Well, here we are: It's our blogiversary, marking five (five!) years of writing The Bitten Word.
A year ago, when we embarked on year five, we asked you to introduce yourselves, and we loved hearing from folks all over the world. If you haven't commented there yet, please do. They really make our day.
This year, to mark the beginning of our sixth year of blogging, we thought we'd take a look back and share 50 Things We've Learned in 5 Years of Writing The Bitten Word.
Here they are.
1. Ingredients recommended by food magazines can be extremely difficult to find. This was the lesson from our very first recipe we posted, Pork Cheek and Black-Eyed Pea Chili.
2. The Bittens -- that's right, you -- are a vast source of kitchen knowledge and eager to help us and others. In the comments of our very first post, we were astounded that someone asked a question about where to find pork belly in Cleveland, and another person quickly answered. Moments like this, of great, positive community, have been the highlight of these five years of blogging.
3. Good food photography takes practice. One area where we've improved a lot is photography. Looking back at our first year of blogging, we shudder a bit at our photos. (Exhibit A.) As we've photographed more, we've learned some tricks of trade. Our equipment is slightly nicer now, but it's small things (natural light, a tripod) and practice that have really made a difference.
4. Food magazines -- like us -- are not infallible. Just as we make mistakes in the kitchen, every recipe featured in a food magazine is not perfect. We've had our share of disasters. Some have been our fault, others are due to faulty recipes. Our very first dud was a Banana Creme Pie from Bon Appétit. But there have been many, many more.
5. White Lily flour makes the best biscuits. (Actually, we knew that long before we wrote it down.)
6. After trying countless roast chickens, Ina Garten's Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken is still our favorite roast chicken recipe. We're suckers for the gravy.
7. Chocolate Gravy brings people together. That post has generated the most lovely notes and emails from people who also grew up eating it, and who write in to tell us about their family's version of the dish.
8. The people who work at food magazines are incredibly supportive of writers like us. We've heard from nearly all the magazines we cover at one point or another, with notes and comments about the dishes we write about from their magazines.
9. Don't cook the berries. One thing we learned early on is that the food that comes out of your kitchen is not necessarily going to look like the photo in the magazine. Some of it will -- but a lot of it won't. Food photographers employ a lot of tricks, including undercooking certain elements of the food, in order to make them look prettier in the magazine. Case in point.
10. Cold-brewing coffee is the single best way to make iced coffee, and you can make it overnight. Six months out of the year, we're addicted.
11. Flank steak is amazing. It has become our favorite go-to cut of beef. It's easy to cook, fast and flavorful.
12. Pizza on the grill is also amazing.
13. The secret to a perfect pie crust is vodka.
14. You can make risotto out of oatmeal and it's delicious.
15. There's a right way and a wrong way to make barbecue chicken. Here's the right way.
16. Though we're still weirded out by the concept, you can cook a great omelet in a resealable plastic bag.
18. Thomas Keller makes a great fried chicken, but Clay's mom beat him in our fried chicken cook-off.
19. The right spice choices can make all the difference. Always buy dried, Turkish bay leaves (and our readers feel very passionately about bay leaves!).
20. You can make spectacular barbecue in a slow cooker. The secret is liquid smoke.
21. About 99 percent of the food we showcase here uses whole ingredients and is, for the most part, relatively healthy. But sometimes a big bowl of nastiness is just the ticket.
22. You should stir scrambled eggs with chopsticks.
24. Of all the short rib recipes we've tried over the years, our favorites are still Dave Lieberman's Braised Hoison Beer Short Ribs. They get us every time.
26. Steel-cut oats are the best (we're partial to Bob's Red Mill brand), and making them in 10 minutes is even better.
28. Pink Curing Salt is the secret to beautiful corned beef -- and it's pretty hard to find in stores (but you can order it online).
30. Oven "fried" chicken is a waste of your time. It's never going to be a legitimate stand-in for the real thing.
31. Eggs baked in a simple tomato sauce can bring you an unbelievable amount of comfort.
32. Sweet corn is delicious. Pancakes are delicious. Sweet corn pancakes will make you slap your mama.
33. Just because something is called "the best," doesn't mean it is.
35. Nothing is forever. You can love a magazine. And when it goes away, you feel as if you've lost a friend.
36. Some food is just ugly no matter how much you garnish it.
37. There are no people who hate Brussels sprouts -- only people who have never had them roasted.
38. You can drink eggs, booze and dairy that have been sitting in your fridge for an entire year and it won't kill you.
39. Baking bread is hard. And we need a whole lot more practice.
40. Koreans make damn good fried chicken.
41. To cook a perfect piece of meat, throw an ice-cold steak on a hot grill.
42. There is such a thing as making too many substitutions in a recipe.
43. Taffy Whipporwill, Muffin Fennimore and Suki Westwood are all amazing drag names inspired by Tipsy Affogatos.
44. It's possible for a burger to taste like sadness.
45. A pair of good scissors is one of the most useful tools in the kitchen.
47. There's only one way to make ice cream at home: Jeni's way.
48. Even the biggest recipe fail can still be kinda fun.
49. Taste buds change.
50. We have readers all over the place. When we first started writing this blog, we envisioned a handful of readers around D.C. But of course the Internet doesn't work like that. We've heard from readers from all over the world -- from Australia and Indonesia to Hungary and Israel to South Africa and Brazil. (And we have lots of wonderful readers in Canada!) We are so thrilled and humbled to have such a fantastic community of you guys. And we run into you in the darndest places! When we were recently in San Francisco and were getting our tourist on at Alcatraz, we bumped into Stacy who had participated in last year's cover to cover challenge. If you see us somewhere, say hi! (Unless we're being arrested, at which point you should turn around and walk the other way.)
Thank you for your cheers, laughs, support and inspiration over our first five years of blogging. Your comments and supportiveness are the reason we keep writing and cooking and snapping photos.