What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
When I was little, my mom made fresh wholewheat bread every week. I'd always "help her" and when the dough was ready, she'd give me a small piece to make into my own loaf. Every time, I'd go hide under the kitchen table and eat half the ball of raw dough, thinking that she had no idea what i was up to. Eventually, I'd resurface with my somewhat smaller loaf shaped dough ready for baking.
Who had the most influence on your cooking?
For better or worse, eating in a co-op for three years probably had the most influence on my cooking. Negatively, in that my gut instinct is to spice dishes as if i'm cooking for 80, and positively in that it encouraged me to experiment in the kitchen. Co-op living also gave me confidence in my cooking only in that it was infinitely better than many of my peers -- but then, it's not hard to one-up pasta cooked with honey, pineapple chunks and butter beans.
Do you have an old photo as 'evidence' of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?
nowhere nearby. certainly earliest pictures are of me pigging out, not cooking. i've always been a, um, charismatic eater.
Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?
Everytime I make chicken, i'm pretty sure i'll end up killing myself and my guests by undercooking the meat.
What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest let down?
a few years ago, i realized that the only cutlery i truly need is a paring knife and a japanese chef's knife. i got a chef's knife as a graduation present this year from close family friends who almost always go out to dinner-- they were puzzled by my request, but happy to play along. also, i love my air popcorn popper more than words can ever describe. the year after college i lived with some friends in a big house in seattle and ours was not one of domestic harmony, to put it lightly. but i got the popcorn popper out of the deal and it's so awesome as to have made the entire experience worth it...almost.
my friends gave me their crockpot and i never use it. i'd like to--it's sensible AND ironic! perfect!
Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!
well, i may be the only non-australian who loves vegemite! on toast! and i do enjoy gefilte fish slathered in sweet horseradish. and chopped liver.
What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don't want to live without?
- a reuben and a latke with a chocolate phosphate from Manny's Coffeeshop in Chicago
- popcorn with olive oil, nutritional yeast and oregano (which may also belong in the above category, as well)
- raw pink lady apples. preferably eaten outside on a cold day.
(and i would like to say that limiting this question to only three items is cruel and unusual. i could go on forever.)
Your favorite ice-cream
Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy, which brought me back to ice cream after a many-year hiatus; peppermint ice cream from Homer's in Wilmette, Illinois; rainbow sherbet in a cake cone; peach ice cream with big chunks of peach
You will probably never eat...
anything with clotted blood, eyeballs, bugs, duck tongue, chicken feet. unless they're all ground up and disguised as a hot dog served with cheese fries.
Your own signature dish
i haven't made it in a while, but i do a good vegan wild mushroom risotto. which is fancy. or i think i can now claim my mother's pizza cookie, a pizza-sized sugar cookie covered with peanuts, marshmallows and chocolate chips.
A common ingredient you just can't bring yourself to stomach
nuts (except peanuts and cashews). cooked cherries. raisins in savory dishes. orange-flavored choclate. cooked carrots. butterscotch. hazelnut.
Which one culture's food would you most like to sample on its home turf?
Chinese. i'd eat dim sum until i burst.