Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking. At first, I couldn't think of a single formative food experience. But after talking to my peers, I realize that my childhood dinner experience was incredibly valuable. Every night, my family joined to eat homemade food that consisted of a large quantity of grains and vegetables. Mom also cooked in gargantuan batches for the sake of economy and the hallowed leftovers. Emulating this style has been invaluable for my health and budget in graduate school.
Your favorite kitchen tool? Definitely my 6-inch chef knife. This particular set of Chicago Cutlery knives was given to my mom when she got married -- my first dog chewed the handles when he was a very young puppy. As a preteen, I used the smaller chef knife to learn proper knife skills. She let me take the 6-inch knife with me when I moved away a few years ago, and I was lucky enough to score the rest of the set when she bought herself a new set of knives.
What's your least favorite kitchen task? Cleaning and defrosting the freezer; I hoard every bone, vegetable peeling, leftover bit of frosting, etc. until the freezer becomes a giant frozen midden.
What is your idea of comfort food? Comfort food, for me, is an aromatic braised dish from the slow cooker. I can practically smell it waiting for me. As someone who is perhaps overly preoccupied with the availability of food (I hate being forced to buy takeout), a guaranteed wholesome dinner is pretty comforting.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster? For my awesome dissertation project, I recently went to the Isle of Rum off the coast of Scotland. While there, I lived in a bothy (traditional stone house) that had a coal-fired stove for heating, cooking, and hot water. You know how in cartoons, the stove suddenly blows open and belches loads of soot all over the person, food, plates, cupboards -- everything? I made that happen.
Meatball photo by Mark Weinberg; poached chicken photo by James Ransom; all others by Corby