Diner: The Nosh Pit

Girl Scout Badge

Oct 4, 2006 at 2:06 pm

I came to food like I do most things, in ever-widening circles like some sort of freaked-out feral cat trying to decide if the prey is worth the effort.

I pretty much ignored it when I was young, other than to earn my Girl Scout badge and relieve the boredom of summer afternoons. "Why don't you bake something?" my mother suggested in an exasperated voice, hoping to get my mopey 11-year-old ass out of her hair. And I did. I baked brownies, Haystacks and Wesson Oil cookies year after year to drown out the rustling from the cornfields that would soon be replaced by the sounds of suburban life.

Something shifted when I started college. Daylight hours found me flatly denying any culinary skill: "I don't even know how to boil water." Admitting you could cook was tantamount to saying you were in school to snag a husband, and I was not. Still, in the evenings I gnawed my fingernails and covertly studied Gourmet, wondering where the devil to find Napa cabbage (the Napa Valley?) and what to use to scrub the beard off a mussel.

The first true foodie I met was my Italian ex-mother-in-law. She reveled in port wine biscuits sent from her auntie in Rhode Island and prepared fresh stuffed pasta for Christmas, gleefully whirling past the bodies of her children to the stove, ladle in hand. I began poring over the cookbooks stuffing her bookshelves in broad daylight. I made ginger lemon muffins and cookies shaped like hearts while gorging on sausage and peppers in marinara sauce.

Fueled on homemade pesto, I began to dabble. I went to school for a certificate in culinary arts and explored careers as a personal chef and caterer. One night, while loading crates of china onto a truck bed after 12 hours of cooking, my arms turned to jelly. Never one to ignore signs, I decided it was time to pursue my buttery dreams another way and replaced my chef's knife with a keyboard.

Since then I've penned industry trade books, edited cookbooks for chefs at the Culinary Institute of America and added my 2 cents to CityBeat's dining pages. Now, as I step into the contributing editor role, my hope is to continue a tradition of meaningful food journalism, bringing readers our candid opinions of local fare and offering a sense of the larger meaning of food in our lives.

CONTACT LORA ARDUSER: larduser(at)citybeat.com