I'm originally from Memphis, now living near DC. I was raised on an odd combination of Southern cooking and Italian food that was all low-salt and salt-substitute. For this reason, one of my biggest lessons in cooking has been learning to use salt. I have been adding new foods to my diet that I shunned or didn't have access to as a kid (cucumbers, black pepper, cottage cheese, clams and many other seafoods, for example) and learning to use a wider variety of seasonings. I'm Newlywed in January 2009, and my husband is Latino, so over the past several years I've also learned to make several Spanish foods, the most challenging of which was tres leches cake.
My favorite things to cook
I like to bake, but can't do it as often as I would like.
I like to cook foods that people are happy to see (Yay! Fried Chicken! Yay! Lasagne!) and also that they are impressed with (wow! you made crepes?!?).
My favorite family cooking traditions
Spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs on Christmas Eve. It's tradition. It's delicious. The significant amount of time it takes to cook it, even though that's mostly waiting around, forces you to stop prepping and stressing and to start Christmasing. :-) At my parents house, we could invite anyone to Christmas Eve spaghetti, just to eat and hang out. It wasn't a party; just spaghetti. This was especially great as we got older and were in college. Hometown pals could come over to catch up without it being a big deal.
My cooking triumphs
Since 2003, on Thanksgiving I have made apple pie from scratch (including the crusts) using a recipe I found online. I make two versions: one as directed and one subbing in Splenda products so our folks who can't have a lot of sugar can still enjoy. Both versions are delicious, and I'm still amazed when it turns out so spectacularly.
My cooking tragedies
Hash browns. I cannot make grated hash browns to save my life. They always turn out garbage. Even the refrigerated or frozen ones come out a disaster. We cannot figure out what I'm doing wrong!!!