Cooking Food Is Not Just A Necessity, It's An Art

Cooking Food Is Not Just A Necessity, It's An Art

What you focus on you create more of so I'm focusing all my energy on food.
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There’s a saying that I have had hanging on my wall for as long as I can remember. For years now, not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought or spoken these words to myself and others. The saying I see each morning before my feet hit the floor is “what you focus on, you create more of in your life.”

This means that whatever it is you spend the most time focusing on (whether that is on positive or negative energy, happiness or sadness), you are bound to manifest more of it. I thoroughly believe that thoughts become things, so we should choose the good ones and hone in on those. Nonetheless, being the realist that I am, I am also aware that focusing on materialistic items such as “money” will not beget more physical money in your life just by thinking about it. However, I do believe that by focusing on concepts, we can manifest certain skills or an affinity for that concept.

In my case, I focus on the idea and concept of food. The way to my heart has always been through my stomach and like I always say, “good food = good mood.” When I wake up each morning (slightly disoriented from the grogginess one feels after a heavy sleep), like many of you, I immediately think “W.T.F.”

However, my “W.T.F.” usually stands for “where’s the food.”

I suppose you could say that over the years, I’ve manifested quite the array of meals and dishes as a result of my constant daydream-state of culinary artistry.

Perhaps it’s my constantly churning thought process that has led cooking to be one of those things in life that one does and then thinks “whoa, how did I even do that?”

If you read my piece “9 Charleston Restaurants You Need to Feed Your Inner Foodie” then you might have surmised that I flirt with the idea of food quite often.

As a child, my television channel of choice was never Disney Channel or Nickelodeon; rather, I wanted to sit criss-cross applesauce on the floor with my little neck craned upwards to watch in awe as the Iron Chefs battled, or as Ina Garten whipped up another mouth-watering meal for “Jeffrey.”

When I was 9, I told my mom I wanted to be Jeffrey for Halloween. She looked at my slightly puzzled and then put the pieces together and realized that Jeffrey is the one who Ina Garten typically cooks for. Jeffrey has the great pleasure of indulging in famous Barefoot Contessa recipes such as Zesty Chicken Piccata or Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes while 9-year-old Sophia is typically found snacking on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sans crust. I knew there had to be more to life than peanut butter and jam stuck between two pieces of store-bought bread.

So, the following Halloween I received my very own white chef’s jacket and skipped around neighborhoods with a spatula in one hand and an empty (soon to be filled) cooking pot in the other (so that I could collect ample amounts of candy while still remaining in character).

To me, the art of food and the act of eating is an invigorating experience that electrifies all of our senses. Whether those senses are activated by the sought-after crackling crisp sound you hear as you twist and tear the bubbling browned edges of a fresh baguette, or when you drag that morsel of bread into a tomato soup that is absolutely bursting with the taste of blistered tomatoes simmered in a rich heavy cream and dusted with just the right amount freshly cracked pepper.

Or perhaps, your senses become alive the moment you become intoxicated by the wafting smell of cookies in the oven only to be met by another moment when that perfectly undercooked cookie is placed in your hand and you can feel the beads of moisture build in your palm from the heat of the ooey-gooey chocolate chips that await you. Even more, maybe it’s simply the sight of a perfectly golden croissant, effortlessly dusted with powdered sugar perched inside of a glass dome atop of your local bakery’s counter that triggers the chain reaction of awakening your senses.

I focus on food because it excites me. I find it immensely gratifying that something I can create and prepare with my own hands can transform the way someone feels without any words being exchanged. As I mentioned earlier, good food elicits a good mood. With food, there is no need for speech or conversation between the chef and the consumer for the consumer’s mood to be transformed. The use and language of flavors, smells, noises, visual aesthetics, and textures act as the method of communication.

If nothing else, my hope is that these words have prompted you to view food from a different perspective. Though eating is a necessity, I believe that cooking is an art. A meal is an opportunity for communication and transformation and when you focus on that, you focus on what it means to truly experience food using all of your senses.

Cover Image Credit: Sophia Winter

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I Tried An All Vegan Diet For A Week

Here's everything I ate, and everything I didn't.
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I'll admit it: ever since I first heard of the concept of being vegan, I've been completely turned off by it even to the point where I would make fun of the vegan lifestyle. I love meat and animal products. My favorite food is a hamburger and I eat string cheese basically every single day. So I wondered, what would happen if I attempted an all vegan diet for a week? Could I do it? I decided to give it a shot. One week: no animal products consumed whatsoever. I documented the meals I ate and how I felt the food was affecting my health. Here's how it all went down:

Day 1: Monday, February 5

Meals: Cinnamon Life cereal (no milk) and a banana; veggies and cantaloupe and tomato Florentine soup; tortilla chips with corn and beans and salsa and guacamole; cherry pie

Reflection: I ate a lot of normal foods today and didn't feel like I was eating grass like I expected to. Health wise, I would say I didn't feel bloated after eating which is something that I typically feel after eating my regular diet.

Day 2: Tuesday, February 6

Meals: Cinnamon Life cereal (no milk); pasta with marinara sauce and roasted cauliflower; meatless chicken tenders and fries

Reflection: Nothing has really changed since day one, but the temptation of giving up has been really, really strong, as I find it harder and harder to say no to the foods I normally love.

Day 3: Wednesday, February 7

Meals: Cinnamon Life cereal (no milk); meatless chicken tenders with fries and strawberries; pasta with marinara sauce

Reflection: It seems that nothing I eat keeps me full. After I eat a meal, I constantly want more food and the food that I want is meat products that I know will fill me. Even after eating, I become extremely hungry in only a matter of hours.

Day 4: Thursday, February 8

Meals: Cinnamon Life cereal (no milk) (again); pasta with marinara sauce and roasted veggies (again); tofu enchiladas with chips and salsa and guacamole.

Reflection: Despite how tired I am of repeating the same few meals over and over again due to the lack of options in the cafeteria, I'm feeling my health improve. At night I've been getting tired earlier than I normally do and have gone to bed before midnight every night this week (which never happens for me), but I feel a lot more refreshed in the morning when normally I just feel groggy; definitely not a bad thing.

Day 5: Friday, February 9

Meals: Cinnamon Life cereal (no milk), tacos with beef and chicken...

...Yes, you read that right. On Friday, my fifth day of a vegan diet, I gave up and gave into the temptation I had been having all week. I got to the point where I was so hungry and frustrated with the fact that I couldn't find any foods that would actually keep me full. I choose to end the experiment in order to eat an actual meal for the first time in a week.

Despite how tough being vegan was for me, I learned a lot. I learned that the vegan diet is possible, and in some cases, actually really delicious! However, there's no way I would ever adapt this as a permanent lifestyle. Eating on campus became such a struggle as I constantly had to look up the menus of the cafeterias and plan my meals in advance. I cannot imagine having to do that all of the time. It was exhausting. And eating the same few meals over and over again because that's all that was offered got old really fast. Especially after a few days, too, meat began to sound incredibly delicious and I became jealous of people who were eating the foods that I was restricting myself from. That all being said, I do understand the health benefits and why one might choose to go vegan. I did feel significantly less tired and bloated after eating my meals and I just felt more healthy overall.

It takes a lot of willpower to be a vegan and as much as I wish I had had the strength to finish off a full week of a vegan diet, the temptations were too much.

Catch me at McDonalds now.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-ceramic-coffee-cup-leaning-on-brown-wooden-table-179912/

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12 Taco Shops In Orlando You Should've Tried Last Tuesday

Because there are way better places than Taco Bell.
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If you're like me, tacos are in your weekly routine. When Tuesday rolls around, you look forward to getting out of work/school and heading to the nearest taqueria to stuff your face with the soft or crispy corn shells. Not to mention, most places offer deals on margaritas or Mexican beers which is amazing, but that's of course only good for those 21 and up. Without further ado, here are my favorite taco shops in Orlando:

1. Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Fuzzy's is a staple Taco Tuesday stop in the UCF area with tacos as low as $1.50 each and beers being $2. If you go anytime between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., you're likely going to be waiting for a table, but it's definitely worth it. I love the grilled veggie tacos here because they aren't your typical black bean, cheese, and lettuce--they have zucchini, squash and carrots drizzled with a garlic sauce.

Orlando Location:

12241 E Colonial Dr. Orlando FL 32826

2. Tijuana Flats

Tijuana is likely my favorite place to get tacos in Orlando. They are your standard beans, lettuce, and meat tacos but the flavor is always incredible. I've never ordered food from here and felt like they didn't give me enough. Plus, their free hot sauce bar is always a hit with flavors ranging from sweet to spicy. If you choose the Taco Tuesday deal, you get a free drink and chips with 2 tacos for $5. Otherwise, my favorite meals are the black bean flautas or tostadas.

Orlando Locations:

2914 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803

11551 University Blvd Ste. 6, Orlando, FL 32817

1024 N Avalon Park Blvd, Orlando, FL 32828

3. Gringos Locos

Gringos Locos is that quintessential hole-in-the-wall taco spot. Unless you are familiar with their downtown location, you would easily drive past it on E Robinson which is an absolute shame. This place has killer tacos and my friends personally love the burritos. It's inexpensive and always delicious, so it's perfect for anyone looking to eat on a budget. My favorite tacos are the Double D's, but be careful, because they're not included in the Taco Tuesday special. Gringos Locos is supposed to be opening a location on UCF campus soon, but who knows when that will actually happen.

Orlando Locations:

22 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801

4. Tako Cheena

Taco Cheena is the perfect Asian fusion taco shop in Orlando. I personally have a soft spot for the arepas, but any meal here is mouth-wateringly good. My favorite tacos are the Indian Yellow curry crispy tofu and if I could, I would eat these every day. Located in the midst of Mills, it's the perfect place to stop at before heading to a local bar or to Enzian theater just minutes away. Whatever you get here, you will not be disappointed.

Orlando Location:

932 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803

5. Tin & Taco

A fan favorite amongst many of my friends, Tin & Taco is also located downtown on Washington. This industrial style taco shop offers a variety of Tex-Mex foods perfect for pairing with their craft beers and craft sodas. Although it only opened within the year, it is a hit in the Orlando community.

Orlando Location:

40 W Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801

6. Black Rooster Taqueria

Tucked away on Mills, this taco shop delivers greatness. With its unique art and aesthetically pleasing interior, this taqueria is a hit for millennials. These tacos definitely stray from the standard Mexican dishes with its twists in vegetables and presentation. Confused? Achiote Pork is slow roasted in a banana leaf. If you're interested in branching out and testing your taste buds, this is the place for you.

Orlando Location:

1323 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803

7. Wall Street Cantina

Located among the busiest bars downtown, this spot is always packed, but always good. Although this restaurant serves mainly Mexican dishes, it also has standard meals like Chicken Fingers and Wings for our not-so-daring friends. The menu isn't limited to tacos but still has some killer ones. Not to mention, the drink menu is as extensive as the food one.

Orlando Location:

19 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

8. Hunger Street Tacos

Although this one isn't in Orlando lines, Winter Park is just up the street, and this place is too good to pass up. This restaurant exudes creativity through its artwork and supports local artists, which is always great to see. The tacos may be a little more expensive, but they definitely deliver with their incredible ingredients. It's not limited to but includes vegetarian and gluten-free foods which invite even more people in.

Location:

2103 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

9. Chuy's Fine Mexican Food

Much like Wall Street Cantina, this restaurant steers away from the limits of tacos and offers more of an array of Mexican foods. This is probably my mom's favorite place in all of Florida (every time she visits me, I already know this is where she'll want to go), but rightfully so. The food is always good and the margaritas are incredible. Plus, who doesn't like free chips and salsa?

Orlando Locations:

1434 N Alafaya Trail, Orlando, FL 32828

6688 S Semoran Blvd, Orlando, FL 32822

8123 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819

10. Bartaco

One of the pricier options on this list, but still very reasonable, it makes a perfect place for your date night needs. With its incredible interior and even better food, this place is always popular for people of all ages. They offer an incredible array of fish tacos and even a few vegetarian options for those who steer away from meats. The drink menu is also phenomenal with its wide array of choices and specialty cocktails.

Orlando Location:

7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819

11. Cilantro's

Originally limited to a food truck, this Taco Shop finally made it into their own restaurant and it's just as good, if not better. The truck could be found at popular events around Orlando with a line stretching as far as the lot. With authentic food and a colorful atmosphere, this place will cure all your taco cravings.

Orlando Location:

1427 S Bumby Ave, Orlando, FL 32806

12. TJ's Seafood Shack


There's really nothing like some seafood tacos and although many of these other places take a crack at them, TJ's does them best. With a coastal interior and quirky decorations, this place will make you feel like you're eating on the water in south Florida. The mango salsa is to die for and although the meals may seem pricey, they're worth it. With two tacos and rice and beans, you're destined to be stuffed when you leave.

Orlando Location:

12231 E Colonial Dr #230, Orlando, FL 32826

Cover Image Credit: Bon Appetit

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