18 June 2008

Back to the Beginning, or Close to It

This morning, I finished reading "Julie & Julia," indeed a book all food bloggers should read, if they haven't already. Although I never bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking (not the book of choice for vegetarians, vegans and folks who prefer not to eat offal for their own reasons), I still recognize the mastery of Julia Child. I also have a great admiration for Julie's tenacity as well as her writing.

Yes, the book is three years old already and yes, I know (and am so excited to hear) that Julie's book will be made into a film with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child (can you imagine?). However, reading about how the Julie/Julia Project originated and what it did to change Julie Powell's life reminded me of why I started this Altered Plates project in the first place. Albeit, I wasn't quite in the middle of an existential crisis 14 months ago when I began this blog as an alternate to Here and There so I could focus solely on the agave-nectar side of my life.

But, there are some similarities. At the end of 2006, my life changed dramatically in three different ways:

1. John proposed (well, this wasn't so much of a huge change, but a fait accompli, since we were already living under the same roof the way married folks do).
2. I lost my job (technically, it was a "mutual separation," but the details are a lot more murky than that).
3. My life became filled with more interesting work than I'd ever imagined.

At the same time, I re-focused my energies on my tiny chocolate business, Deb's Delectables. Because the chocolate I use for Deb's Delectables is already sweetened, and because the fillings I created were made using sugar, I couldn't actually taste any of them. It's the great irony of that tiny business. Of course, I had many willing (and quite critical) volunteers to taste all the creations, but what I found myself focusing more on was the appearance of the candy, rather than the taste (since most folks seemed to really enjoy the chocolates).

But ever since I started Deb's Delectables, I wanted to make carob candy sweetened with something other than those artificial sweeteners and natural sweeteners that had such negative effects on my digestive and central nervous systems. It's taken quite a while, but I'm finally doing it.

As of last week, I began selling my carob-agave candy at my local health food co-op, George Street Co-op. I still need to update the Deb's Delectables site to reflect that, but I will soon. Additionally, the store manager, Janet, told me that she'd be very happy to carry my agave-sweetened baked goods as well, but preferred that I stick to vegan recipes, if possible.

Well, that's where the challenge comes in, doesn't it? I need to develop a carob coating from scratch that doesn't contain dairy or non-agave sweeteners. But, as you know, I love a challenge.

So, chronicling my baking/cooking adventures with agave nectar here has brought me all kinds of positive change -- from the remarkable folks who continue to visit and read the blog on a regular basis (and leave such nice comments -- really you people are lovely!) to the numerous opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise. Visiting other bloggers along the way, I've noticed an increasing frequency of agave nectar in recipes, which makes this even more worthwhile.

Most of all, keeping this blog has given me a weekly focal point, even updated while I was in bed recovering from surgery (I'd baked like a madwoman prior to it in order to have blog topics for weeks while I was off my feet). Despite all the exciting and not-so-exciting (and perhaps downright scary) events of my life in the past year, keeping the Altered Plates project (as well as the Here and There blog) running reminds me that I'm really not so different from the talented Julie Powell and the other food bloggers who keep their readers and their online projects as high priorities in their lives.

As always, thanks for visiting and thanks for your feedback in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Deb! Wonderful about the candy. I just wish I lived closer so I could buy some and try it out :) .

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Ricki!

I just wish you lived closer because I'd come visit you and your wonderful dogs (and HH) often. Oh, and I could only imagine how we would bake and cook for/with each other.

sarah marie said...

I just wanted to comment and let you know how much I enjoy your blog. It's so nice to see agave-sweetened recipes. Refined sugar seems to contribute to my frequent killer headaches, and it's great to have an alternative. Your recipes are inspiring!

Deb Schiff said...

Hi Sarah Marie,
Thank you so much for commenting and letting me know that you enjoy Altered Plates. It's great to hear. I hope you have far fewer headaches now that you've been using agave nectar. Please stop by again soon!