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431Food started as way for me to pass on recipes and food memories to my daughter, Emily.  She has recently turned from a my little girl into a compelling young woman, with surprising independence .   With that in mind, sometime ago, I started to record and document recipes and techniques for her………the “recipe box” my mother never gave me, sort of.   Didn’t she need to know how to make the Parmesan chicken she has eaten most of her life, and always asks for?  Or was my own mortality peaking at me over the hill?  Interesting thought. Whatever the motivation, a big binder of information was organized and placed where I could easily add to it quickly and over time. Unfortunately, as I think about what I started, it never really lived as a document.  The binder slowly became just a place to slide in a recipe, or an article from a magazine or a hand written note about something…….it just wasn’t what I envisioned.

What the whole concept was missing was the story behind the recipe, or why the technique was important or meaningful. Why do I like what I like?  Why does my wife Kathy always cut everything I make in half?………after all, why do you or I eat what we do, each day, it isn’t all by accident after all, is it?…..while there is something informal and not really serious about food, I was interested in something else…….a connection I can’t describe but know exists between family members past and present, settings old and new……the very tracks we push along each day if we look at closer are a measure of something we want to know…………food always triggers memories for me…………that is what I wanted to record or touch.  It isn’t a serious academic exercise, just a connection I’m tracing for myself.  Hopefully, 431Food is more than just a collection of recipes, but reveals part of my personal story, a way of passing on something more to Emily than I could otherwise……not overly important in the big scheme of things, but revealing to a really narrow view point.  Hopefully, my transgressions in this regard won’t be too boorish.

All that semi-heavy stuff said………we are a compact Mid-western family. My wonderful wife Kathy and I have been married for thirty years. She has never cooked, ever.  We are empty nesters, except for our dog, Greta, who strangely is the most behaved being I have ever observed on the face of the earth.  Our aforementioned daughter, who claims Chicago as her residence, still likes to come home to Kansas City, if I will cook.  Like most, our travels, including living in Great Britain and New York City, have influenced our food life.  I have always cooked, first encouraged by my grandmother, at times out of necessity, but mostly because I never found it to be a task or something less than completely enjoyable.  Food is just one of those things we share……..when I was living in Great Britain as a student in the early 80’s, I use to go to France for discovery………..the biggest search was always for food!

I don’t pretend to be a chef or accomplished cook, but I do enjoy the activity because of the creativity it inspires.  I am a completely self-taught, except for a demonstration class here and there.  I make mistakes all the time, some are classic.  They are all funny!

Sometimes I do surprise myself, which like golf, is what makes you come back and play the silly game again. Cooking has taught me to gather myself, clean up the mess and move on.

Some of the recipes here are based on family recipes, many are things I have learned and they have become favorites.  Some are experiments, things to try or to take on as a challenge.  All of them have something that motivated their creation or contain a memory.

Occasionally I will have a post about our vegetable garden, which we started a few years ago.  The idea of being prescriptive about growing things is just plain funny.  I do some things well, growing things is not one of them.  Posts about the garden will be more about experiences and sensory things, the incredible smell of the garlic when you first pull it out of the ground or the raking quality of the early morning light that lets me see the ripening tomatoes at the very back of the garden.

When the mail arrives at my house, there are professional things, bills, and all the junk everyone receives. The first pieces of mail I grab are the cooking magazines or anything that has a picture of food on it! Unless you’re related to me, you found this web log otherwise, and I’m guessing you probably grab the same things too.

431Food is about the simple and creative nurturing possible when we cook and share that experience with others. I plan to share some of mine here.

Todd Achelpohl
Architect, Educator and Part-time Cook

 PS   431 is our street number. I believe Norah Ephron gave Meg Ryan a particularly poignant line about people who use their address as part of a name. 431 is code amongst our family for “home.” If I’ve been traveling too much, “431” is where I need to sleep.

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