Shades of Grey

opal basil

When I was a girl I danced. I took years of ballet lessons, then moved on to jazz and other forms. I loved it, and I danced freely and unselfconsciously. Then, as many girls do, I got a little older and grew uncomfortable in my own skin. I developed performance anxiety. I’ll never forget the day that I stepped onto a stage for a dance competition, and every step I had so carefully choreographed was lost, gone from my limbs and my memory, the minute the music started. The stage was so vast, and I felt so incredibly small and clumsy, with no right to be there, that I panicked.

I’ve been feeling a lot like the halfheartedly gothy teenager I used to be, lately, who refused to pose for photos and hid behind long bangs and eyeliner. Maybe it’s the weather, the relentless grey of the skies, the heavy fog and rain-soaked days, or maybe it’s performance anxiety, the fact that as wowed as I am that this site has been getting so much attention, and has even been mentioned in the same breath as some of the food blogs I most admire, this feeling of “don’t look at me, don’t look at me, I don’t belong here” is rising.

This has been so hard for me lately. I feel flat, uninspired. Monday’s dinner was fine, if rather ugly. Tuesday’s dinner was great, but it was another rendition of a chicken and bread salad dinner we’ve talked about here plenty of times. I have a fridge full of beautiful summer produce, but I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to make for dinner tonight, or tomorrow, or beyond that. I feel like every step I knew so well, every improvisation, has been lost. My head is full of little grey clouds, and I don’t have the foggiest idea how to get my rhythm back.

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24 thoughts on “Shades of Grey

  1. Susan says:

    I know how you feel. I picked up my CSA share yesterday and my fridge is bursting with produce and my mind is blank. I even have company coming tomorrow for the weekend and still, no ideas of what to cook. I live outside Boston so I feel your pain with the grey, dreary weather. Let’s hope for some sun and inspiration over the weekend! I think we could all benefit from a day or two of summer weather.

  2. Samantha from Maine says:

    I think we all go through bouts of mini-depression. I know I feel that way every now and then…Let me tell you though, yours is the first blog I go to on my daily (sad, I know) blog call and your beautiful pictures inspire and uplift my spirits every time, no matter what you cook or what you post. Keep your head up and keep smiling..brighter skies are coming soon…I promise.

  3. I started blogging my daily meals a few months ago. Some days I find I’m excited to share what I ate. My meals feel inspired and I think people will find them interesting. But the reality is that there are weeks (like this one) when I have a refrigerator full of leftovers and no intention of wasting them. I try to remind myself that if anyone is truly interested enough to check in on a regular basis to see what I am eating then they are going to see the truth. Some days might be an Ethiopian meal with homemade injera and others might be a bowl of cereal & milk. Personally I like knowing that you might be holding the refrigerator door open for a little too long, staring blankly hoping for inspiration to strike just like the rest of us before opting for a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. But I bet you would still find a way to make that with flair! … maybe grilled and sprinkled with sea salt, or with some fresh berries thrown into the mix … :-D!

  4. Karin says:

    Hang in there, Jennifer! I know exactly how you feel. I am in the local media in my area and get alot of attention, although I hate being the center of attention. I’d rather stay under the radar, but I’ve been blessed with wonderful opportunities. I also was a dancer and one time at a talent show audition completely forgot the jazz routine I’d practiced for weeks and began tap dancing…really!

    I’ll be thinking of you and continuing to check out your awesome blog!
    K.

  5. Jen, I have been reading your blog since its beginnings, and you always post great meals………my mouth waters as I look at the photos.

    I was happy to see your name mentioned a few times on Mark Bittman’s NY Times BEST BLOGS post.
    I thought “yay Jen!”.

    I saw my name once or twice, and I was thrilled.
    We can’t always be happy and creative…..that’s a lot of pressure on a daily basis.
    I post 6 times per week, and am always amazed that I can find something to talk about! Like now!

    Be happy. You are well loved and super talented!
    You have always been my favorite blog to read.
    Stacey Snacks

  6. akaellen says:

    Jen,
    Sorry you’re feeling down. a period without a good dose of sun can do that to a person. I love your blog(s) and have been reading since I “met” you on WFE. I know this is called last night’s dinner but I personally think that you have so much to day on related topics and hope you share more on this blog. What do I mean? What you’re reading (related to food), what restaurants you’re frequenting, saving to eat at, etc. Also, I love seeing into your thought process of how you are plannning meals and what ingredients you are thinking about and I also am always interested in what you store in the freezer and the things you and Mike make (butter, sausage, confit) that might go into a meal but aren’t necessarily a meal. All this is a longwinded way of saying – you have so much to share and I hope you will find it in yourself to keep sharing your great meals as well as more on the topics I mentioned above.
    Chin up Young person!

  7. I think most bloggers (even the non foody ones) feel like this sometimes, and recently I’ve read a lot of posts that say a similar thing. But for what it’s worth, I love your blog and I’ll keep coming back whatever you’re eating!

  8. I feel ya, I really do. Been contemplating giving it all up and just posting photos on flickr, but I’m hoping it’s just the weather.

    Hope your fog clears soon. You’ve inspired me more times than I can count!

  9. penguin18 says:

    I read this post and then looked back on your food this past week. You’re just being hard on yourself (as we all are now and again), because your food continues to be nothing short of amazing. And, heck, I wouldn’t mind seeing a good ol’ hamburger with frozen fries or *gasp* some doctored ramen noodles on here every once in awhile. I mean, you’re only human.

  10. lo says:

    Your not alone. I feel like inspiration ebbs and flows. Some weeks I wonder if I’ll EVER be able to think of anything to blog about that’s new and inspired.

    But just wait — eventually you’ll relax and forget about your mental block. It might not be today or tomorrow. But, one day you’ll be wandering about at the market, and all of a sudden you’ll spy something that makes your creative juices flow again.

    I’ll be pulling for you!

  11. angela says:

    I too have Don’t Look At Me Syndrome, so I feel you.

    I don’t know what I will do without your blog as inspiration! Because of LND I started incorporating more meatless meals, which in turn forced me to rethink everything. Perhaps you can add another themed dinner? Meatless Monday, Asian Tuesday, Pickled Wednesday…?

  12. lindsay says:

    Don’t let the blog rule your life. You started it b/c you wanted to share things with people, (right?) so if you’ve nothing to share, don’t just create something for the sake of keeping the blog going. Then the blog begins to rule your life and becomes more like a job instead of something fun, no? (unless of course it is your job, then sorry, better get to creating)…..you know you don’t always have to cook something. I found some of the most interesting blogs you did to be the ones where you showed what you bought, what was in your fridge/freezer/pantry, what leftovers you had on hand for quick meals, how you inventoried things and organized them…etc. Because I can’t even get as far as you do in stocking my fridge/freezer/pantry, let alone cooking like you do. You know I just got garlic scapes in my CSA and didn’t know what the hell to do with my massive pile of green curly q’s. I came here first and saw that you made pesto, so figured I better make pesto. I guess my point is you don’t always have to shoot for the moon. I bet a lot of us are satisfied with learning some of the basics or sharing some of your tips. Or you could tell me to just mind my own beeswax b/c that’s not what your blog is supposed to do. It’s your blog Jenn, if you’re not feeling it we’ll just have to wait till you are. –A devoted reader.

  13. JennD says:

    I find myself most refreshed after cooking with friends – especially a kind or culture of food that I’m not familiar with. It’s fun, you learn, and get to have friendtime all together. Have fun and you will get your rhythm back – don’t force it.

  14. Hi Jen. Sorry that you are feeling so blah right now…sounds like depression, which isn’t helped by the perpetual grey weather. Might i suggest some sort of sunny, spicy soup? and a salad or massive stirfry with all those CSA veggies? or just say “the heck with it” and have something easy and comforting like an omelette… I am always totally blown away by how your “simple” meals are often more work than i am able to devote to a fancy meal. Please don’t let the blog rule your life…but you can see you’ve got quite a fan base out here!

  15. Jance says:

    I feel compelled to comment with some tough love. I have been following your blog for some time, with mouthwatering envy. I live where there shall never be the local market riches, the splurge dinners out, nor the fixins’ for a proper cocktail. I look to your blog for the everythings that are simply not geographically available to me, and I drool. When I stare at my open refrigerator door, it stares back with mass produced sad greens, terrible condiments, nary a fresh piece of fishy, and god forbid any meat not injected with goop. So please know that however dull it may be to you, and uninspiring, even a hohum go-to mac and cheese is exotic to some of us. Hang in there.

  16. A complete stranger to you says:

    I was told about your blog by a friend, and it is now in my Favourites. I look at your blog three or four times a week. Friday night in our house is date night for me and my husband, where the kids are packed off to bed and I cook child unfriendly meals! I’ve come to your blog many times looking for inspiration for these Friday nights.

    Don’t feel uncomfortable about the attention you’re getting, because clearly you are a talented cook and an equally talented writer, and deserve it!

  17. The weather is definitely doing a doozy on us in RI/MA. People are snapping at each other, everyone is lethargic. Actually – we’re aimless. All of the gardening that we were going to do – we aren’t doing it. We put a deck on the house this summer – blame us ! Damn Murphy and his laws.
    It is tough to get excited when every day it is grey, then darker grey, rainy, thundery, and washed out (literally).
    ” This too shall pass ” is a favorite saying of ours…and ’tis true. You’ll be fine. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with eating something you’ve made before. If it’s good and it works, go for it.
    Just try to keep on smilin’

  18. Christine says:

    You happen to run one of my favorite food blogs, mostly because you never cease to inspire a meal or an idea. Hope whatever is getting you down will pass. Just trust me when I say you deserve all the accolades.

  19. KD says:

    Are you kidding me? Some days your blog is the only reason I fire up my laptop. And that oyster mushrooom & peas on black risotto is stunningly beautiful in it simplicity and likely, flavour, too. Trust us, you belong with the rest of them. I say “rest” not “best” because as far as I’m concerned your blog is the best; I don’t even look at others. Please accept that you bring great joy to your readers and we really look up to you. You earned it. You deserve it.

  20. Dexter says:

    You are under no obligation to continue with this blog, just because other people love it and look forward to it. You should do what is best for you. It’s hard to disappoint people, in any scenario.

  21. Sara says:

    I think it’s normal to feel weird when attention starts coming your way. I think they call it “impostor syndrome” – I know I certainly feel it right now – I’m about to start a new phase of my life. Anyway, just remind yourself that you got the attention exactly as a result of all the good work you’ve been doing here. So it doesn’t come with a requirement for you to change, or do something radically different. I agree with other posters that it’s also normal to have small bouts of the blues. Do something that makes you feel good, revel in it for a bit, and then lift your chin up and move onward. :)

  22. I recently started blogging myself and also have attracted some attention, though it’s not a cooking blog. I even challenged myself to post every single day for an entire month. Some days, I felt pressure to get something out there in cyberspace that other people might like or approve of, which really took the fun out of it. I feel better when I think of blogging as just something for me and do it according to my own schedule.

  23. You do know that your chicken meal makes you ‘normal’ and ‘like me’ right?

    I had to take a second to write to you. I have been shamelessly using your blog for the past year to pine for what my life will look like come the fall. I have been waiting for my heart to return from a year long deployment to the Middle East. Just a few more months and my kitchen companion will once again beautify my cooking space. I read your blog and it reminds me of how my life used to be and what I am waiting for. I have cut and pasted your pictures and your words into to emails to him so that he can remember and be excited to have that life back too. So even if it basic poached eggs over greens I have enjoyed every moment. I realize that this will not help your performance anxiety or blow away your grey skies but maybe it will help you understand that we are grateful that you care enough to share your weekend eats with us for whatever reason it is that we follow your blog. For me, I know that even when you are not posting that you and your husband are still cooking and enjoying each other’s company while doing it. So not to worry. Take care of yourself and do what you do best – whether you blog it or not is up to you. Remember this probably started out as something you really enjoyed doing. Don’t lose sight of that. It it is detracting from your life then that is why we have words like hiatus and sabbatical.

    Thanks again for all that you have done for me without even knowing it.
    -Kristin in Syracuse and Rey – 7000 miles further east.

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