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The Year in Food


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The champagne glasses are washed and put away, the hangover is only a distant memory and chances are that one or two resolutions have already been broken... yes, I know, January is already in full swing and nary a peep has been heard around here! I apologize for my extended absence - Manuel and I just flew in from Seattle yesterday, where we enjoyed the wonderful and blissfully internet-free holidays with my family. Living in Europe certainly has its perks, but spending most Christmases away from home certainly is not one of them, and it was a rare treat to be able to go this year, even though we have both returned weighing about ten pounds more - a fact I will verify just as soon as I can bring myself to step on the scale! Ah, but it was worth it. Apart from the eggnog, crabcakes, bagels, Mexican food, cheese fondue and copious amounts of the usual sugar-coated holiday suspects, there was an incredible crispy drunken chicken sandwich with truffle fries at Baguette Box, a bánh mì pilgrammage to Seattle Deli (this time wisely on an empty stomach) and some of the best sushi ever at Shiro's (if you go, sit at the bar and tell them you'll eat whatever they give you. Really. You won't regret it.). There was also, of course, plenty of catching up with family and friends and shopping and trying to enjoy the brief respite between the end of my old life and the looming uncertainty of the new...

But while I was eating and relaxing and doing my best to avoid thinking about blogging, a couple of important things happened. The first was that the Menu for Hope ended on December 22 with a staggering $60,925 raised! This represents a more than tripling of last year's total. Thank you all so, so much for your generosity, and those of you who are nervously perched on the edge of your chairs waiting to hear if you are the lucky winner of a certain lunchbox have only 9 more days to go! The second piece of news is that I am humbled beyond belief to have again been nominated for the annual Food Blog Awards, this year in the categories of Best Writing and Best Overall Blog. There is so much talent represented in the ever-expanding food blogosphere, and I am truly honored to have been singled out. If you'd like to cast a vote, the poles will be open at Wellfed through midnight EST on Tuesday, January 9th.

The real matter at hand, though, is that my yearly wrap-up  - you know, the one in which I remind you what was better than average around here over the past twelve months - is past due! So, with all due haste, and in slightly different fashion from last year, I hereby give you the "best of the best" from the Traveler's Lunchbox in 2006.

Best unlikely use of an ingredient: Creamy avocado milkshakes. No, it is not guacamole in a glass.

Best idea that came to me in the shower: The Foodblogger's Guide to the Globe, a.k.a. 1650 things to eat before you die. Considering the enthusiasm this sparked (not to mention media attention), it seems I should take showers more often (just kidding!).

Best waste of calories: This is hard. I'll have to go with bonet. Or maybe baklava. Though that lemon-almond torta is awfully good too. And did I mention Toll House pie? You'll just have to make them all.

Best too-delicious-to-be-good-for-you recipe find: Gypsy pot. It's vegetable soup, but not as you know it.

Best expenditure of a large amount of money: My hard-won (literally!) Kitchenaid mixer. My tactics may have been slightly unscrupulous, but to quote myself, "it is better to be the owner of a Kitchenaid than a nice person."

Best expenditure of a small amount of money: My first bánh mì. Who knew that $2.25 could buy a life-changing experience?

Best all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island: Do you really need to ask? Jamaica, Jamaica. Oh, Jamaica.

Best food-related achievement: Getting published - twice. Now, if you have any tips on how to actually earn a living from this crazy business, I'm all ears.

Best motivation for writing this blog: You. Each and every comment you leave inspires, educates, challenges and moves me. This website wouldn't even be half of what it is without you, your enthusiasm and your good taste! Thank you, dear readers, friends and fellow bloggers, for everything. May this year be the most prosperous, most joyful and of course, most delicious one yet!


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Reader Comments (29)

Happy New Year to you Melissa! It looks like you had a fabulous time while away! Your patchwork of images is delightful. And of course, a very big congratulations on your two nominations. I am absolutely NOT surprised and think you deserve them both, very much so!

Melissa, thank you so much for all the wonderful articles you've published all through the year. From the moment I've accidentally stumbled upon your blog (looking on google for recipes with roses), I've never looked back.
it is truly one of the best, and deserves every single ounce of recognistion you (and Manuel) get.
So here's to a whole new year of passion for food and good writing. May this celebration never end.

Wishing you and Manuel a wonderful new year.
~Malka (Dina)

January 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermalka lev adom

I love your bánh mì.note. It reminds me that the simplest things can contain the greatest amount of soul.

With 2006 being so filling, I'm curious about your goals for 2007.


January 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMcAuliflower

Thank you so much for all of the time and effort you put into publishing such informative and entertaining posts, it is a pleasure to read. Thank you for reminding me about the lemon-almond torta, I meant to make it when you first posted it but forgot all about it. I now have a box of lemons to use up so it was perfect timing. A very happy new year to you.

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteremily

Congrats on your nominations!

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Last winter I was huddled in my freezing apartment in Aomori, Japan, and I googled--for no particular reason (especially given the season)--chocolate gelato recipes. And stumbled upon your site! And through you found out about the world of food blogging. But Traveler's Lunchbox is still my favorite...I love your photos, the eclectic range of recipes, and most of all your wonderful observations & commentary. Thank you for sharing so much with us.

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

congrats on your nomination and all the best for the year ahead

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjules

what wonderful posts you've had in 2006, can't wait to see what you come up with in 2007! congrats on your nomination!

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Congrats on your nominations, Melissa, and being published, getting the PhD, winning the trip to Jamaica etc etc etc. May 2007 be even more fun & fulfilling:)
So, what's the story with the KitchenAid?? I just had to ask my Santa very-very nicely to get one, and now I'm very curious to hear what you had to do:)

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPille

Melissa - thank you for a wonderful site during 2006. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us for 2007 - you know I'll be hanging around! Congratulations on all the good things that have happened, and heck, how's about an early congrats on all the things that are bound to happen in 2007? You know you deserve it! (even if you're not a nice person, tee-hee;-P)

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterZarah Maria

Happy New Year Melissa, and thanks for making 06 a delicious year!

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Hello Melissa, Happy New Year to you... You must truly be excited getting the news on the blog awards... I just happened to see the news here and thought I should visit -

I'm new into the blog thingy, so hope we're both in the same page (lol)... but I'll surely be there on Wellfed to cast a vote tonight... I truly believe that getting good news at the start of the year itself is a pointer to a fantastic year ahead... I'll be back here more often... cheers :-)

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMaddie

I definitely voted for you! Yours is my favorite food blog. Thank you for all the time you invest!

January 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKatharine

Welcome back and congrats on the nomination--well deserved! I thought of you when I had my first bahn mi in Portland a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, it wasn't as stressful an experience as yours, but the results were just as tasty.

January 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHomesick Texan

Happy New Year Melissa!! Looks like you had a wonderful year. Congrats on the nomination, you're a great write and deserve it. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us this year. :)

January 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMeena

I found your blog among the nominees for the food blog awards. It's beautiful. Congratulations and best wishes for a very good 2007.

January 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSmari

Just found your wonderful blog and couldn't stop reading. Congratulations on your Ph.D.! It's such an accomplishment. My husband just finished his this month and I know how much blood, sweat, and tears these things take. And you managed to maintain this beautiful and incredibly well written blog too -- I am just amazed!

I loved your posts on canoli (reminded me of my backpacking adventures in Northern Italy ;), the hazelnut pear cake, and hachapuri. I was born in Russia and remember having hachapuri there -- it was one of my favorite snacks from the local gastronomias. I've never tried making it myself, but you've inspired me! I've even ordered a Georgian cookbook. I'll let you know how my Georgian cooking adventures progress.


January 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Wow, that's one helluva year! You've earned every last bit of good fortune, so congratulations.

January 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRob

dear melissa, congratulations! thank you for the past year's worth of utterly delectable and enriching posts...and may 2007 be an even more delicious and fulfilling year for you and manuel!

January 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJ

congrats on you achievement! keep up the good work and hope this year will bring more to come.
avocado milkshakes is the only reason i buy avocados, the other use of those would be a drink with chopped jackfruits, young coconut meat, and sweetened condensed milk with shaved ice!

January 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commentereliza

What a wonderful year.
I truly wish 2007 will be even better for you - thought, i have no doubt about it!

Happy new year!

- fanny

January 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterfanny

Hi Melissa,
I've been reading your blog reguarly for quite a few months now, and I must say your posts are always delightful. You do have a special talent not only for food and travel but for writing about them in a magical way and making them come alive. Looking forward to another year of posts!


January 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAles

Congratulations on all the wonderful things that happened this year...all are much deserved :) You have an amazing blog and I look forward to another year of your posts :)

(avocado milkshakes are not so unusual where I come from so you can rest assured that there is one place where they definitely do not think it is guacamole in a glass! :) )

January 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjoey

Best wishes to you,

January 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaz


I hope you realize how important your blog has been to so many of us. You have been an inspiration for me as for others. All the best.

Food "Blogga"

January 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thank you, dear readers, your cheers have lifted me sky-high. Here's to another year of belonging to this fabulous community!

January 19, 2007 | Registered Commentermelissa

Funny I didn't like Jamaica.

Or maybe it was the company at the time. Not sure.

You do deserve the glory for sure.

January 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercoffeepot

An all-expense paid trip to Jamaica?! Apparently I'm in the wrong business...looking forward to new entries on your page this year... Bon apetit!

May 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamaica Jerry

One afternoon, I was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.
This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: "Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap. "
The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: "He lives in a home with ten children - he's trying to catch up on his sleep."

I cried from laughter
Sorry, if not left a message on Rules.

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissik

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