I got hooked on cooking as soon as I discovered the cookie recipe on the back of the Quaker Oats container, or was it the Betty Crocker cookbook stuffed in the back of a kitchen cabinet? By junior high I was cutting and pasting recipes from every magazine I could grab, and organizing them in a flower-power covered three-ring binder.
A subscription to Bon Appetit changed my food outlook in high school (thanks, Dad)—and it’s been homemade manicotti this and Beef Wellington that ever since, experimenting on recipes for willing and unwilling tasters (sorry, Russ). At 16, I began work as a deli girl at Reider’s Stop ‘n Shop in Ohio, and worked my way through college prepping deli trays at Christmastime. My education outside of the deli began in Chicago at Northwestern University, where I leaped at a job as Saturday chef at my sorority. Late into the night, friends taught me about exotic dishes from places like … Sheboygan … while we prepped for the next day’s brunch and dinner. Summers working at Godiva Chocolatier in Chicago’s Watertower place helped pay tuition, too, and spur my interest in other fine things.
Times and tastes have changed in the years since. But today, I’m still searching for new recipes, adding to my bulging cookbook collection, and keeping up with restaurants and food news. An editor and writer by day, off hours are spent indulging my baking habit and planning my next Chocosphere order (Vahlrona by the pound!).
My two sons have the cooking gene, too, so we spend a lot of time taking food-inspired adventures together. (Yes, taking the Metra to Chicago for a food tour of the French Market and More Cupcakes counts). I’ve dragged them to great restaurants all over the country, including farmer’s markets and crazy cupcake shops, because I hate wasting time and money on bad restaurants when you can eat well—often for less money.
My last great meal was at Topolobampo this summer. I left wondering why anyone would ever pay to eat anyplace else, ever. It was that good. But my best meal was last night, when my youngest son decided he wanted to learn how to roll a burrito. Or maybe it was the night before, when I figured out that roasting the butternut squash before adding it to the chicken chile was brilliant ….
Food should never be boring with so many new tastes to explore!