Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
When I was growing up, we always had some kind of homemade baked good on hand – coffee cake and hermits were big – which I completely took for granted. I preferred the Hohos/Twinkies/SuzyQs that most of my classmates had in their lunches. (It may have something to do with my mom constantly reminding us that she “didn’t believe in junk food.”) So I regularly swapped my homey wax paper-wrapped treats for whatever the other kids were peddling. It eventually dawned on me why my mom’s cakes, etc. were such a hot commodity and by then it didn’t take me long to get the baking bug myself.
What's your least favorite food?
Calves’ liver is right up there.
What is the best thing you've made so far this year?
This is really simple but I was lucky enough to find troves of fiddleheads and ramps when I was in northern Vermont last month. I sautéed them together in brown butter and wow, they tasted so bright and earthy, like spring itself.
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
There are many, but my first big snafu was my attempt to make Thanksgiving dinner for a boyfriend in college when the extent of my cooking repertoire was gussying up instant ramen noodles. I must’ve called home a dozen times and my family still makes fun of me for asking which end of the turkey to stuff. In the end, nothing really turned out right. You could stand up a spoon in the gravy.
What is your idea of comfort food?
Pho always cheers me up.
Apron or no apron?
I love the idea of aprons but I usually forget to wear one.
What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
Remember in Moonstruck when Cher’s mom (Olympia Dukakis) makes her an egg-in-the-hole? I love that. There’s nothing like having your mom make you breakfast no matter how old you are.
If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?
My grandfather, who emigrated from Italy when he was a kid, passed his enthusiasm for food down to my mom and her siblings. He died before I was born so we’d have a lot of catching up to do.
You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood
I like company when I cook, but baking is more solitary.
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’m a journalist who’s covered everything from illegal logging in Central America to merit pay for teachers, but these days I write mostly about travel. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in some far-flung locales, where poking around markets and grocery stores is my favorite thing to do. Cooking, especially baking, is my way of winding down after a long day; there’s nothing like kneading bread dough to bring you back to earth.