I’ve been paid to cook since I was 13. One of the families I used to babysit for hired me one summer to come on their vacation as their cook-babysitter-house cleaner. It was a busy week on the Saint Lawrence River watching four boys and making dinners for seven. At the end of the week one of the teenagers who was staying in a nearby cottage awarded me with the “Betty Burner” prize. Betty Burner was Betty Crocker’s bad cousin who couldn’t cook a whit. The award was a plastic picnic fork with the words “Betty Burner 1974″ scratched into the handle. I don’t recall actually burning anything, but chances are good I probably did something special to earn it, since most teenage sarcasm contains a grain or two of truth.
What preceded that job was a combination of the following:
- An Easy Bake Oven
- A very patient Mother who helped wash lots of dishes
- A Grandmother with a Home Economics degree from Syracuse University
- A Father willing to taste test anything and everything–including some truly awful dishes like Funistrada
- Watching Julia Child on PBS
What followed the first cooking job was more cooking – lots more cooking. Some of it was paid, some wasn’t, however ultimately I had a decent set of kitchen skills and an intuition when it came to food. By eighteen I knew I wanted to be a cook.
After college I kept on cooking and finally chose a career where the main goal was to make the food look pretty. It didn’t have to taste good or be steaming hot, but it did have to look delicious. For the last twenty-five years I’ve been working as a food stylist.
Woven in between the food styling I’ve taught cooking classes, catered, made many wedding cakes, hosted a kid’s cooking show (pre-Food Network), developed recipes and wrote articles for kid’s magazines, and tested recipes for several cookbooks. I’ve been lucky to have been able to spend much of my life around food. After all this time cooking is like breathing–its just something you do.
When I turned 50 it seemed a good time to share some of my all time favorite recipes, along with the stories about the people who gave them to me. The original idea was simple–50 recipes to celebrate the 50 years of my life. The project has grown to include some of my favorite tools, as well as a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Hope you enjoy and happy cooking!
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