I know that I can’t be the only one out there. Obsessed with food… preoccupied with my next meal. Should I make something new? Is leg of lamb on a Tuesday night too fancy? There’s always time to make another great meal. Between work, after school activities and everything else that gets in the way of life, there’s always time for you to cook. As my husband reminds me, “it’s only 6 o’clock in the morning! It’s not normal to be discussing fish tacos.” The people in my life can testify that in many ways I’m defined by my next meal.
I don’t tout myself a professional chef. Not even close. I don’t have a cookbook. I haven’t worked in the famous kitchens of Manhattan, or spent my summers in Italy learning how to make gnocchi in the old country. But I’ve spent my entire adult life working with great housewares and more importantly, I know good food. I also know that espresso is not pronounced “ex-press-o” and if you say mozzarella with an Italian accent it sounds better.
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania called New Hope, with the beautiful Delaware River running through. Food was the constant focus in our family when I was growing up. As an only child raised in a “sometimes” Jewish household, the cook was always king. I can still smell the pot roast and latkes at my Grandmother’s house. What a tortured upbringing… handed a danish, given a firm pinch on the cheek and as if I wasn’t sitting in the same room, my Grandmother would whisper, “I think she’s getting chubby.” Now if you ask me, pushing hamantashen on a chubby little girl and then reminding her to lose weight was a recipe for disaster. But happily, we all thinned out in the end and thankfully the cookies kept coming.
Weekends included my parents hosting dinner parties for their friends… all the time. My mother always did all the cooking herself. Her copy of Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was worn out 20 years ago. By the age of 5, I already formed my love of brie and had been known to secretly scarf down most of a wheel before company even arrived. This love of cheese and butter must have contributed to my overweight adolescence. Mushrooms stuffed with herbs and cheeses, piping hot homemade French bread straight from the oven and cheesecake a mile high – the list of food memories just goes on forever. It’s a wonder that I can retain any new information – my head is crammed with 80’s song lyrics and sumptuous details of every meal I’ve ever eaten.
Soon after graduating college with a degree in Criminal Justice, I followed my true love and became a store manager at Williams-Sonoma. Who knew that heaven offered a full assortment of professional cookware and gourmet foods! It fed my obsession and I got paid for it! Fantastic! I loved how the copper cookware shined on the shelves with their handles perfectly aligned like little soldiers. Maple salad bowls carved from a single piece of wood and perfectly balanced professional cutlery – beautiful! I found out a few years later that heaven had another retail store called Bed Bath & Beyond… bigger, better and more amazing. Working 13 years at BBB and ultimately becoming the VP of Customer Service, I then found myself at home, the opportunity of a lifetime. You can understand that after spending about half of my life working with the best kitchenwares, my obession is now more like an addiction.
My house has the best fed family for certain. My passion for a great meal and a great frypan has led me to this blog. Because I feel so strongly that more families need to eat together. Good, healthy, flavorful, fresh food. Let’s all step away from the frozen pizzas and processed snacks. Fast food restaurants and soda; we all know by this point it’s making our kids obese and killing our society. I’m not saying to completely give up Cheez-its, that would just be wrong. But you can find time to cook your family a healthy meal that even the kids will enjoy, without the use of your microwave. Sitting down together at the end of the day to talk and eat dinner is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Making it happen every day is unrealistic for most of us, but committing to even a couple days a week is a great start.
Simple recipes that are “full on flavor” and short on unyielding directions are the key. Full flavor doesn’t always mean full fat. I’m a firm believer in healthy cooking, but not at the expense of taste. That means where you can use a healthy substitution, go for it! But don’t even think about baking your Chicken Milanese… no way! Just remember this rule of thumb, don’t sacrifice the fat if it will compromise the flavor. Or as Julia Child once said, “if you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
In my effort to convince you to cook more, we need to get down to the basics. Let’s start with building the perfect non-professional kitchen – your kitchen… so you’re ready to tackle any recipe. There are so many cooks’ tools available, its mind-boggling. There’s a gadget for everything. For example, did you know there’s a huge hypodermic needle to make your chickens more flavorful and a widget to pit your olives? A thing that peels your garlic and a special mango pitter. But do you really need all of them? Hundreds of kitchen tools that claim to be the solution to all your cooking dilemmas. I’ve created a cooks’ tools checklist in the Kitchen Primer portion of this blog. It organizes the great tools that really do deserve a place in your kitchen. In addition there, you’ll find lots of information and guidance to select great cookware, cutlery and appliances for your cooking pleasure. My hope is you will be able to use this blog as a reference to outfit your kitchen.
Although the housewares market continues to push out new products each year, you’ll notice that I prefer the more traditional wares. If you spend anytime watching the TV chefs, you’ll notice that most professional chefs also turn to the professional quality basics and not the fly by night gadgets and appliances that take up space in your kitchen. If you find your counters filled with all that “as seen on TV” garbage you might want to consider some spring cleaning and a trip to a respectable housewares store. Don’t get me wrong, the Snuggie and the George Foreman grill have their place – but try not to fall into the infomercial trap when it comes to your kitchen.
Lots of great recipes and ideas that use the freshest ingredients – no processed foods here. Fresh ingredients are the most important part of the meal. All too often people today are reaching for processed foods, thinking that it’s a faster way to put dinner on the table. It’s really not true and not necessary. It’s as easy and affordable to use fresh ingredients, and it’s so much healthier for you and your family. And as for taste, seriously nothing can compare. Possibly I might inspire you to stop spending time in your grocers frozen food department and spend a little more time in produce and with your butcher. Better yet, visit your local farm stands… I promise it won’t be overwhelming or take too much extra time from your hectic schedule.
After much soul-searching I’ve created this blog with hopes that someone out there will read it… and find some helpful information that inspires them in their kitchen. If not inspiration, I know you will love to see the periodic photos of our beloved Sophie Bubbles. Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who none of us in our family could live without.