Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking. I learned to cook and bake in between piano practices by watching and helping my mom and aunt; they were both amazing cooks and bakers and knew how to throw a party. We rarely sat down to lunch or dinner without a couple of friends or relatives joining us.
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My mom and aunt never used cookbooks—all of their recipes were their own creations or recipes passed down from family and friends. My mom’s family lived in Bucharest for 18 years, so Romanian cuisine also was always an inspiration and a strong influence in their dishes. My mom was sometimes given very large, encyclopedia-sized cookbooks as presents, but I don’t remember her or my aunt ever opening them! For me, though, these Russian cookbooks from the 1950s are treasures.
Kukla's mother's Russian cookbooks.
What's your least favorite kitchen task? Washing and drying herbs and lettuce.
Left: Kukla's mother's Dutch oven. Right: Kukla.
Your favorite kitchen tool? My mom’s old-fashioned Dutch oven, originally bought in Moldova. I still love cooking in it!
What is your idea of comfort food? Salads with everything but the kitchen sink. I also love adding crunch and texture to my salads by crumbling some chips into them.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster? I’ve been lucky not to have had any recent major kitchen disasters.
Photos of Kukla, Dutch oven, and cookbooks provided by Kukla; all others by James Ransom