1. Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking. So many things! My mother is a good cook and always, always had us sit down to a home cooked family meal at dinner time, even when my brothers and I were at the ages where we kicked and screamed about it. Especially important were meals at holiday times, which were the exact same every year, and we would look forward to them all year long. Every year we would also go to Norway to visit all of our family, and there we had another set of meals we would have every year, ones with special ingredients that just weren't the same in the United States; we'd have meals like shrimp evenings, "flintstone steak" (a type of marinated porkchop), and the smooth, perfect fish cakes from the fish market. Having these rituals, I think, shaped so much of my passion for cooking and eating well, and especially for sharing meals with others.
2. What's your least favorite kitchen task? I really don't enjoy picking the leaves off of and washing fresh herbs, even though it's 110% worth it every time. Also, I'm afraid of my food processor. It's a really great one, but it's so big and scary and powerful (in my opinion), that I avoid using it a lot of the time because I have these fears that it might come alive and turn on me.
3. Your favorite kitchen tool? A good sharp knife. Nothing compares.
4. What is your idea of comfort food? Norwegian meatballs and gravy. Or a really great soup with crusty homemade bread.
5. What is your greatest kitchen disaster? Well, I frequently make big messes in the kitchen. But I'd say my biggest disasters are the times I set things on fire (yes, times). The worst was when I was home from college for my youngest brother's confirmation, and I was baking the desserts for his party. I was making an apple cake, and I had put it in a springform pan that turned out to have a bad leak. The batter dripped out all over the bottom of the oven and promptly caught fire. It was an impressive conflagration, though thankfully we could contain it pretty well by keeping the oven door shut. Unfortunately, however, the entire house wound up being full of smoke minutes before guests were supposed to arrive. We threw open all the windows, and let the house fill with fresh -- but below freezing -- air. Everyone had to keep their coats on for a while, and the cake did not survive. Good thing several other desserts were already done.