Meme: The Cook Next Door

Zarah from Food and Thoughts tagged me for one of the many memes running around the food blogging world of late:  The Cook Next Door.


What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
It was 1987 and I was 6 years old and on vacation in Waupaca, Wisconsin with my family.  I slept a bit late and woke up to an empty cottage.  Our van was not in the driveway and there wasn’t a sound.  In a profoundly calm and collected manner, I recognized that I had been abandoned and that I had to fend for myself. I cried a few tears, pulled myself together, put Michael Jackson’s Bad on the tape deck, fast-forwarded to Liberian Girl, and decided the most responsible thing to do would be to eat a decent breakfast.  (I mean, I couldn’t allow myself to disregard all semblance of order simply because I was unsupervised.)  I then put some Cheerios in a bowl, topped it with milk, and in a particularly classy addition, sliced some strawberries into the cereal.  I went outside to eat on the stoop in the sun, only to find my entire family lounging out on the pier doing the same.  Embarrassed at my dramatics, I went inside washed off my tears and re-entered my childhood world.  So, it’s not really cooking, but it was the first time food registered as something important and comforting and something that I could have agency over.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
I remember baking cookies and muffins with my mother growing up and I will never forget how good my dad’s pancakes, eggs and spaghetti are, but there was never a lot of cooking occurring in our house.  Most of the things we ate were from Market Day: frozen and ready-to-pop-in-the-oven Midwestern food.

The biggest influence on my cooking was not through a person necessarily, but occurred when I stopped eating meat.  I have never liked meat, I’m somewhat hyper-tactilely sensitive and the texture has always been intolerable for me.  I tried to stop eating meat in middle school, but was forced to eat fish and chicken until the beginning of high school because my parents had no idea how to cook for a vegetarian, and frankly, neither did I.  This was before the prevalence of the obligatory portabella burger that can now be found at many restaurants in the Midwest, therefore there really weren’t that many options to be had on the occasions that we went out to eat either.  The desire to eat tasty things that were not meat or side dishes propelled my interest in cooking and baking.  So, to answer the question, I would say my parents have influenced me the most, yet through a lack of cooking.  If my parents had been vegetarian culinary wizards, who really knows if I would even care about food that much today.

Since then, my boyfriend John has taught me a lot.  His intuition is much better than mine with spice usage and some cooking technique.  I think I have learned that it is good to experiment in the kitchen, but one must also have a vague plan to make something work well. (When I first started cooking, I would often go in headfirst and come out with some pretty bizarre flavor combinations because my vision of the dish had changed substantially from the beginning to end.)  We now have a lot of friends around us who are amazing cooks and we all have strong points.  It has been fun to attempt to use the skills we all bring to the table (pun).

Do you have an old photo as evidence of an early exposure to the
culinary world and would you like to share it?

I will look for an older photo to scan while I am visiting my parents this weekend. This picture is from the birthday celebration that my grandmother and I shared this past fall. In the center is my adorable cousin Sydney.


Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that
makes your palms sweat?

Meat, since I don’t eat it and haven’t for so long, I have no idea how to make it taste good.  And honestly, it would take quite a bit to convince me to cut up raw chicken or mold bloody beef. . ick.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was
the biggest letdown?

The most valued: I had a post on this very topic a while back.  I am in absolutely in love with my flat, tough whisk.

Biggest letdown: I bought a bunch of farina rice flour a while back and have yet to touch it.  I had grand plans of baking gluten free bread in order to see how it worked and to learn more about the gluten breads I currently make.  It is still sitting on my shelf.  Confessing this is a good incentive to use it soon.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like -
and probably no one else!

I’m obsessed with nutritional yeast.  No one else I know cares for it.  I have a little bag of it at work and sometimes I will just eat it (in small quantities) from the bag. . . 

I like making savory baked goods a bit sweeter than they perhaps should be.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?
Bread. Cheese.  Avocado or good apples.

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to
answer? Well then, feel free to add one!

Three quickies:
Your favorite ice-cream?
Simple: Good vanilla or chocolate.  I also have a soft spot for green tea flavored ice cream.

You will probably never eat?
I make a point to try everything once, but I would have a hard time rationalizing my adventurousness with the horrible things I have heard about Veal or Kobe beef.

Your own signature dish?
Hrm. . I don’t think I necessarily have one.  I make quiches and savory tarts often, breads of course as well.  I guess the thing I often make in a pinch would be a red bell pepper, spinach, and goat cheese quiche.

On average, how many times a week would you cook something to satisfy your sweet tooth?
I have been slowly losing my sweet tooth in the last few years, so I don’t often create something just to satisfy it. I would instead be more likely to find some sweet thing to munch on (some chocolate, a cookie, a bit of ice cream).  I think I cook more often to satisfy my, um . . . savory tooth?

And, last but not least:
Tag three people!

Sera at Culinary School Diary

I will post the rest as people accept the tag.