I am a southern gal with roots in middle TN and southern MS. I have a M.S. in Criminal Justice but due to spinal issues since birth and the resulting 16 surgeries, I was forced to leave work in 2007. Since having to stay home I developed a newfound passion for cooking. When I discovered I was actually a good cook, I became very enthused about learning as much as I could and have since won several recipe/cooking contests and have become the go-to gal in my family. I fostered this new role by making it a mission to keep as many of my family recipes alive as possible. Family reunions used to be full of food cooked with love but as the older cooks passed it was replaced with fast food with no soul. I was determined to bring back the old ways and have been working on a family cookbook for the past few years creating my own new recipes along the way. I am loving this new cook's life and enjoy seeing the tables once again full of heart and soul filled dishes nourishing the new generations!
My favorite things to cook
Old family favorites with new spins, traditional southern food, Cajun cuisine such as true New Orleans gumbo, favorites made new with international touches, fusion dishes, true Asian cuisine, breads of all kinds, casseroles with newer profiles, creating spice blends, using unexpected spices/herbs in dishes to give them new life, traditional holiday foods, cakes of all kinds, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Latin cuisines. I haven't developed a huge desire to do a lot of French or British cuisine YET, I am currently researching and trying Irish cooking since I am mostly of Irish heritage and have recently become interested in Native American foods since I just learned that my great grandfather on my Mom's side was full-blooded Cherokee. So far I have loved corn pudding and fry-bread!
My favorite family cooking traditions
One of our main traditions has been what I term "survival cooking", techniques that have been passed down using ingredients that a lot of people would normally throw away to create delicious and nutritious dishes. There have been lots of times when our family had to make do without much money for food so nothing was thrown away if it could be used. Even though we have the money now for whatever I usually need, I still enjoy being able to create great dishes on a minimal grocery budget! Also, from my mother's side we are very proud of our traditional Cajun cooking such as our gumbo recipe that has been passed down for five generations! On my father's side, we enjoy good ole southern soul food such as turnip greens, white beans, fried chicken, ramps with creesy although I personally hate creesy. We love to pile up a big table full of all the old favorites on a Sunday after church and have the whole family come and go all afternoon just eating plateful after plateful until it's gone!
My cooking triumphs
Finally perfecting the darn brown roux that makes my gumbo an award winning dish. Figuring out a recipe my mom made me every Christmas that I loved but she never wrote down...four years after her death I finally got it right! Having my husband not only love a dish that he grew up hating but asking me over and over to make it again and saying he never liked it until I cooked it my way...like corned beef/potato hash that he had only ate from a can before. My biggest triumph, I feel guilty admitting though, is watching my husband just pick at the first Thanksgiving meal at his mother's after we were married and having him tell me later it's because she "just can't cook like you. She doesn't use spices and stuff like you so it's bland. It's not bad, it's just boring and I like your cooking a lot more." Having my girl come home from Christmas dinner at her boyfriend's, still hungry, saying they didn't have good stuff like I cook. It was boring like green beans straight from the can.
My cooking tragedies
Cooking the perfect roux and turning my back on it for a few seconds thus letting it cross that very fine line from beautiful to burnt. Cooking a huge batch of my famous brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving with a head cold so I couldn't smell anything and discovering that the pancetta had turned...at least it was before anyone else ate any. Creating a great dish for a family dinner and giving that recipe to a family member only to have her give it to a local restaurant who turned it into a signature dish...and I can't even get a table there much less any acknowledgement! Another of the worst tragedies of all was after working on gathering recipes from passed family members handwritten collections for over a year, having those treasures go up in flames in a fire. I had them on a flash drive of course but all of the notes and recipes in their own handwriting was lost. But worst of all? Having a daughter who has no interest whatsoever of learning to cook anything or in learning old ways.