I started to cook when I was nine and there was nothing "good" to eat in the house. My sister and I found a recipe in our mom's cookbook for Crazy Cake. We mixed up the batter and added raisins, nuts and chocolate chips. We baked it and I got hooked on cooking. My sister not so much. After cakes there were pancakes, cookies, cakes, pies and more. I discovered The French Chef on my local PBS station and discovered a world of cooking. French Club in high school taught me crepes, onion soup and buche de noel with meringue mushrooms and hand made sugar moss! College, travel, work, romance and love taught me to think about how I ate and cooked. I've been a waiter, caterer, baker and cook. As a magazine editor I wrote about entertaining and reviewed restaurants. These days I try to shop and cook mindfully and with attention. If I buy it I eat it before it goes bad. It took me a long time to figure that out. Once in a while I'll make a chocolate souffle and share it with a friend or two.
My favorite things to cook
I love a good pot roast or a beef stew. Roast chicken or turkey with all of the fixings are amazing. As much as I love meat I'm eating more fish and eating meat once or twice a week. More whole grains, stir fries, veggie roasts/stews and salads. Nuts and fresh fruit for dessert. Fruits baked with the smallest amount of sugar or none at all - with an oatmeal crisp topping. I always have bananas, feta cheese, garlic, onions, cilantro, oregano, lemons, olive oil and flavored vinegars nearby. Gremolata rescues weekday suppers made in a rush. You might like it, too. Look it up.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My grandfather had a small farm. All of his kids were given plots of land for houses. Our backyard was part of his orchard so apples are a regular part of my cooking and baking. I come from a deracinated Irish/Scottish cooking tradition - which means no ethnic tradition. My mother made great spaghetti and meat sauce. Roast beef and potatoes. All the veggies went from can to pot and boiled hard for about 20 minutes. Growing up on the MA shore meant we always had fresh fish and lobster. A favorite tradition was stopping at Woodman's restaurant in Essex, MA after a day on the beach for fried clams. I can still taste them.
My cooking triumphs
It's got to be that first chocolate souffle - over 20 years ago. Late on Christmas Day, a few hours after dinner and Scrabble. There were three of us. We're still friends. But we were new to being grown up then and the souffle, soft whipped cream and champagne seemed like a miracle. Food, friendship and love - all bound up in something light as air.
My cooking tragedies
There are two food related tragedies:
1. Boxes of cookies for gifts one Christmas when there was no money for gifts. I found a recipe for candied citrus peel and quadrupled it. Grapefruit, oranges, lemons - dozens of them peeled and cut and cooked in a sugar syrup that never worked. I stirred the pot until 4 in the morning. Wasted the fruit. I didn't so much deliver the boxes of cookies as throw them.
2. Visiting my parents for dinner several years after college. I lived two towns over but hadn't seen them for several months. My mother cooked my favorite roast beef and roasted potatoes. She cut her hand while carving the roast and wrapped it in a towel. Tried to hide the cut. We noticed and she had to leave to get stitches. Years later I realized that she didn't say anything because she missed me. Didn't want to make a fuss. Or stop dinner. The tragedy is how I said I loved her roast beef and potatoes. Not her. And she's gone.