Your Host

Cooking since I was 5.  Redhead since I turned 22.

It all started out innocently enough.  There I was, sitting on the kitchen counter, learning how to bake Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies from my mom … little did either of us realize that one simple act would become the birth of an obsession.  Gradually, I moved on from making cookies to helping mom make meatloaf  (let’s face it – is there a better kitchen job for a kid than to squoosh meatloaf ingredients together with their hands?  I think not!) … as I got older, that evolved into helping mom with all the baking and cooking leading up to the major holidays.  All this time spent in the kitchen went beyond just cooking – my mom taught me a love of food and how to be fearless, that, much like life, recipes are a great outline, but they’re not cast in stone, and that, yes, culinary disasters are inevitable but what can’t be salvaged usually serves as a learning opportunity.  Most of all, she taught me how to take care of people, how to make them feel welcome and special and loved.

Some 40 years later, I’m still as hooked on cooking and baking as any junky in a Quentin Tarantino movie.  I’d rather spend an afternoon wandering through Borough Market or any other good farmers’ market / butcher shop / fishmongers than through Selfridges – unless you’re talking about the Selfridges kitchen department.  I can spend days dreaming about menus for a “casual” dinner with friends.  And holiday?  Well.  That’s weeks in a blissed-out haze of planning followed by days spent covered in a fine dusting of sugar, flour and cocoa.

Clearly, I had a choice – either seek help for my obsession or start a blog and write about it.

 

Your Cohost

My mister – while I love him – isn’t allowed in the kitchen because of the wreckage he leaves behind.  I let him make tea.  Sometimes.

The Kitchen

Small.  Modest.  Petite.  Piccola.  Bijou.  Pick a word and it still won’t adequately describe my lack of work space.  Thanks to my commanding the closet under the stairs, I have a decent-sized pantry.  Thanks to my very clever husband, I also have a kitchen island for storage of pots, pans and baking bits and pieces.  However, when it comes to actual counter workspace … well, let’s just say, I usually feel like I’m trying to parallel park a school bus in a city center.  It makes for some challenging and occasionally frustrating cooking experiences, but I hope that, throughout the life of this blog, you’ll see that you don’t need an auditorium-sized kitchen (and that, if you have a choice between storage and counter-space, choose storage every time!)

The Menu

The first rule in our house is “Absolutely No Foo-Foo Food.  EVER.”  If you’re looking for dishes that are stacked, fanned, foamed, dotted, smeared or otherwise faffed-around-with, you’re in the wrong place.  I tend to agree with Julia Child when she said, “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

I am a home cook, not a chef or a caterer.  I like to make dishes that nourish, that warm, that celebrate, that just make you feel good – they may not qualify for the cover of a magazine, but they’re perfectly at home on the dinner table!

The second rule in the house is fresh food whenever possible.  In my non-scientific, totally non-medical opinion, I think that the majority of problems we have with obesity, diabetes and hypertension are directly related to the amount of processed foods we eat.  Sauce-in-a-jar, pre-cooked food-in-a-pouch, microwavable “ding dinners” – they’re all so loaded with fat, stabilizers, salts and sugars that any nutrition you may get is outweighed by the bad stuff.  Fresh vegetables.  Fresh meat.  Fresh fruit.  Things that are in season.  Spices.  Herbs.  These days, they’re all easily obtained and they’re all much better for you than anything you could buy shrink-wrapped in plastic and shelved in a cardboard box!

Having said that, what you will find here are great-tasting, uncomplicated dishes from appetizers to desserts which are usually pretty healthy (okay, so occasionally we will take a detour to Butterland and Creamville, but not too often) and they won’t require tons of equipment to reproduce.

Since I’m an American living in England, you’ll find dishes from both countries, from apple pie to cottage pie … and yes, believe it or not, England really does have some fabulous food traditions.  Because Americans measure by volume and English measure by weight, I’ll try to be as inclusive of both types of measurements when I can to accommodate folks on both sides of the pond.  If you’re confused, just remember:  when all else fails, check the temperature and measurement conversions on the site.

A la Carte

Other non-cooking items you’ll occasionally see on these pages – my ongoing experiment in gardening, bees and our dog, Suzie the Wondermutt.

I’ve come late to gardening – while I can remember tomato plants growing in our back garden once or twice when I was little, neither of my parents really took an interest in it.  This year was my 3rd summer with a veg patch in the back garden.  consequently, every year my patch is made of something I learned previously alongside something new.  Sometimes those new things work … sometimes they take on a life of their own (and I don’t mean in a good way).  This year it was a mixed result – the high points were my very successful plantings of Swiss chard and eggplants.  The low point was the Great Nasturtium Debacle (not to self:  when the packet says giant nasturtium, they really do mean GIANT nasturtium).  Next year, who knows.

The beekeeping thing has taken my friends and family by surprise.  I’ve always been fascinated by beekeeping, but thought it was out of reach for your average person.  How wrong I was!  I took my first beekeeping “practical” class back in the spring (2010) and am currently taking a theory class with plans to get my very first hive in the spring of 2011.  So, I’ll occasionally write about some of the things you can do to help support the threatened bee population, how hives work, my experiences with hive management and will be sure to include some honey-licious recipes along the way.

Last but definitely not least – Suzie is our dog.  From the hips-up, she’s a border collie.  From the hips-down, she’s a corgi.  but, from her freckled nose to her fuzzy butt, she’s a sweet, funny, hairy pile of sock-chewing love.

So.  That’s pretty much it.  I hope you like the place and come back.  Feel free to drop me a line at redskitchen@gmail.com .

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