Hello! Hello!  This is my blog.  It’s a food blog – mostly... maybe some other things now and then too but mostly food related I think.  The inspiration for this blog came from several sources which I will tell you about. First and foremost my inspiration for this blog is that I love to cook and I love to take photographs.  I love to feed my family and my friends.  I love reading recipes, making them, changing them, and I love sharing recipes (I don’t often make up my own completely new recipes – it seems like it’s almost always a riff on someone else’s).  I love my garden (which is currently full of fava beans and young tomatoes) and my herb garden (with edible flowers) that I just moved from the front to the back yard – raised beds right behind my kitchen. I love what fruits and vegetables and flowers look like and what they smell like when they are growing in the ground and after they are harvested sitting in a basket or on my kitchen counter.  I love what those fruits and vegetables smell like when they’re cooking on my stove or in my oven and I love what the stuff looks like when it’s done and ready to go on the table.  That was my first inspiration.

My second inspiration is my friend Suzanne’s daughter whose nom de plume – for blogging purposes – is Pixie (I haven’t any idea how the name Pixie came to be…. she is tall and gorgeous and played volleyball for Duke University – go figure….).  Pixie has a blog that I enjoy looking at when she puts up a new post.  Part of the enjoyment is that I know her through her mom and I hear some about her life through her mom – and her many facebook postings that somehow show up on my facebook and the blog gives me a window into Pixie’s world through her own eyes/words/pictures so it’s different and it’s inclusive.  I like her blog also because she talks about her life through her cooking adventures or – her cooking adventures through her life – and she’s a funny writer and it’s about food and I love food so there you go.  I just thought well.... if that youngster can blog - maybe I can too. (Kind of like seeing a tiny little child going on and on in a foreign language and you think… ‘how can that be?  how can that little kid be talking something that I can’t understand at all! and gosh if that really tiny little person can speak like that I should be able to also’).  Thanks Pixie for inspiring me! Pixiedoespastries.wordpress.com

My third inspiration is my new Oaxacan bean pot that my Aunt Roberta gave me when my husband Alan and I visited her in Oaxaca in February.  It’s a beautiful, plain ceramic bean pot  (see photo) – I made great beans in it after we returned from Mexico and I had big plans for it before a friend asked if it was ‘lead-free. . . ..’ (yup – another negative Nelly alright...) But yikes – what if it is full of lead?! It’ll be real sad...  But I have to say that from the moment I saw that bean pot sitting on my Aunt’s counter in her Oaxacan kitchen I knew I wanted one just like it so when I was getting ready to return to California and my Aunt Roberta said that she was giving it to me – I knew it was right.

Bean Pot

Bean Pot

I must sound like a big copy cat.  First copying Pixie (and dozens more) by blogging about food and then coveting my Aunt’s bean pot...

My fourth inspiration is my tenacious friend Sue – a true friend and fellow food warrior.  About four months ago, I told Sue that I wanted the two of us to become world famous salted caramel makers.   Sue listened, with great patience and humor, to my vision and my insistence about that and the next day she had the finest ingredients and recipes lined up to try out (one of my oldest friends owns the Oakland Chocolate Company – so there I am again... copycat – but do checkout her website called theoaklandchocolateco.com and please by all means - buy her chocolates! They're excellent using the finest Jamaican chocolate).  Sue and I made batches 1 and 2 in my kitchen that first weekend but then on Monday I had to go back to work.  So…. batch after batch after batch of caramels Sue made in her kitchen – while I went to my day job. Some of the batches were excellent. Some were not excellent.  They ran the gamut from runny to teeth cracking hard – always delicious flavor – until she hit it just right – the perfect combination of fine fine ingredients, proportions, temperature, voila!  Sue always cooks with the best ingredients and she has remarkable patience and she kept copious notes about ingredients and technique including temperature and type of butter and karo syrup v. rice sugar, etc., and about what works and what does not work in her/our endeavor.  We – (and I say ‘we’ although I have no right to do so because I have not made a batch since Batch 2 – but it WAS my idea!)- we got it right around Batch 32 (although there were some good ones before that – but not replicable) and when the next batch – Batch 33 – came out just right as well – I decided that we had mastered the technique.  We’re on the road to caramel fame...maybe... and this blog was hatched!

Also, and naturally, my fifth inspiration - a shout-out to my Mom Ellen Neiman who taught me to cook in the first place - by loving to cook herself (her signature crumble-top Apple Pie is to die for – everyone who has ever tasted it will tell you that for sure).   My mom is one of the most amazing home cooks I have ever known.  She is a total perfectionist and if you look closely at her chopped onions you will find that they are generally uniform in size – exactly (she denies this of course).  It kind of always freaked me out because I am totally not that way.   She’s meticulous and loves to experiment and she’s a masterful soup-maker. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are about food my mom made for us from after-school snacks waiting on the table or hot out of the oven when we got home from school to delicious dinners including her to-die-for macaroni and cheese to French onion soup that took hours to make (a la Julia Child probably) to her remarkable apricot jam (that used to be made from apricots off the tree in our yard) and angel food cake with chocolate dribbled over the top and this really great chocolate wafer cookie and whipped cream recipe concoction - I could go on and on. My mom is really some kind of amazing cook.

I have also received loads of encouragement including from my son Alex who is away at school but who cheers my blogging on from a-far and who is willing to cook something with me when he comes home and who ALWAYS loves to eat what I cook - what more could a mom ask for. And my step-kids – Jared aka ‘J’ and Alexandra aka ‘Z’ who helped me name this blog.  I was initially thinking of naming this Blog: ‘My Oaxacan Bean Pot’ but upon reflection, people have associations with beans that are about passing gas.  Didn’t want that.  So the next idea came from ‘Z’ – who suggested the name ‘mocha soledad.’ Soledad being the name of the chocolate company in Oaxaca that I love.   We thought we had it but then she looked up the word soledad in the dictionary and it means ‘isolated’ ‘solitary’ ‘lonely.’  It’s also the name of a prison….  Not a good name for a food blog… at least not to me.  So there we were sitting in the kitchen trying to come up with names and then I was telling them about Sue’s efforts to make caramels and how we were now on batch-32. Bingo!  We had it! Or, we thought we did…. we were really close though…. The name Batch-32 was ruled out for two reasons – the first – as pointed out by Z – being it’s association with the book of similar name….. need I say more?  The second as researched by ‘J’ being that numerologically the number 33 is auspicious in some way and is a good number with applications relevant to a successful blog.  By that time Sue had moved on to Batch-33 of our caramel making endeavor so I called her and cleared the name with her and I decided it was ok and we cemented the deal.  So here we are.  Batch-33.

Then came the part where I had to set this up.  This became a problem because I’m not good at computers – can barely use my iPhone and still don’t know how to turn on the television with the remote control.  I have daily problems with my work computer functionality – always always always operator error.  Once again…. my lovely step-daughter to the rescue. I got the name part down and she walked me through some initial pointers on Wordpress and then Kris Koran at the office took over and got me all set up proper and stuff.  Thanks a ton to all of you…

Ta da – the genesis of my blog.