Sunday, October 18, 2009

With Husbands, Keep it Simple

The cooking classes have been a great reminder that what I take for granted in terms of knowledge or understanding may be very foreign or new to others. Of course, we all start at the same place - the beginning. Since, I'm not a trained, professional chef, I am continually learning. In fact, I have been reading so much about leafy greens and root vegetables that my head is about to explode.

I enjoy cooking with fresh herbs of all kinds, and thanks to a coop near my home, I am able to purchase fresh, organic herbs nearly all year round. As I've written about before, I have a love of basil. I use it in so many dishes from pasta sauces to quinoa to winter stews.

My husband was visiting his parents, and his mother asked him to go out and cut some basil for crostini she was making. My mother in law grows her herbs in pots. So, he did as he was asked. He handed the leaves to her, and she looked at them knowing something wasn't quite right. I don't have all the details, but ultimately, she realized that he had cut the "fake" leaves, either plastic or silk, from the artificial plant on the porch. He never went outside - he took the path of least resistance, and descended upon the nearest plant.

He and his mother started laughing, and they were still laughing when he called me to tell me about it. He admitted that he wondered about the look and feel of the leaves when he looked at the stems, and there was no soil. The stems seemed to go into nothingness. Hmm, that would be the first clue...

We have basil in our outside garden, and in a pot in our kitchen. My husband knows what basil looks like. I frequently have him go into the garden to get me parsley, rosemary, basil. This humorous story got me to thinking about the students in my cooking classes and about the cook book. When I think I'm giving too much detail, I step back, consider if it will only overwhelm, or if it's crucial to the success of the dish, and then generally give the information. I've learned that we can't assume someone else knows the ins and outs of working with various ingredients or kitchen tools. There is so much to learn!

As I add my personal touch to my family's recipes, I will keep this story in mind, and be sure to fill in as many gaps as possible. In the meantime, please don't eat plastic or silk basil - the flavor is really lacking. Fresh is best.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Well, the cooking classes are a hit, and I'm thrilled! So much fun, and a wonderful group of people. We finished the evening by sitting at the dining room table and enjoying all the various dishes. On the way to the table, one of the students looked a bit uncomfortable. I asked her about it, and she said, "I'm not used to having someone cook for me. I'm not used to being served." I encouraged her to enjoy and receive. Later, her reaction got me thinking.

I introduced them to my philosophy of cooking, and one of the tenets is to cook for others as often as possible. For some women, cooking for others is a daily event, but typically day to day meals involve hurrying to get everyone fed before another school or community activity. We can still cook for others with short amounts of time but make it a meaningful experience for everyone. The best way I have found to elevate meal time is to pay attention to the details and cook consciously. Many times, preparing meals ahead of time, like on a weekend day, when the entire family can participate is a great way to get everyone together and have food for the week.

Again, my mom reminded me of her family's yearly ritual of canning tomatoes. 365 jars would be canned and shelved for use throughout the year. Tomatoes grown in the garden, free of pesticides and chemicals, grown in fertile soil. My great grandmother and my grandfather would do the canning with help from various other family members. They canned out of necessity, but when unexpected guests arrived or fresh tomatoes were unavailable, my grandmothers would go downstairs and get what they needed. They frequently shared what they had with others and the food they served was vibrant.

I am pleased to serve my guests, especially when I know they aren't typically the ones on the receiving end of things. Serving others is an honor, and what a grand way to do it than with a meal cooked with love.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


My cooking classes are about to begin. I'm looking forward to sharing my love of good vegetarian food. Preparing for the classes meant combing through dozens of recipes and writing down my own. What would we do without the cookbooks? We're so accustomed to having a reference for every kind of food and dish imaginable. I know it wasn't always that way, of course. My mom has a couple of old cookbooks written in Italian. They date back to the early 20th century. My grandmother and great grandmother would consult them every now and then. While recipes and cookbooks are not created equal, there's something about a drawing or picture and a list of ingredients that's exciting. I think it's the anticipation of what might be when everything comes together. There is an alchemy to the whole thing that I find fascinating.

Last night I just finished Julia Child's book, My Life in France. It's a marvelous book, full of great stories and humor. When I turned the last page, however, I was filled with melancholy. She had such a vibrant life, filled with many joys and sorrows. I can't put my finger on the sadness I was feeling, and there are remnants of it still today. Perhaps I'm thinking of my ancestors and their love for life. They, too, brought friends and family together with great meals. I didn't know my grandmother, she died when I was a baby - maybe I'm missing that connection...

I understand the need to have time honored recipes written so that future generations have access to the traditions and wisdom of another time. Preserving the recipes helps my soul stay connected to something larger than myself - my human family on Earth, and helps give meaning to my life.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Been waiting to see the final version on the front cover, and it arrived today. The colors are so vibrant, and while I haven't revealed the design, the cover is earthy and welcoming.

An inspiration came to me the other day on how to effectively and seamlessly incorporate the 4th female voice in the book - mine. Since becoming a vegetarian, I am always substituting ingredients in order to accomodate my lifestyle and tastebuds. Honestly, flavor and taste are never sacrificed, and I'm so thankful for that. So, the book will include the traditional recipes and the vegetarian version, and that is very exciting to me. Writing, writing, and more writing.

My vegetarian cooking classes are beginning soon, and so it is going to be head-down through October, but I'll update as I can. Teaching others always reveals insights and offers more inspiration, so I'm sure you'll be hearing from me soon.