Creating in the kitchen and sharing that creation with those I love saves me on a daily basis. That seems like an exaggeration, but I assure you: it’s not.
First, I’m not a fantastic cook. I know I’m not. But I love it all the same. Even the goofs and gafs (ask my partner, he affectionately keeps a list) are learning experiences and an opportunity for growth.
Folks sometimes ask me when I first fell in love with cooking—and to be honest, I still don’t know for sure. If I had to pinpoint a moment or period on my own personal timeline where the passion-for-cooking-burner went aflame then I would have to say the time spent as a little girl with my mother and grandmama in the kitchen.
My grandmama (my mom’s mom) married a man from Mexico and they raised their family in Goose Creek, South Carolina. My mother grew up learning and tasting the definition of Spanish-Southern fusion cuisine. Tortillas (handmade!) served with eggs and chorizo for breakfast; roast and biscuits on Sundays; fried green tomatoes—picked from the garden—served with pimento cheese, sometimes ripe tomato with mayonnaise, sandwiches; and chicken enchiladas that could put any restaurant version to shame.
Growing up at home, my family hardly ever had take-out. My mother, God bless her, put supper on the table every single night. Even when she went back to work as my brothers and I got older, and after long days at the office she would still be sure our bellies were full.
Throughout these delicious memories was a constant approach: family-style, no-fuss meals that were meant to be passed around and shared.
My grandmama and mother weren’t huge bakers, and neither am I. However, there are those few staples that we roll out from time to time. Pies (funny story with my Mama’s Pie scent in my fall collection…), biscuits, a few cakes, and ice cream. My grandmama loved ice cream, and still to this day I haven’t had any ice cream that beats the slow churned handmade version.
If I had to identify a point in my adult life that reignited the cooking flame, it would be the year I spent living alone in a tiny studio apartment that overlooked the city of Washington, D.C. I had separated from my then-husband and those 12 months spent by myself in my city apartment were critical and deeply influential in my own journey of healing and rediscovery, and rebuilding. Every Saturday morning I rode my bike to the local market and got my items for the week—usually at least one “fancy” thing to try in a new culinary experiment of mine. If I wasn’t spending time with friends out at a gallery opening, or concert, or some sort of city-living-happening, I was in my kitchen creating. I was also a personal cook for a few families in the city, just to make ends meet, taking my love of food and sharing it with others. I hosted my fair share of gatherings in my tiny space, and it was during this time that I recalled the pure and honest joy felt from sharing love and kindness with another person through food—something first felt when watching my mother and grandmama in their kitchens.