Congratulations to cookinginvictoria, whose Sunday Pork Ragu won this week's contest for The Recipe You Want to be Remembered For, earning her a handsome set of Le Creuset Enameled Stoneware Canisters from Williams-Sonoma, plus big prizes from Viking, OXO and Tiny Prints, and a spot in the next food52 cookbook!
Q&A with cookinginvictoria
- Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
- As a child, I realized that my family loved to cook and eat. I saw my Italian great-grandmother, my Mexican grandmother, and my Irish grandmother prepare the most elaborate, delicious meals in their kitchens and serve their food to loved ones with abundant grace and generosity. At their tables there was much love, laughter, and noisy camaraderie. For my grandmothers, and my mother as well, making food and serving it to the people they cared about was nothing less than a celebration -- a deeply, satisfying emotional experience -- and I think this is what I really responded to. From a young age, I loved being in the kitchen with these women, trying to learn their culinary secrets. They always welcomed my presence. My paternal grandma entrusted me with making her "secret" salad dressing, my maternal grandma let me help her roll out homemade tortillas, and my mom has given me many a lesson in making the perfect pie crust.
- What's your least favorite food?
- I will eat pretty much anything, but these days I have a deep aversion to heavily processed, fast food. Although I haven't eaten at McDonald's in years, I will readily admit to liking a really good burger and fries. When I lived in New York City, my husband and I loved dining alfresco at the Shake Shack. That is where my daughter first learned to love French fries!
- Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
- I've definitely had my share of kitchen mishaps. The one I remember best happened last year when I was making multiple batches of cupcakes for my daughter's fifth birthday party. I was sure that I had memorized the recipe, and so, as I began the last batch, I didn't bother to consult the ingredients list. Of course, I forgot to add the baking powder. The cupcakes emerged from the oven pretty flat, but it was after midnight, and I didn't have the energy to make another batch. Most of the kids at the birthday party only wanted to eat the icing off the cupcakes anyway, so I added lots and lots of extra layers of frosting and hoped that the cupcakes wouldn't be scrutinized too closely!
- What is your idea of comfort food?
- The foods that I grew up eating always make me feel comforted and cherished, especially pasta in any way, shape or form, my maternal grandmother's green chile, and my mother's homemade cinnamon rolls and fruit pies.
cookinginvictoria's daughter, Lucy, picking strawberries; her great-grandmother who passed down the winning Sunday Pork Ragu recipe
- Apron or no apron?
- No apron, unless I am doing something really messy, such as deep frying or making fresh marinara sauce with vine-ripened tomatoes that need peeling and seeding.
- What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
- The scene in Julie & Julia when Julia Child has just arrived in Paris, and her husband takes her out for lunch, and she tastes Sole Meuniere for the first time. The look of rapture on Meryl Streep's face is unforgettable. After that meal, she is determined to learn and master French cooking. I love that scene because it shows how food can transport us and change our lives and it illustrates how powerful and suffused with emotion a perfect meal can be.
- If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?
- There are so many chefs and food writers that I admire, but I don't think that I would feel comfortable cooking for them -- too much pressure! I would love to cook for my great-grandma. She passed away when I was a teenager, and she never really knew how much she influenced me with her food and cooking prowess. I would love to listen to her stories about growing up in Italy and learn how her recipes came to be. It would also be fun to cook for Michelle Obama and talk about school lunches, community gardens, and teaching kids healthy food habits -- all big passions of mine now.
- You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood
- In theory I like the idea of cooking with others, but in practice my kitchen is on the small side, so if there is more than one person cooking, we are constantly bumping into each other and getting into one another's way. So I tend to shoo people out of the kitchen and do the actual cooking on my own. However, my husband says that regardless of the size of our kitchen, I can be very territorial when it comes to cooking. I think there's probably some truth to that, too.
- When it comes to tidying up, you usually: a. clean as you cook, b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking, c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean.
- I find it a real challenge to clean as I cook. I admire cooks who are organized enough to do this! On occasion, I will do the dishes after I finish cooking. But more often than not my husband gets saddled with most of them and cheerfully does them without complaining. (He just read that and laughed!) Sadly, our kitchen does not have a dishwasher -- a situation we hope to remedy soon.