Cook the Blog Returns

March 16, 2014. That was my last blog post. It has been awhile. After almost a year and a half, Cook the Blog emerges from the shadows reinvigorated and ready to discuss food, restaurants, recipes, travel, and life. But why now? And what took so long? Did I get lazy?

In short, yes, yes I did. But there’s much more to it than that. As with most things in life, my time off from the blog was not due to a black or white reason. It was due to many grey, green, blue, black, white, and purple reasons. Not to mention all of the red reasons – way too many red reasons.

When I look back at my original blog entries, they seem kind of sterile. With this second go around at the blog, I hope to fix the tone. I want to inject this blog with personality. Make it feel like my food blog, rather than a generic food blog. With that in mind, please allow me to explain my absence.

The last time I was constantly, actively writing on this blog was mid-2013, right before I got married. In July of 2013 I married my high school sweetheart (and the love of my life). At that point, we had already been together for 8 years. I really didn’t expect anything to be different, partially because we had lived together for years before getting married. What I have learned from the experience thus far is that no matter how well you know a person, no matter how long you have been with them, you never truly begin to build a life with someone until you get married. It takes effort, energy, and hard work to build that life and honor that commitment. It took me longer than it should have to figure this out. Now that I have, I work every day to ensure I am the best husband I can be.

Wedding Photo

After a quick honeymoon, we were off for adventure.  I had lived in FL my entire life. Although my wife (Elsa) and I took the time to travel when we could afford to, I wanted to try and live somewhere else. I wanted to get away from our families. Not because our families are bad, but because I wanted to learn how to be married without their influence. I wanted to know what else was out there in the world. With that in mind, my wife accepted a job in Portland Oregon. We loaded up the car with all of our things (and wonderful puppy) and drove across the country. We stopped in many awesome (and some not so awesome) states along the way. We sampled some great food along the way to.

Being the practical (often too practical person) I am, we moved just over the border of Oregon to Vancouver Washington. We did this to save money. I am happy to announce that one of the lessons I learned from this experience is that sometimes saving money isn’t worth the annoyances that come with it.

I value the time I spent on the west coast. It did give me the time I wanted to learn how to start a life with my wife. I did get to experience living in a new area and learning how people live in a different place. We created many wonderful memories hiking, traveling to bordering areas (such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Crater Lake in Oregon, and Glacier National Park in Montana), seeing Florida State win their 3rd national championship in person, eating new food from everywhere I could, etc. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

HikingFSUHowever, it wasn’t all happy. I missed my family. I missed my friends. I realized that I had taken a lot of my old life in FL for granted. I spent a lot of the time out there depressed. It never felt like home to me. My wife had similar feelings as well. We discussed it and eventually decided we wanted to move back. So, about a year after moving to the Pacific North West, we moved back to FL. This time however, we moved to Jacksonville, FL.

Shortly after moving back to FL, I received the worst phone call I have ever gotten in my life. It was the moving truck company. Our truck had caught fire. We lost everything. I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine telling Elsa what happened. I wanted to puke, scream, and cry – all at the same time. This felt like starting over and I just couldn’t imagine doing that. Due to circumstances (some of which were beyond my control) we only received enough money to cover about 1/8th of what we lost. Thankfully, some of my coworkers came to our rescue and sent some aid our way. It wasn’t enough to cover nearly what we lost, but it meant a lot to me none the less. Again, I spent a long time depressed and feeling sorry for myself. To this day (about a year later), we are still replacing things we lost in the fire.

fireEventually, we started to pick up the pieces. We grew our family by adopting a second dog (shout out to Pippa Pie if she is reading this). I got help to work through what felt like to me was a tragedy. I started to focus on what was making me unhappy and started making positive changes. I lost 26 LBS (only 4 more to go!). I didn’t know anyone in Jacksonville and started making an effort to go out and make friends. I started to explore the local food scene and learn the area. I began training for my next physical goal, running a full marathon. Finally, I started to take time to enjoy little things I love such as playing guitar and video games.

PuppiesMore than anything else though, these two experiences taught me about myself. I have learned little things such as it’s ok to be me. Also, I learned that I identify as a southern. (Begin Rant: This is something I never would have even considered before I moved to the Pacific North West. However, it only took me two things to realize this. The first is the food. It is with rare exception in the Pacific North West that someone can fry a chicken properly. Likewise, I have never gotten so many confused looks when trying to order a sweet tea. The second was the people. I didn’t know what southern hospitality was until I left it. End Rant.) I learned that stuff is just stuff and it can be replaced (eventually). You can’t replace people, love, or friendship. I learned that I need to chase my dreams and to work hard. Finally, I learned that “life happens”, for better and for worse. I can’t control everything. To quote the wise Eric Matthews: “Life’s tough, get a helmet”.

As you may already know, my ultimate goal is to own a restaurant or be on a food channel such as Food Network (why not both?). I am trying harder than I ever have to hit these (and other) goals. I put together a schedule for myself to try and hold myself accountable. Today was my first week, so far, so good.

I am sure my brief overview of the past few years for me explains why I haven’t updated, but there is one more thing. I was putting too much pressure on myself. I was afraid of failing. And most of all, I was afraid to put myself out there. This is something I feel we can all relate to. I can sum it up pretty simply now. I wanted to appeal to everyone with this blog and I wanted to leave my personal life out of it. I wanted to stick to the core content and ensure I didn’t offend anyone. I look back at this now and realize how silly this is. You don’t know me. There are a million places on the internet to get recipes and restaurant reviews. Why would you come here? I’m not even a professional chef. How do you even know my food is good (it is)? I need to offer my viewers something different.

Which brings me to today.

I want to inject this blog with not only my personality, but also with a sense of honesty and humility. I want my voice and humor to come through from now on when you read my words. You are going to come here to learn with me. I’m a fun person. I’m told my love of food and adventure is contagious. My stories and experiences are what will make this blog special. It’s what’s going to make this blog fun for me to write. This is my first attempt at this. I hope this is a positive direction for this blog.

Is there anybody out there? Will my former readers return? Did I have any readers to begin with? Will I attract new readers? Can this blog be a success and or help me reach my goal of owning a restaurant or being on a food channel such as Food Network? I don’t know. But, if I fail, at least I know I tried, and had a fun, delicious adventure in the process.

I invite you to read my blog, Cook the Blog, to not only enjoy my recipes and adventures, but also to learn with me. Thank you for your time. I hope you will visit and share your stories again soon.

In the meanwhile – Hi, I’m Josh and I’m going to be your blogger for Cook the Blog. It’s nice to meet you.