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I've never been one to celebrate Valentine's Day. It's not that I have something against the holiday. I generally think that more reasons to celebrate love and kindness are good things. But then, you know how your car will make a noise for weeks, reliably, and then you take it to the mechanic, and the noise just stops? The same thing happens with romance.

In mid-December, we made the awesome decision to give 30 days notice and move into a new apartment. It was a snap judgment based on a strong desire for more space (try living and working in a 630 sq ft apartment--the charm wears off fast) and the knowledge that the apartment we desired wouldn't stay on the market long.

When John and I first met, one of the things that impressed me the most about him was his skill level in the kitchen. I grew up in a very traditional southern family in which the women were the cooks. Then, I dated a few guys who would cook, but more to the tune of instant mashed potatoes and haphazard stir frys than boeuf bourguignon.

My mother, a working mom of three girls, cooked dinner almost every night. I know there is much ado about women feeling obligated to cook these days; about how providing healthy meals that kids will eat is too difficult; about how a lot of people don't like to cook so why should they, etc.

I often toy with the idea of doing a series here about foods every cook should be able to make at the drop of a hat. I can't tell you how many times I've had to whip up something fabulous in a hurry, and a lot of the basic recipes I've accumulated and the skills I've learned over the years have been godsends to me in those moments.

"Dec 25--Cloudy and thawy--very muddy--Christmas day--good many drunken ones around town & some few arrests for drunk & disorderly--got up 12--read paper--went down to Charley Ockel's [saloon] & got some egg-nog."
                                    --Alf Doten, 1866, as quoted in Imbibe! by David Wondrich

As a child, I never understood quite what my grandmother meant when she said that time goes by so quickly. Children are chronically impatient, and I was no different. I was always in a hurry to go somewhere. I craved new experiences like the body craves water or food. It was an elemental desire. Visceral.

Puff pastry is perhaps the holy grail of baking. It takes practice, patience, and time. I completely and totally understand why most people just buy it frozen. Making puff pastry at home, especially if you're strapped for counter space, is a little bit much.

There are two clear, stackable plastic bins on the top shelf of my refrigerator. Our refrigerator is mostly a war zone where condiments, pickles, and a half gallon jar of sauerkraut vie for space with half-empty bottles of wine, containers of leftover chicken soup, and a truly irresponsible amount of jam and butter.

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