Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking. Cooking is a constant element in my early memories. It weaves through them in a lovely, unifying way though some images are more vivid than others. I remember making mud pies with my sister on an old stump in our backyard; learning to can my grandmother's cranberry sauce recipe during Mayhaw season in Louisiana; my first attempts at removing chicken skin and being both repulsed and engrossed; discovering the simple joy of Pillsbury roll dough (in the refrigerated can that popped open at the seams), melted butter, and cinnamon sugar which made for fantastic after-school cinnamon rolls with friends. I guess what pervades all of those reminiscences is a sense of joy in experimentation. Cooking and eating throughout my life have been, by and large, laid-back, nourishing, and communal activities.
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What's your least favorite kitchen task? Deveining shrimp comes quickly to mind! Also, cleaning Silpats.
Your favorite kitchen tool? I really, really love my olive wood spoons from Italy. My sister lives in Florence, and each time we visit her, my husband and I add to our collection. I also love my Staub cocottes and usual suspects like my Microplane. I like my huge Silpat a lot too (the one you can knead on) but, as I said, I hate cleaning it.
What is your idea of comfort food? Good macaroni and cheese is hard to beat, though I rarely have it. Good pizza is pretty awesome. Gumbo never ceases to make me happy. Muffins, pie, tea, roasted veggies.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster? Recently, I came across Melissa Clark's recipe for Banana Cream Pudding with a Pistachio Crumble. I started to swoon, and immediately bought bananas so that they could begin aging to the perfect degree of brown-spotted ripe. Six egg yolks, cream, milk, bananas, hours of simmering, chilling, waiting. The pudding did not set.