Friday, April 22, 2011

Culinary Inspiration

My husband and I got married on April 22, 1989, exactly 22 years ago, today (there are a few wedding pictures here if you're interested).  Our first home was a one bedroom apartment in the suburbs.  We signed a one year lease, and our payments of $375 per month included gas and water.  The only utility we were responsible for was the electric bill which ran about twenty five to thirty dollars each month.  We were both working full time and this was long before we had discovered the (dangerous) joys of credit cards, so we had quite a bit of discretionary income left after paying our bills.  We were less than a mile from a busy shopping area that had dozens and dozens of restaurants offering fine dining to fast food and everything in between.  Sometimes it was just the two of us, other times we went out with friends, but we ate out pretty regularly.

We didn't prepare meals at home often.  The kitchen in our apartment was not exactly a dream kitchen.  It was galley style with very limited cabinet and counter space and no dishwasher.  The refrigerator was a twenty year old, single door model with a tiny freezer that had to be defrosted once a month.  As much as I've always enjoyed cooking and baking, this kitchen did not exactly inspire me. 

This picture is on the website of the apartment complex
we lived in.  The size is the same, but our kitchen
had dark, faux wood cabinets and an older
refrigerator.  What you see is what you get, opposite the
sink is a blank wall. 

It wasn't just the kitchen that made culinary inspiration difficult, there was a lack of places to find inspiration.  We take the internet and food channels on television for granted now, but at the time, you had to rely on cookbooks and magazines for recipes.  Finding the perfect dish was a lot more time consuming.  There was no function to search by ingredient other than the index at the back of the book, and, of course, you had to have the book in the first place.

Eventually, though, we started cooking at home more often.  After a trip to an apple orchard, Mr. W and I had a pie bake-off to see who could make the tastiest apple pie (he won).  Shortly after that we made homemade clover leaf rolls to take to Thanksgiving dinner.  Little by little, we found ways to be creative in that small space.

Fast forward to today and cooking together is one of our favorite things to do.  It's more than just a hobby, it's a passion.  While other couples may have date night and go out for the evening, we enjoy spending our date night in our own kitchen.  It's time spent together, talking, laughing, listening to music and creating food to share with family and friends.  Our efforts are, more often than not, successful, but we've made a few duds along the way.  We made some less than impressive empanadas (really bland) last week and an inedible Pad Thai the week before.  Two bottles of sickeningly sweet homemade Limoncello await a palatable use, as well.  The butterflied lobster tails, Thai shrimp, lemon glazed chicken scallopini, five cheese paninis, and chicken empanadas we've made recently more than make up for all of it, though.

In the very near future, we would like to share our cooking adventures on This Stop Willoughby.  We'll be choosing dishes from random places all over the globe as well as putting our own riff on recipes from chefs right here in the U.S.  They will, likely, be posted on Saturday or Sunday of each week.  We hope to inspire you to cook with someone you love (or a perfect stranger if that's your thing).  I hope you'll join us!


*If you attempt to click on the video for our wedding song in the wedding post I linked, you will find that it is no longer available.  If you would still like to hear the song, you can click here for another youtube video.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Just Like Morgan And Jack, But Without The Unlimited Funds

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day, perfect for sitting outside.  Well, not really.  It was 45 degrees with overcast skies, but we have a covered porch and a heated pub table, so we pretended it was.  Add in great music, a lovely bottle of Chardonnay and some good conversation and it wasn't such a stretch.

I don't recall how it came up, but Mr. Willoughby and I started talking about all the places we'd like to go and all the things we would like to do.  Before long, we realised we were making a "Bucket List" (list of things you'd like to do before you die, if you haven't heard the term or seen the movie).  It was informal, I didn't write any of it down on paper, though, maybe I should have.  Not because either of us plan on dying anytime soon, just because I think having your dreams and goals in black and white is sort of motivating.

If I did write them down, I would have to make two separate lists because Mr. W and I don't always want to do the same things.  That's not to say that we don't have similar interests, but he is more daring than I am and he doesn't suffer from a paralyzing fear of heights. 

Skydiving is an example of something we may not ever be able to do together.  It's on his list, but not on mine.  I can easily picture him sitting on a plane, dressed in skydiving gear, a look of excitement and anticipation on his face as we approach the jump point.  I can also see him fearlessly jumping out of the plane in an all out adrenaline rush then landing on the ground, ready to do it all over again.  If you put me in that scenario, I would likely be sitting on the plane, dressed in skydiving gear, a look of fear and horror on my face as we approach the jump point.  When it came time to jump, I would have to be shoved out of the plane, sobbing and screaming.  On the plus side, if I survived, it might cure me of my fear of heights.  On the other hand, it might not.

Strangely, I like the idea of hang gliding.  I know that doesn't make much sense since I have that pesky fear of heights, but it's something I've always wanted to try and it's something Mr. W would like to do, too.  When we vacationed in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we watched people hang gliding over the dunes at Kitty Hawk.  Landing on sand seems pretty safe, so I think I could do it.  I'm not saying I wouldn't be sobbing and screaming, but I would probably do it.

Surfing is another activity we probably wouldn't be able to do together.  A few years ago, I was pinned under a series of powerful waves while swimming in the ocean.  The water was no more than two feet deep and I was only about 20 feet from shore, but I couldn't get up or get my head above water to take a breath.  It was terrifying and left me afraid of the exact sort of waves that surfers live for.  My husband may have to conquer surfing on his own, but I'd be happy to stand in ankle deep (maybe knee deep) water taking pictures of him while he does it.

Some other items on my list are:  Catching a sailfish (catch and release is fine with me, I just want the thrill of catching one), going white water rafting, re-learning to speak French, visiting all 50 states (I've been to about 20), learning to play the piano, and owning 365 pairs of brand new socks so I could wear a new pair every day (you laugh, but what is better than the feeling of new socks?).   I have other items of the more personal improvement variety.  You know, get in better shape, botox the hell out of my face (kidding, I think), etc.

Mr. Willoughby's list includes:  Learning to play the guitar, running a marathon, riding in a powered parachute, owning a 1964 Cobra, and learning to fly an ultralight (and, eventually, a plane).

I'll be sure to update you when we accomplish any of the items on our list.  We don't have the unlimited funds that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman had, but I think we'll be able to make some progress over time.  I just got ten new pairs of socks, so that's a start. 

What's on your Bucket List?