Today I interview myself. If you’d like to be interviewed, leave a comment below. Find out more at the About Me page.
- What do you remember about family meals and your mother’s cooking style when you were growing up? My mother ran a tight ship in the kitchen. One reason she had such good control is that my father only stepped inside to make himself a cup of tea when no one else was available. She trained me, the youngest, to do everything exactly as she wanted.
My mother studied food chemistry in college. She was nearly fanatical about serving food as fresh as possible, as well as avoiding energy and food waste. You would never leave food out in my house longer than you needed it, unless your goal was to avoid opening the refrigerator again in the next few minutes.
My mother became even more efficient when I was about twelve and she developed rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease affecting the joints. The treatment included frequent rest and limited movements. Her primary goal each day was to put a tasty, well-balanced meal on the table at 5:30 PM when my father returned from work, and she managed to do it. If she had to be out she recruited me. I also did the activities that were too hard for her, like vacuuming. But she usually relied on useful gadgets.
Two things about my mother were different, compared to most women I’ve known. First, she always had a practical reason for doing things in a certain way. For instance, we never stacked plates when clearing because she claimed it scratched the surface of the china. Luckily for my readers, she always explained her rationale to me. Second, she didn’t stick to a set menu like many middle-aged women, and loved trying new recipes and methods. After buying her first microwave she read whatever books she could find, experimenting until she learned the best techniques.
- How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? I’m not as extreme in terms of saving energy and avoiding waste, and my husband and children are in the kitchen frequently. Also, although my mother mainly cooked from scratch, she relied on some processed foods that I don’t buy including canned soups and Crisco. She was more focused and a better cook than I’ll ever be.
- How did you learn to cook? I read many cookbooks (see below), but my mother cooked so well using simple techniques that I never saw a need for a drastic change.
- Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? I don’t host guests as often as I once thought I would. When asked to host, I almost always agree but I initiate less frequently. Things are hectic with a large family and not everyone enjoys having guests at the family meal. I often host parties.
- What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date? I remember two events best: Before I had children, I made a weekend party for a close friend after her wedding. Around 20 people came to each meal, mainly singles and other young couples. I recall doing most of the cooking, but my memory might be faulty. The second was my son’s bar mitzvah weekend last year for 35, which I wrote about extensively on Cooking Manager.
- How has your cooking style evolved over the years? I’ve cut out a lot of processed foods, and have incorporated more vegetables into my cooking. When my children were little, I cooked simple foods for weekdays: Potatoes and cottage cheese, packaged soy patties, and an occasional noodle casserole. The first is hardly a main meal for teens, the second I don’t buy because of health and expense, and the third I still make although I try to serve less pasta. Now I bake more, use more whole wheat and grains, and make lots of healthy soups.
- Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you? I still refer to the classic Joy of Cooking, especially when trying out a new vegetable. It’s full of valuable information, even though not all the recipes suit a modern lifestyle. I prefer cookbooks that focus on techniques, like Pleasures of Your Food Processor (now called The Food Processor Bible) and the Well-Filled Microwave. I think I’ll have to do a separate post on cooking websites.
- What posts on Cooking Manager have you enjoyed? Besides the posts about my mother, I like to write about whatever will help my readers. I consider my main audience to be less experienced cooks, but I love it when an experienced cook writes in that she learned something new. And I hope to help all cooks develop a flexible strategy that will hold them in good stead throughout the years.
- What is the most unusual dish you’ve ever made? That is really tough! I don’t usually make exotic dishes. Probably the sourdough chocolate cake from Joy of Cooking.
- What is the oldest item in your kitchen? Some silver my mother received for her wedding. The newest? My loaf pans.
- What would you like to change about your cooking style in the coming year? I’d like to cook twice as fast! Seriously, except for wasting less food and energy I don’t want to change my style so much. I would like to encourage my children to try more new foods.
Please feel free to leave more questions in the comments. And all readers are welcome to be interviewed. Let me know and I’ll send you the questions.
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