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Ashley Hall: The right flavoring

I love food. I have a very serious relationship with food. Food and I are like garlic and olive oil -- we go well with anything.

When did this relationship become serious? It did about four years ago when I could not stop watching The Food Network.

The Food Network has it all: Italian, Greek, American, Japanese, Chinese, you name it.

This started my weaving of a tangled web. I would watch one of my favorite shows -- "Everyday Italian," "Barefoot Contessa" or "Paula Dean's Home Cooking."

I became obsessed. I cooked, baked, sautéed, chopped and sliced to my little heart's content.

So while I was scanning the Internet for a good seafood recipe, I stumbled upon this one for an Italian seafood soup called cioppino. I just recently watched an episode where my girl, Paula, made a similar dish with her too-cute-for-words son, Bobby.

So began my quest in search of the seafood the recipe called for: Crab; shrimp; fish (something sturdy -- whatever that means); mussels; and scallops

Did I mention that I am a poor college student (interning at the River Falls Journal), so affording this meal will be breaking my bank. I thought that this would cost me over $60 to make this seafood delight.

I think my love for all things seafood started when I was a little girl. I was in love with shrimp -- I couldn't get enough of it.

Sure I have tried all the possible seafood that is available in the United States, like calamari, lobster, scallops, etc., but I never had mussels until my trip to Junior's Bar on Main Street in River Falls.

I must say, I was skeptical about ordering seafood at a bar that I have been at often to drink (remember I am a college student). So I ordered the pasta dish with mussels and scallops.

Can I say that this was fantastic, and my love for mussels grew. The spicy olive oil was what made this dish -- you have to ask for it.

So while I drove to Coastal Seafoods in St. Paul, I was confident in liking the cioppino. I ordered my different components. The employee there was very helpful in choosing what fish would be best -- I ordered White Sea bass.

When I got home and started to prepare my meal, I became doubtful in how it would turn out. But as I started to add the seafood and wine, I began to taste the soup and started to add my own flavorings.

This is my favorite part of cooking, having a recipe to guide you but to add your own personal flavor in it. I think that this is true to all life choices and challenges.

I was originally a student at Bethel University in St. Paul, and I hated it there. I did not fit into the rich and religious mold that they were transforming the other students into.

I have a big personality and a lot to say that did not coincide with Bethel.

I started to explore my options and decided upon UW-River Falls because: A) It was a lot cheaper than Bethel and B) Since I didn't know anyone, at least I knew my younger brother Matthew who goes there.

During my first year at UWRF, I was completely turned off by my political science major. I steered myself towards journalism. After one semester of journalism classes I knew this was the career for me.

My internship with the River Falls Journal has given me a perspective on what the world of journalism is like and what I should expect. My time at the Journal will definitely be with me for the rest of my life and help me in my future job.

I would like to thank the residents of River Falls for answering my questions, letting me take their pictures and telling their stories.

I would also like to thank the employees at the Journal for teaching me and helping me become a better writer, photographer and journalist.

Remember, you have a recipe to guide you but your own flavoring is what everyone will experience.