Monday, July 25, 2011

Just call me Giada

I’ve always been a picky eater. My mom probably knows this best after having spent the past 23 years trying to get me to eat less bread and potatoes and more vegetables and meat. When it comes to food I am like your average 4 year old. My favorites are mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken tenders, and pizza. To be fair I haven’t really tried anything else. Now, I will lie to you and tell you I have no problem trying anything, but I just don’t like it, but in truth you will be lucky for me to put a spoonful of anything new anywhere near my mouth. I blame this on green beans.

Green beans are like the staple vegetable in my family. My brother and sister love them. Green bean casserole at the thanksgiving dinner is like their highlight. I had green beans on my plate more times than not when I was a kid and when green beans were on the table it meant war. My parents insisted that I eat them. The rule at our table was as many bites as your age. My parents would monitor my bites to make sure they were legitimate. If I tried to get away with a nibble I would have to finish that nibble and try again. This often meant that I would end up eating the whole serving of green beans on my plate. My dad would say, “You would like them if you really tried them.” But I didn’t. I tried them and I hated them. And I still do. I think this is where I made the correlation that if I think I don’t like something I probably won’t, even if I have never tried it.

In my mind all vegetables taste something like green beans. Anything that looks like fish must taste like fish sticks, and I certainly don’t like those. Anything jiggly must taste like jello, and that is just gross. Somewhere along the way my parents gave in and stopped making me try things and I have avoided doing so since. At restaurants I find one thing I like and I stick to it. I have a specific meal I order at every place and my whole family knows it. I never felt like I was missing out on anything at all.

My relationship with food started to change right around the time I graduated college. I didn’t know it then, but I found a spark of interest in the culinary world that would forever change how I look at food. That summer I became hooked on one of those cake cooking shows. I should first say I hate cakes. I have never been able to eat the icing. It is just too much sugar for me. My sister and I rarely had cakes at our birthday parties. She opted for root beer floats and I loved the chocolate and peanut ice cream pizza from Dairy Queen (why did you stop making those DQ?). I loved this show, though, because the cakes were not food, they were art. One of my best friends was getting married and my mom was putting together a bridal shower for her. One of the requests that my mom had for me was that I bake a cake for the shower. My mom does not enjoy baking so my sister and I threw together cookies and brownies on occasion for different parties. Up until this point I rarely set foot in the kitchen to do more than heat up food or throw dishes in the dishwasher, but I decided that I was going to make a cake like the ones on TV. (Those of you that know me well know that I am prone to big ideas and elaborate projects out of the blue).

I went to the craft store and the grocery store and bought all the things I would need to make a two tier cake and a fondant covered cake. I perused tons of recipes for cakes that looked delicious. I settled on a two tier heart cake that was malted chocolate and a little chocolate cake covered in white fondant with green and brown polka dots all over it and a little brown bow tied at the bottom. And surprisingly, the cakes turned out great. Nowhere neat perfect, but completely edible and adorable. It was enough motivation for me to try again. I started making cakes and cupcakes for every occasion I could think of. I didn’t stop until my beautiful cake for fourth of july filled with strawberries and blueberries accidentally ended up in a pile on the kitchen floor. After that highly entertaining catastrophe I decided to take a break form the world of cake making. Even though I hadn’t baked in a while, the desire to learn how to do more stuck with me. I even looked into culinary school before committing to the Peace Corps. I became so interested in the art of cooking.

Now, if you are still reading, you must be wondering where this blog post is going. I have given you this back story to show how amazing it is that Kazakhstan has gotten me hooked on food again. Since living here I have learned to try new things in an amazing way. I can no longer judge a thing based on whether I think I may or may not like it. Living with multiple host families and attending more than a handful of parties I have been forced to try so many new types of foods and the results are startling. I had this long list of food that I thought for sure I didn’t like that is getting shorter by the second. My favorite meal here that my host mom makes is stuffed green peppers! Who would have thought that I, Emily picky-eater Johnson would love green peppers? And that is not the only thing. I love vegetables and fruits of all sorts that I wouldn’t even try before. I am so excited to learn how to make things and learn new recipes here and my host mom is more than excited to teach me. I have also had cooking thrust upon me. Before I had the choice to buy a frozen pizza or run through the closest Taco Bell, but here every meal is made at the stove with nothing from a package. I love to stroll through the bazaar and look at the seasonal produce that is available. I like looking up new recipes to try with the ingredients I can find here. I love that a microwave is not included in the necessary appliances here. I am also amazed at the ability I have to actually make something. I always said the reason my sister and I didn’t cook was because we weren’t good at it or we didn’t really know how, but I was mistaken. I know how to make so much more than I thought I did. Years of watching my mom at the stove have taught me more than enough to create a great meal. The adventures outdoors, meeting new people, and learning a new language are all fascinating parts of this experience, but by far my favorite part of being in Kazakhstan is the culinary adventure it is taking me on.

So if anyone has anyone recipes they want to share, I would love to get them! just leave a comment here or shoot me an email. i would love your salsa recipe mrs. susnhine! (i know this is like the 121th time i have asked, but i promise i won't lose it this time!)

back to,


  1. Ahh.. The war of the vegetables. Such good memories:) love you! Mom

  2. I chuckled all through your blog about the "green bean battle". Who knew that you and my oldest, Tracie, had so much in common when it comes to food issues? Found out just recently that she spit the "no-thankyou helping" of green beans into her napkin and snuck it into the garbage. BUT, you've got her beat, girl! Trying and learning to enjoy all different types of food, and in a nation foreign to you - WAY TO GO, girl! It will add such spice and enjoyment to your life to be able to sample all that our Creator provides. But, hummmmm, guess I shouldn't send you any green beans in a care package? HA!