I took a trip to Charleston and Savannah in March 2013. Everyone I told about my trip asked me, “Are you going to a wedding?” or, “Do you have family down there?” Like it was so hard to believe that two Manhattanites (my boyfriend and I) might just find their way to the Lowcountry of their own volition. The truth was, it was an affordable vacation, and we’d heard tales of the greatness of the food down there. For me, it turned out to be a best case scenario: I went in with no expectations, and I was completely blown away. Cut to me rushing home from the airport upon my return to NYC and logging on to Amazon.com to buy cookbooks that could teach me how to replicate what the hell I had just eaten. I was disappointed that the Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House cookbook was missing a recipe for the Lima Beans that I had eaten while there in Savannah, but Pat Branning’s Shrimp, Collards & Grits has become my new kitchen bible. I am deliberately not posting the recipe. If you buy the book, you’ll thank me!

Two months later, I found myself back below the Mason Dixon line, in the Outer Banks again for what has become our annual seafood eating and beach vacation. Across from our rental apartment in Nags Head was this outrageously amazing seafood shop, Daniel’s Whalebone Seafood Market, which we visited every single day during our week long stay, and after I had satisfied my peel n’ eat shrimp, soft shell crab, and grilled Mahi cravings, I took a stab at Shrimp and Grits, following Ms. Branning’s recipe with the exception of substituting green bell peppers for zesty hot North Carolina  Tinkerbell peppers, and subsequently forgoing the need for hot sauce.

I haven’t been blogging for the past year about my cooking, but I’ve been cooking all this time. The passion that I feel for cooking has shifted from learning how to do it, which was the inspiration for this blog, to the sheer pleasure that it brings me to make every meal a delicious experience. My confidence in my culinary skills have increased to the point of comfort with every new venture.

What has helped me most is fostering a healthy curiosity. I ask myself, “Yum. How can I make that at home?” Then I find a good recipe and I learn how to do it. Like this plate of shrimp and grits, which I now know how to cook damn well, even though I’m a monthly MTA Metrocard-holding, lox and schmear eating, fan of the Brooklyn Nets, Yankee girl from New York.