Simmer Magazine, and my first step into recipe writing

My mother is the chef in my family. I have always been, most simply, an eater.

My father's recipe for Oaxacan Chiles Rellenos was posted on Simmer earlier this month.
My father’s recipe for Oaxacan Chiles Rellenos was posted on Simmer earlier this month.

I come from a long line of cooking women. My great-grandmother was an award-winning pie baker in Iowa City, Iowa, where she donated the winnings to charities each year. My grandmother’s sticky buns were world famous (or at least thought they were), dripping in homemade caramel and fluffy with – get this – instant mashed potatoes. My mother, a rebel born in the age of second-wave feminism and independence, skipped the Midwestern domestic goddess routine and tried to transform her love of the culinary arts into something new. Instead of baking, my mom worked in a fine dining restaurant on the Oregon coast, a ’60s institution, serving Manhattans and beef Wellington and Baked Alaska. She learned from the chefs there, watched their technique, and eventually moved to Eugene, Oregon, now a ’70s new-age amateur chef studying Psychology and how to throw a dinner party on a college-student’s budget.

Twenty years later, I was born. I was raised in the household of a woman who had been around the bend, never panicked in the kitchen, knew how to save any fallen souffle or breaking hollandaise. I sat in the kitchen nook and watched her, boisterously singing along to Aretha Franklin as she popped leeks in the oven, whisked sauteed shallots with heavy cream, wrangled a turkey on Thanksgiving. When I helped, I was peeling potatoes, reducing vinegar, stirring. The kitchen was her domain, and if I was going to learn, I was going to start at the bottom.

Nisreen Galloway, a talented young woman who constantly astounds me with her ambition and accomplishments, came to me after we shared an internship at NoshOn.It. She had founded a food e-magazine called Simmer, which was designed for the college foodie. It had recipes, restaurant reviews and even plain-old food porn. She asked me if I had any interest in working for Simmer over the summer and, without an internship or any particular plans, I happily agreed.

My first recipe was an ordeal. Unlike my mother, I am a wreck in the kitchen. I am frantic, ready to give up any time a sauce thickens too quickly or a piece of chicken burns. But with time, a few deep breaths and a spoonful of goat cheese, I began to slow down, let myself take notes as I doctored up soup broths and simmering liquid, captured steps with my Nikon, tasted each ingredient and remembered other moments in the kitchen, other dinner parties, other meals. Cooking family recipes feels like driving to my beach house. Each time I visit, I’m sure I’m going to get lost, but then I see a familiar street sign, the old Greenbury store, the town elementary school. All the panic goes away. My confidence climbs back into the front seat. Memories have always been the road signs, the co-pilot, the sous-chef.

I have three recipes posted on the Simmer website. All of them hold significant positions in my personal history, from beach trips with my mother to evenings cooking with my father (a rare occurrence, let me tell you). I love finding peace in the kitchen. I’m working for a catering company this summer, and I love walking into the staging area and understanding what the chefs do, watching people pair flavors and watching guests admire successful pairings. I have always loved food, will always love it, but this summer I’ve rediscovered the pleasure in creating something delicious, watching eaters instead of doing the eating.

Cold Cucumber Soup

Mexican Grilled Street Corn

Oaxacan Chiles Rellenos

Three Cheese Flatbread with Bay Shrimp

Spicy Chili-Lime Tortilla Soup with Avocado

Back to my roots: (Somewhat) recent food writing

Hello, all!

I have been an absolutely horrible blogger as of late, and my poor, neglected WordPress hasn’t been updated in months. I’d like to blame my lack of maintenance on the fact I’ve been home for the last month, where my family – I kid you not – has no working internet. None. The twitter fiend in me has been yearning for a wifi connection. I considered spending the night in my mother’s office just to be able to binge on some Twin Peaks on Netflix.

Regardless, I have continued writing, and I have a few recent stories that I have now added to my complete list of written works.

– Did anyone else go crazy over butterbeer lattes? I went crazy over butterbeer lattes. I’m one of those people who goes nuts for secret recipes, hacks and all that jazz. Sure, when I first asked for a butterbeer latte, the barista at the local Starbucks gave me a hurtful look. But the resulting recipes in my Daily Free Now blog post are worth it, in my opinion.

St. Stephen’s Church in Boston’s historic North End. (Photo by yours truly)

– I wrote a post on St. Stephen’s Church for the Boston University News Service ‘s interactive Kennedy map in November, for the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. I had a lot of fun with this piece, mainly because it gave me an excuse to get a loaf of Bricco’s ciabatta and sit in the Paul Revere Mall under falling leaves. It was a perfect Boston moment.

– After gorging myself on Italian bread and chatting with eightysomething North End residents over homemade cheese, I decided to write a quick food guide for my favorite neighborhood (So it’s touristy. So what? It’s the only place where I can get a mocha made with actual chocolate and listen to aging men scream at a television in Italian). I miss that style of writing – it made me think of my NoshOn.It days. I hope I can do some more food blogging this summer.

Hey there, beautiful.

– As we entered December and the daunting prospect of me leaving my beloved Musies became a reality (I’m moving up in the world – I’m officially the Features Editor for the Daily Free Press these days!), I decided to write a final little something about my favorite food of 2013. Nothing groundbreaking, but it was the food of my move to Boston. For me, it tastes like relief from blizzards and homesickness. I also include a few places you can find these bite-sized blessings, so my fellow Bostonians can take refuge from the absolutely crazy snow going on over there and eat something delicious.