I know it’s redundant, but I am an Italian foodie. My two sisters and I grew up in a thoroughly Italian household with a Sicilian mom and a Neopolitan dad—both equally good cooks. My dad and uncle owned a small Italian restaurant together, and it was the place to go for great home style Italian food, including wonderful homemade pizza. My dad has passed on; but, to this day, even if my 80-plus-year-old mom doesn’t know you’re coming, she’ll pull a 5-course meal out of the fridge in no time flat.
Since both my parents were such good cooks, I believe my sisters and I learned to cook by osmosis. It happened very naturally because I remember it was difficult to elbow our way in to get at the stove. (We were usually assigned clean-up duties.) Neither of my parents, however, were bakers; and, since I had a major sweet tooth, I jumped in at a very early age to be the family baker.
Long before America’s Test Kitchen came to be, their approach to cooking and baking was in my DNA. “Would you try 38 lemon bar recipes to find the perfect one?” Well, duh! Is there any other approach to finding the “perfect” recipe? In my obsessive pursuit of those recipes worthy to be deemed “frantastic,” I have accumulated over 300 cookbooks, not to mention thousands upon thousands of newspaper, magazine, and online recipes. Of course, there are the countless recipes from family, friends, the backs of boxes and cans—well, you get the idea!
As far as the cookbooks go, I feel if there is even just one recipe that is so fabulous it makes the regular cooking rotation then that is worth the price of the cookbook. I must admit, though, my husband Roger can’t fathom why I have three Good Housekeeping’s Illustrated Cookbooks. I told him I had to have the second one because it had been updated with microwave recipes and instructions (yes, I belong to the pre-microwave era). I didn’t even give him a reason for buying the third copy—I just snuck it onto the bookshelf. Needless to say, I am a finalist in the “She-who-dies-with-the-most-recipes-wins” contest.
When my three younger children were small, I was fortunate to be able to stay home with them through middle school. With all the college tuition looming, I went back to work full time as an administrative assistant. Quite by happenstance, I work with an R&D group for the #1 global manufacturer of flavors. This is like an alcoholic working as a bartender! I work with fellow foodies who are flavor scientists and technologists. They create flavors for food companies and are trained to perform sensory evaluations. Even as an admin, I am frequently asked to be a taste tester for one of their creations. Talk about being thrown in the briar patch! It’s fun to bring in a new baked treat for the group and get their professional opinions. In addition to answering my questions (Does it need more of this, less of that? Should I have taken it out of the oven two minutes sooner?), they rate for taste, smell, texture, and appearance. Prior to my twin daughters’ high school graduation party, I baked and cooked for weeks ahead of time trying out all manner of categories of recipes for the event. Among other things, I brought in five different olive tapenades to work one day and gave everyone an official sensory evaluation checklist to fill out. I present all this as evidence that I think Christopher Kimball was spying on me way back when!
My husband Roger is now unofficially retired and has taken on more cooking than he’s ever done in his life since I’m still working full time. The good news is that he has taken to it like a duck to water—lucky me! We have a lot of fun cooking together, and he is my able blog assistant and photographer. Food photography is new to him, but he’s willing and up to the challenge.
Although our four children aren’t always around with our oldest living in New York, his younger brother working and swing dancing his way across America, and their two younger sisters still in college, they are always happy to be my taste testers when they do show up. Nothing gives the Italian in me greater pleasure than to have them all home at once, sitting at the kitchen table and enjoying a meal together (especially when they clean up the kitchen afterward)!
After putting together a multiple volume set of notebooks comprising our family’s favorite recipes, it was a natural progression for me to join the blogosphere. I hope my recipes provide you with inspiration and that you enjoy them with your loved ones.
Buon appetito and see you online!