I’m about to turn forty and I’m a stay at home mom with one daughter. I live in dead-center nowhere in the western US desert…
…one of the reasons I’m still a stay at home mom. I have a PhD in a food-related branch of anthropology that doesn’t get dusted off much these days.
I’ve studied almost every aspect of food production, from its prehistoric origins to the biology and culture of today’s GMOs.
I spent my childhood in Australia (Wollongong and Melbourne), but my family’s from the USA and we moved back here when I was ten. I lived in New York (state) for many, many years and worked a variety of jobs, including six summers of kitchen work and two years of market-gardening/small-scale farming. I met my husband in 2000 and married him in 2005. We both came into the relationship eating fish every once in a while, but otherwise enjoying a vegetarian life. He likes to eat and I love to cook. We both hate bananas, raisins, and cooked orange vegetables. A match made in heaven! Living in isolated places for the past almost-four years has changed my cooking style a lot. There’s not much room for spontaneity when the nearest proper grocery store is almost 80 miles away. In Isolationville, it was a very expensive plane ride away, but at least we had wild food sources available there!
My husband is an interpretive park ranger for the National Park Service (he’s the kind who tells you how dunes or volcanoes work or leads a hike or takes you on a tour of archaeology sites, not the kind with a gun). That’s how we end up in such out-of-the-way, but gorgeous places. We decided that a permanent federal job was a better bet for job security, health insurance, and retirement funds than a job in academia in my not-so-in-demand field.
How long have you been blogging? Do you like it? What’s your favorite post you’ve written?
I’ve been blogging for over two years now. I love it. It’s a way for me to keep my cooking interesting and challenging, and connect with other cooks because I have no neighbors here. I think my favorite post is one I never really wrote. I learned to love picking berries in Isolationville (roadless Alaska). I picked cranberries on frozen mornings because they were easier to pick when they were frozen solid.
It was honestly the closest I’ve come to a religious experience. I picked blueberries in the same field as a bear one afternoon. But recently, I noticed that I wrote one glowing post about it, but almost no pictures, and never came close to expressing how magical an experience it is.
Where do you like to vacation/go on holiday the most?
Hard question. I know some people think that there are beach people and mountain people, but I’m both and always have been. I like to see new things when I travel. I guess I prefer vacations in natural areas rather than cities, for the most part, but I do love the opportunities cities present.
What’s the best part about being a Daring Baker?
Getting out of my comfort zone. Especially with limited shopping access AND a toddler to cook for, I find it too easy to settle into six or eight dinners I know will be welcomed by the young one’s palate. With Daring Bakers and Cooks, I know I’ll be trying something new at least twice a month.
What’s your favorite cookbook for desserts/baking? What’s your favorite cookbook for savory/cooking?
I love reading cookbooks, but I’m not very good at choosing recipes from them and actually making the dishes. (Another good thing about the Daring Kitchen!) I love the Frog Commissary Cookbook and Sundays at Moosewood. I probably make more recipes from those two cookbooks than anything other than the basic bible, The Joy of Cooking.
If you could bake/cook with other Daring Bakers/Daring Cooks, who would they be and why?
Absolutely any of them! I’d learn from all of them, without question. Everyone has slightly different ways of doing things, so it’s always a learning experience to cook with other people. It would be great if you’d add that feature, though, Lis and Ivonne — randomly select ten members each month and send them to a villa on a Greek Island with a well-stocked kitchen and the recipes for that month’s challenges. I know it would raise the costs associated with running the Daring Kitchen, but think of the blog posts you’d get out of it!
What’s your favorite flower and/or plant?
I love ranunculus and daffodils. I had always (well, not really, I’m not a planned-my-wedding-since-I-was-six kind of girl) wanted ranunculus for my wedding bouquet, but then my wonderful florist told me that they’d be coming from New Zealand at that time of year, so I went with all local “flowers”. In October, that meant dried pods, grasses, seed stalks, and the cutest dried ferns ever — they dry into perfect little spheres running up the stem. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Do you have a favorite local restaurant? If so, why is it your favorite and what kind of food is served there?
Oh, yes. My favorite local restaurant is my only local restaurant. It’s about twenty miles east of us, also in the middle of nowhere. For dinner, the cook opens the door at 7. If nobody shows up by 7:15, he closes it again and walks home. Breakfast is a similar arrangement. Lunch, he’s really open. His dog joins him (not in the kitchen) and my daughter loves her. He serves excellent simple food. I pretty much always get the veggie burger with mushrooms and swiss. He makes a sauce that I’m pretty sure includes hoisin and sweet chile sauce that is just to die for, and serves all his burgers wrapped in a tortilla shaped into a cone. Great fries. Great onion rings. Super healthy food, in other words!
Who taught you how to cook and/or bake?
Mostly my mom, I guess, but a lot of self-teaching and learning on the job. I started cooking twice a week for my family when I was ten. Everyone’s a great cook, so there are high expectations. I don’t think I met them very often in those first years. But now I’m famous among my extended family for a few things: rhubarb tart, baclava (which I haven’t made in years!), fish tacos among others. I was the dessert cook for my college my first year and learned a lot about adjusting recipes for vegans, as three out of the fifty students were vegans. I also worked in camp kitchens (mostly catering to music and dance camps for adults) for many years and learned a lot during that time. I had my own camp kitchen (75 campers, 10 staff) for one summer and took a restaurant management course to prepare for that, but I haven’t been lucky enough to take any other cooking-related classes.
What’s your favorite holiday and why?
Probably Christmas, but really the week or two leading up to it, which are always full of baking and candy-making for me. My family always gives away lots of tins of goodies and I’ve continued that on my own as well. In graduate school, I let it get out of hand and brought hundreds and hundreds of cookies, truffles, and various brittles and barks to my department’s holiday party. It was a way to avoid end-of-semester work.