saves me time during the process and helps me keep everything under control when I’m cooking several dishes at once.