Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Magazine that Changed My Life

Cooking Light changed my life. My mother gave me an issue in June 2002 to read on the airplane as I flew home from visiting my parents in Colorado. I opened the magazine as the plane taxied and hardly looked up until I had read the entire issue. The variety of featured ingredients astonished me, and the food in the photographs made my stomach rumble – not something I expected from “light” cuisine. I cornered page after page of recipes to try.

I suppose it is relevant to say here that in my pre-Cooking Light days, I didn’t cook very much and rarely tried anything new. My limited repertoire featured my mother’s (very good) chili, blueberry muffins, pancakes, chicken breasts and vegetables, and a variety of cookies and desserts. If anything, I was a more experienced baker than cook (which is not saying much, however). But I was hungry – a lot – and I lusted after good food.

The first recipe I prepared from that initial issue of Cooking Light was mango salsa, a rough assemblage of scallion, jalapeno pepper, salt, sugar, cilantro, lime and mango. Perfectly simple to prepare and utterly delicious, it was a flavor-popping marriage of sweet and savory extremes. My fate – as a food lover and food magazine fan – was sealed.

Reading the magazine and trying a recipe or two out of it, I began to believe that I could actually make good food myself, as opposed to always having to go out for it. I also evolved into a more adventurous eater, both at home and at restaurants, adding fresh figs, cilantro, and pomegranate molasses to my list of favorite ingredients. These were revelations that changed the texture of my life immeasurably – from where I travel to how I spend my spare time to how I feed my family. My day-to-day existence is simply more of a pleasure than it ever was before.

As noted in an earlier blog entry, my long-term relationship with food magazines is still going strong today. But Cooking Light was my first love. It may not be the most sophisticated of the culinary mags, but it was the one that seduced me first. For that, it will always have a special place in my heart and in my kitchen.

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