After eight years of blogging, these strawberry basil martinis are somehow first making their way online for the first time. Strawberries, basil, simple syrup and vodka combine for a perfectly balanced summer cocktail.
In 2008, somewhere in the neighborhood of mid-May (I don’t know the exact date because really, this is a blog, not a human person), I created In Good Taste. At first I called it ‘My Glamorous Life” because my friend and former boss Ann used to say “isn’t life glamorous?” whenever I was tasked with something ridiculous at work, like collating photocopies for a press kit or reprinting a new business presentation seven times until the binder holes were spaced evenly.
I thought I would write about my everyday musings, because to be frank, I think I’m pretty funny. Although good friends have told me that I’m at my funniest when I’m being bitchy, but we can analyze that another time.
At the time I started my blog I was living outside of New York City, where ridiculous shit happens in the street every single day and I thought I would have witty things to say about the drudgery of online dating and working at an entry-level public relations job and did I mention that public relations can, at times, kind of eat away at your soul?
After a few months of blogging, I started finding other blogs and would leave comments on them. They would leave comments on my posts when they revolved around food. I would comment back. I developed online friendships. I discovered that what excited me most was writing about the food I cooked and the recipes I found online that I recreated in my little Hoboken, NJ kitchen and stuffed in the freezer until a friend or one of my parents visited and I could send them home with a week’s worth of leftovers. Such is the nature of cooking for one. ‘My Glamorous Life’ became ‘In Good Taste’ which has been a wonderful and complicated part of my life for eight years now, my longest relationship to date.
Cooking might have been challenging, but blogging was easy, mostly due to the people I met through this endless stream of commenting back and forth. Kristen Doyle, a Missouri mom of four helped me connect with established bloggers who could help me figure out, in short, how to use the Internet. Lydia Walshin, a food writer from Boston who was around my mom’s age, helped me configure my blog and gave me advice like “posting your traffic counter on your site is like telling people your bathing suit size.” Kalyn Denny showed me how to put advertisements on my blog to cover the cost of web hosting and my new domain name (I still appreciate when I get a $21.83 payment to PayPal, despite that fact that most people make a base of roughly 100x that amount now).
In 2009, if I had a cooking question, I didn’t call my mom, I asked Twitter, because I knew my social media followers were lifelong home cooks who were very well versed in ingredient substitutions, food safety and recipe adaptations that I did not know. I already knew the things my mom knew and had long confiscated her recipe box, stuffed with recipes dating back to my great-grandmother. I wanted to learn new tricks, new go-to-techniques and how to cook the foods that usually come in a can, box or bag: baked beans, apple pie, mashed potatoes.
In 2010 moved to Chicago, where some of my online friendships became actual friendships and some of those online-now-actual friendships led to new friendships that I maintain today.
I blogged every day. I quit my job. I started a public relations business, which I’ll categorize as both the best and worst thing I’ve ever done and leave that there. Blogging became competitive. I stopped blogging for almost two years. It wasn’t really fun when I started relying on it for money. I started a second business. Hint: it was another blog. It didn’t last long. I relaunched In Good Taste again. I changed my domain name. I met Leigh Loftus, a food photographer whose work complements mine in many ways, and we’ve made this thing fun again, while also earning the money that we probably spend on wine or cocktails after our cooking + photography sessions. I resigned my business to take a job that pretty closely qualifies as ‘dream job’ although it would certainly help if our office was on the Amalfi Coast or something, but we all need to aspire to something. I changed my domain name again. I think I’m finally back where I started.
I had a conversation with someone the other day about how when faced with a conflict with a person, you can’t change that person, but you can change your response to them. I couldn’t do that in 2008, I couldn’t do that in 2013, but I can do it now.
There is a lot that I don’t like about the state of blogging today and how it has changed since 2008, but I’ve also changed since 2008. Though I can’t change the ways blogging has evolved over the past eight years, I can change how I respond to those things. It feels like the best way to respond is by continuing to cook things that make me feel as happy and as proud as I did in 2008, when I once stayed home from a party to make a roasted red pepper turkey meatloaf. I can continue to share my own recipes, and also the ones from Good Grief Cook and Smitten Kitchen and Always Order Dessert and my favorite blogs, cookbooks and magazines that genuinely inspire me.
In one of my first blog posts for In Good Taste, I quoted Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a psychiatrist and author, who said, “If happiness is always in the future, then you’ll never be happy.”
So, here is a little slice of happiness for right now, a strawberry basil cocktail that you can enjoy with your friends or loved ones. Summer is in full swing, which means picnics, the beach, movies in the park, grilling, brunch on patios with Henry underneath my chair, laying by the pool and oh, cocktails, of course. So here is a recipe for a fun and delicious cocktail to take you through the summer season.
- 5 strawberries, plus 1 for garnish
- 5 basil leaves
- 1 ounce Simple Syrup
- 4 ounces gin or vodka
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- In a cocktail shaker, muddle three strawberries with basil leaves and simple syrup. Add ice, gin or vodka, and lime juice. Shake well, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a strawberry, plus any additional basil, if desired. Enjoy immediately.