Cooking is life. Well, at least my life. As a child growing up in Florida and Puerto Rico, I experienced huge differences in our kitchens. In Florida, not only did my mother not know HOW to cook, she just about didn’t cook! When I would play at friends’ houses, I KNEW there was something different. They had things like butter. I was in fifth grade when I first tasted strawberry jam at my next door neighbor’s house. Never ours. Then off we’d jet to Puerto Rico where I would be surrounded by the smells and sounds of women who truly knew what to do with guavas, a freshly slaughtered goat or the blood of a pig. I wanted to cook but I didn’t know how. So I would watch. A lot.
I went to college and found me a Southern boy with a SOUTHERN MAMA. Boy, did I start watching! She put the “Angel” in Angel Biscuits, not even needing to measure! Baking and not measuring! But I had figured out how to roast beef…dark, dark, dark on the outside and rare and tender on the inside. She didn’t know how to work THAT magic. Did I mention she was mean as a snake? Well, she was. Meantime, I learned about buttermilk, collards and bream fried in cornmeal (LOVE cornmeal!) I stayed in Georgia working for a major airline even AFTER he dumped me. And I kept watching. At parties. In cafeterias. I DO think about that boy every once in a long while. He was VERY cute.
Anyway, fast forward to my late 20’s, back in Fort Lauderdale, and I fall in love and marry a Greek man! The first time we went to Greece my head was spinning! I could just walk right into a restaurant kitchen and talk to the chefs about “what’s that?” and “wait, wait! HOW did you do that?!” So many different vegetables, cheeses, fish and breads! It was fabulous! And what they can do with desserts is simply a Christmas miracle!! Every time we go I learn on the level of Epiphanies.
So, that’s my story. Really condensed. And after all these years of family birthdays, cookouts, barbecues, Sunday dinners and holidays I want my family, my boy, my nieces and my friends to have these recipes. I want them to know THIS is what it’s all about. And it’s really easy. The essential ingredient? Time. That’s all. Just take your time.