What is this? Who are you?
Optional Kitchen is a home cooking blog written by me, Mike Bierschenk. I’m always seeking out new flavors, which you’ll see reflected in the recipes I post. A few touchstones keep coming up, though: I’m from Texas and can’t get enough of chiles and cilantro. I spent some time in Louisiana, and have a deep love of gumbo and jambalayas. I have a bit of a rice obsession. I think there’s little better than fresh, in-season vegetables, but I also have a great respect for casseroles and other dishes I lovingly call ‘church basement food’. I’m a happy omnivore, but I cook rather a lot of vegetarian fare.
I mostly post new recipes on Thursdays. When life happens, I sometimes post on Friday, and when a whole lot of life happens, sometimes it just doesn’t happen that week. Sorry!
What’s the deal with this ‘optional’ kitchen? Do I not need a kitchen?
Well… strictly speaking, I guess you don’t. Personally, I’m a collector of kitchen gadgetry, and I’m lucky enough to have a fairly large amount of storage space, so I’m pretty invested in kitchens as such. But by the same token, I’m well-known in my circle of friends for making do with whatever’s around; I’ve made dinner for twelve with little more than a huge saucier and a very sad paring knife, so as long as you have a way to apply heat to some kind of cooking vessel, you’ll be fine.
And really that general spirit — “it’ll be fine” — is what I try to convey throughout this blog. I finally started Optional Kitchen after being badgered by friends for years (literally: years) to write down what I cook. It was a long haul, though, because like many home cooks I cook by the seat of my pants: when I’m not doing recipe development, I just throw in a pinch of something here, a dash of something there. And so for the blog, while I always try to make the recipes foolproof as written, I also don’t want to lose that sense of spontaneity and freedom. Most recipes have some Options after the Directions, where I try to anticipate the sorts of “Can I…” questions that inevitably come up in recipe writing. [Spoiler: the answer is usually ‘yes’, within the bounds of physics. You might end up with a very different dish, but that’s not such a bad thing, really.]
So, your life is food, basically.
Hardly. I spend a lot more timing obsessing over food than most people, but it gets squeezed in around a lot of other things. Beyond cooking, I’m a poet, a choral performer and sometimes actor, a wide and varied reader, a bricoleur of trivia, and an unapologetic consumer of primetime TV melodrama. I live in Columbus, Ohio, with my husband and our two neurotic cats, and I work in program coordination and educational technology at the university level.
Off to explore your blog, looks great.
Love finding people who have similar interests! I’m a choral performer and foodie as well. Love your blog, can’t wait to try out some of your dishes.
How cool is that! Glad to have you around. And those shrimp over at your blog? They look great.
Yup they are! Thank you.