Emily is my stylist, and I adore her. She’s been giving me a cut and color every few months for several years and never gives me a hard time for doing my own box color in between appointments. She’s always been very supportive of my blog, so when she told me her mother is from Germany and still cooks traditional German food, I knew I had to meet her.
I’ll just say it – I’m a terrible dough roller. Terrible. When I first learned to cook, I had visions of lining my window sills with fresh, homemade pies. My friends would visit and we’d share a cup of tea and enjoy a slice of pie. A pie utopia of sorts.
And then I tried rolling dough. My first attempt was so abysmal, I’m surprised I continued to try. The dough stuck to the rolling pin and my work surface; it got too thin in spots or gummy; or it spread and cracked at the edges.
But I soldiered on. I consulted dozens of magazines and asked my friends who cook for any insight that could improve my situation. And I tried them all. Chill the dough. Don’t handle the dough. Put the butter in the freezer first. Use Crisco. Use margarine. Use lard. Use a rolling pin with handles. Use a rolling pin without handles. Put your rolling pin in the freezer. Continue reading
Heidi is the wife of an old boss of mine. I met her a job ago, probably at a Christmas party or charity golf tournament. I liked her immediately. Not only is she tall like me, she’s very, very funny and totally committed to her family. So is her husband, Phil. They’re good people.
Like so many metro-Atlantans, Heidi’s not from these parts. She’s actually a real midwestern girl, from Michigan. Another reason to love her. As much as I get a kick out of being from New Jersey, both of my parents are from Chicago, and most of my kin are still out there. My mother’s kitchen reflected her midwestern sensibility. Lots of meat, lots of potatoes, lots of gravy. Continue reading
I met Amy Norton through a mutual friend on twitter. See if you can follow this: I featured my neighbor Tim Gaddis in a blog post about his amazing barbeque sauce (see: Barbeque & Extraordinary Moments). Tim tweeted the post, Amy follows Tim on twitter, she made his sauce, tweeted a picture of it, Tim shared this with me, and like a good blogger, I cyber-stalked her and introduced myself. When I found out she lives locally, I set up an interview with her. A modern-day, social media miracle!
Amy lives in Atlanta in a neighborhood of modest ranch homes built in the 60s. When my husband and I pulled up, the first thing I noticed was her lovely red hair that fell loosely on her shoulders. Amy is a self-proclaimed barefooted earth child – a description that fits her to a T. I was struck by the genuine warmth and hospitality she radiated during our visit. Continue reading
I met Larissa in the 90’s when we were waitresses together at a tapas restaurant in Philadelphia. We were broke and fabulous and trying to make our way in the world while serving paella to Center City regulars. Over time, things changed, and we both left the restaurant business. Larissa moved to Brooklyn, got married and had two children.
As her kids got older, Larissa started dreaming of living life on a farm. I reconnected with her on facebook around this time and was skeptical that anyone could make such a drastic life change work, but she did it! She and her family have settled into a lovely life in upstate New York and couldn’t be happier. She’s like a modern day Eva Gabor from Green Acres.
Larissa is a great writer, and she began documenting her new life in a column called Diary of a Transplant for the Upstater, an online magazine about life in upstate New York at http://www.upstater.net. I’ve read every post, and her most recent was so fantastic I had to share it. I asked her to include a recipe or two that capture her life on the farm, and she was happy to oblige. I highly recommend following her blog – she has a way of making ordinary moments pang with emotion. You’ll love it!
As a self-taught cook, I rely on cookbooks, food magazines, websites and cooking shows to teach me how to make homemade meals for my family. Over the years, I’ve found myself drawn to certain chefs for their style in the kitchen and appreciation for the role food plays in every culture. They’ve taught me not only the technical aspects of cooking, but also that cooking is an art and an expression of love for the people we cook for. I began to refer to this group as my Council of Elders.
Elders is a stretch. I may be the same age or older than a few of them. But I feel like they give me guidance. If I find myself struggling with the best way to poach a fish, or how to glaze a pork chop, I ask myself, “What would Eric Ripert do?” And voila! The answer comes to me. It’s a select group. The Council includes Eric Ripert, Ina Garden, Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Giada De Laurentiis and last but not least, Al Roker. Yes, Al Roker. His cookbook, Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue, has fantastic barbecue recipes that are crowd pleasers every time I serve them. Continue reading
My mother grew up reading the Saturday Evening Post and had very romantic notions of what travel should be. She pictured every Amtrak station to be a hive of sentimental activity, like soldiers dramatically kissing their wives when coming home on leave or neatly dressed women returning from tea in the city. My mom didn’t get to travel much as a kid, so she relied on Norman Rockwell to fill in the gaps.
Kathy Fields is my brother’s mother-in-law and one of the most generous people I know. I first met her when my family moved to Georgia nine years ago. It was Thanksgiving, and she figured (rightly so) that we didn’t know a soul down here, so she invited us to her home for turkey dinner with my brother Terry and his wife (Kathy’s daughter, Kris). We’ve been going back every year since.
Kathy is married to Tony. Several years ago, when Tony’s mother reached that inevitable age when she could no longer live on her own, Tony and Kathy invited her to live in their home. Bertha (really, could there be a more perfect name?) lived with Tony and Kathy a few years and I was lucky enough to spend some Thanksgivings with her. Continue reading
Jill Norwood is a neighbor of mine. Like most metro-Atlantans, she’s not from metro Atlanta. She is from a small farming community of about 1,200 people in Green, Iowa. Jill is every stereotype of corn-fed, midwestern good looks – tall, blond and gorgeous – and she is very proud of her Iowa roots. She has an adorable 6-year-old son named Adam, and she is raising him with the same values and traditions that shaped her family.
When Jill mentioned she and Adam celebrate May Day, I was intrigued. I grew up in New Jersey, in a neighborhood divided almost evenly between Irish/Italian Catholics and Jews. Our big holidays took up the latter half of the year, starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Christmas. By the time May 1st rolled around, we were holiday-ed out. Continue reading
I first met Dianne and Carrie when our daughters were in first grade. I was new to Marietta and adjusting to life in the suburbs. Mike and I made the schlepp from the northeast after our daughter was born to take advantage of the safe neighborhoods, great schools and summer camps without six-month waiting lists.
The biggest draw to our neighborhood was the schools. G loved her new elementary school, and so did Mike and I. The school was successful because of parents like Dianne and Carrie. Both volunteered their time and showed up for school plays and Thanksgiving lunches, often with their husbands in tow, actively supporting their daughters and showing an interest in their daily lives. We eventually ran into each other enough to make pleasant conversation, and I learned they were both wicked funny and truly wanted the most for their daughters. Continue reading