Intro to The High-Heeled Contessa
Let me preface this first entry with the note that:
1. There are no pictures today. Which really sucks. My camera conveniently broke before starting this blog, which means I am entitled to a fancy new one soon… woohoo!
2. This first entry/introduction is me shamelessly talking about myself. In the future, I promise to share more useful stuff with you (recipes, music, interesting/weird facts and things to do, people/places to see), but I can’t promise that I won’t also babble on about my life…. On that note…
Welcome to the virtual home of The High-Heeled Contessa!!! Can you smell the freshly baked chocolate chunk cookies?!? lavender?!? No? Well, please please pretty please try to use your imagination now and EVERY TIME you visit 😀
Introduction to The High-Heeled Contessa
People who I meet in nyc are often surprised to learn that I majored in molecular biology, and I love that. For one, it is pretty damn annoying having to convince potential employers that I have no intention of secretly applying to medical school (did I mention that I am an Asian-American + Ivy League grad?). Additionally, at Yale, the pre-med student is a dangerously competitive creature motivated NOT by intellectual curiosity (unfortunately), but by fabulous marks and lines for his/her resume. So you can imagine why I’m flattered (too flattered, actually) by people’s assumptions that I was a cool, laid-back art history major. But I suppose it is only logical since I have never held a job in the field. And also because I am more often than not talking about baking/cooking, raving about my latest sample sale acquisition, listening/dancing/bouncing to soulful, danceable music, or planning a fun themed party. Oh, and of course (pardon my modesty), also because I always do keep it real, and understand the value of being as ferosh as possible, at all times.
But in reality, my-so-called passion for science is very relevant to who I obviously appear to be (yeah, people tend to assume i’m cool… don’t be jealous). First of all, if you talk to me longer than 10 minutes, you will discover that I think of everything in terms of natural selection. And I mean everything. This is why very very little actually gets to me… awful people, music, food, etc. ultimately dissipate.. Trust in science, and you will better understand Timon and Pumba…. Secondly, I love love love experimentation!!!!!! I am CONSTANTLY in search of interesting recipes to manipulate, unfamiliar ingredients, the best bargain shopping experiences, avant-garde music, crazy hats, useless cute gadgets, etc… and this demands TIRELESS testing. And thanks to my hyperactive nature and tendency to get bored AND entertained ABNORMALLY easily, I am predisposed to stray from complacency.
Unfortunately, I can’t always do the aforementioned “experimentation” in controlled environments… which explains one reason why I love to bake/cook/hostess. I can work with my own hands, in my own cute Anthropologie apron & heels, in my own humble kitchen in my pre-war 4th floor walk up. Oh my! Blogging, as they say, does lead to self discovery! I’m a control freak… Ew. Guess I do have a bit of pre-med-iness in me.
Anyways, I perceive the plain-jane-go-to recipe as the “control” in the world of culinary experimentation. Of course, this analogy doesn’t actually work since practically everyone’s idea of what something should taste like differs, but let’s just pretend that we all have the same taste buds for now. And note that by “plain-jane”, I do not mean boring/bland. I’m talkin’ about the yummiest simple/basic formula. This formula is not only vital for experimentation, but also for when you crave that slow churned vanilla ice-cream and old-fashioned apple pie. So as you can imagine, identifying the control is a huge undertaking in itself. I have struggled to find these recipes, primarily because of my impulse to manipulate recipes before trying them, but also because there are sooo many out there!! Doesn’t that excite you!?! It should…. because even if you don’t like to bake/cook I know you like to eat.
Fortunately, I have successfully identified a few. For the sake of sharing a recipe with you today, check out Martha Stewart’s signature sugar cookies & royal icing recipe. If you know me personally, your belly is likely familiar with the stars, trees, snowmen, bears, penguins, lobsters, hearts, etc. (and in the near future bunnies and pastel eggs) that have been conceived the above.
In most instances, I only seek (and attempt to master) the “control” to use as a canvas to start the real (and gooood) stuff… experimenting! There are virtually no rules/limitations with food except with proportions of leavening agents in baking, and even that isn’t necessarily the case (you can surprise yourself with interesting textures and levels of fluffiness! and that could very well be the next thing). I have absolutely no formal culinary training (unless you count 9+ years of watching the Food Network…thanks to Tropical Storm Allison that somehow provided us with free cable!), but this scientific method has enabled me to learn the basics in order to creatively express myself in a very very fun way.
Now I’m gonna show off a lil’ more 🙂 In the 6th grade, I won 1st prize in the school wide science fair for my project “Peculiar Polymers” (screw you 8th graders!!). I made 3 different polymers from scratch by mixing a concoction of Elmer’s glue, food coloring, and water with 3 different compounds (cornstarch, borax…can’t remember the third and it’s killing me!). The end products were 3 different gooey polymers that all closely resembled Nickelodian Gak (even made the farty noises!). The ultimate purpose of the experiment was to find which compound created the “best” polymer, as determined by the level of bounciness and elasticity. Although I can’t remember the end result, I can remember several important lessons that I continue to apply to my baking/cooking/hostessing (and life!):
- There are many ways to make/do the same thing. But the difference in the end product makes all the difference! It is what makes baking/cooking, eating, and LIFE interesting… for real.
- Presentation matters. My project wasn’t actually that awesome. There were 100+ other projects in the competition that involved drawing an obvious conclusion from testing 3 different things. But since no one in junior high (or at least, my junior high) uses the word polymer, I was instantly erudite! More importantly, my tri-fold board was GORGEOUS! I spray painted it royal blue (while virtually everyone else left their boards white/cardboard color….bleh), and hand cut contrasting letters for my titles (and subtitles) with construction paper. I also posted pictures of the experiment, and provided samples of the different polymers for the judges and viewers to touch. Which leads me to….
- People love to stimulate their senses. This is why people love FOOD!!! And other stuff…. But only food has that ability to stimulate all 5….. or at least, nothing else should!?!
I am a very visual person. If you spot me at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, I am likely not reading (don’t let the books deceive you), but looking at pictures, people, or stalking celebrities (believe it or not, I have had incredible success in bookstores… I’ll tell you more about that later). So with all things considered (including #2 & #3 above) , it is ironic that this first blog entry has so little visual stimulation! But this just gives me another opportunity for me to encourage you to use your imagination. Going forward, I promise to have a much greater proportion of pictures and color to writing.
So far, I’ve shared with you two reasons why I love to bake/cook/hostess: I have total control of the process + I have the freedom to creatively express myself. My TOP reason, in the words of Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential:
To enjoy the instant gratification of making something good with one’s hands – using one’s senses. It can be, at times, the purest and most unselfish way of giving pleasure (though o%@! s$x has to be a close second).
I like to be happy, and I’m only capable of being happy when the people I care about are happy too. Simple as that. I have learned (from watching an excessive amount of reality TV) that people disparage their own people-pleasing tendencies…. WHY?! People-pleasing is good for the self and the world; it is an equally selfish and selfless act.
Finally, I will explain my blog title. Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) is a huge inspiration. And as you will learn, her recipes tend to be my “control”. Her style is minimal (Back to Basics is a good representation), but her results are always sophisticated, reliable, always visually pleasing, and most importantly, incredibly flavorful. However, I am not only very well shoethed (I will eventually provide you with a photo of my amateur collection), but I find barefoot pseudo hippies REALLY annoying. There was this one chick at Yale who never wore shoes because she wanted to “be most conscious of her surroundings”…BLEH. I hope she steps on/has stepped on a tape worm. I appreciate clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. because they provide another outlet for self-expression. I also like to be taller, and fortunately, as a lady, I have the option to be, and will obviously take advantage of the opportunity, regardless of so-called-practicality. I know this is getting lengthy, but I must add one final important note: FLATS SUCK. They NEVER fail to scrape the back of your foot… and do nothing for your posture. So understand why I choose to fry +20 lb turkeys in 5 inch heels, and that is just one of among +20 reasons….
Until next time….