I started cooking in the early ’80s in a rural Illinois river town. Nauvoo is nestled in the bend of the Mississippi River, where three states butt together. Back then, we were isolated from big-city fancy food and pursuits, but thanks to Iowa Public Television, I knew I loved cooking.
Every weekend, on the local PBS, the only channel I could tune to on our meager antenna, I’d watch “Great Chefs.” This low budget, single-camera show was a series of cooking demonstrations by hotel chefs in various big cities. I was obsessed. I soaked up all the techniques and jargon and found myself emulating my own cooking show when cooking for my family.
One Easter, I decided I wanted to make crepes, a dish I’d seen demonstrated on “Great Chefs.” Easter was a busy day for my family. The Luther League sponsored a fundraising breakfast, and not only did I have to bake sweet bread beforehand, but I also had to help cook and serve food after the Easter sunrise service. Still, I was steadfast. I found a basic crepe recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and set to work, determined to be successful. I made the crepes and concocted a rum raisin sauce with no recipe from scratch. I knew that flavor profile was a thing because my mom sometimes had rum raisin ice cream at Baskin Robbins when we lived in Iowa City. To this day, Mom says she had to dial back her anger because, to her surprise, it was delicious. It was magical.
The Easter morning crepe breakfast was the first time I realized I could make people happy with food, and It was the first time I translated the knowledge I was getting from the TV to the plate.
Mom always encouraged my interest. In the ’90s, when I was living in a studio apartment in Minneapolis, she enrolled me in one those 20th century fashionable Book of the Month clubs, but for cookbooks. Chief among my first delivery were a few Frugal Gourmet books, another PBS favorite. Sadly, I donated those books amidst his cancel moment, and will always regret it. Hot pan. Cold oil. Food won’t stick. Never give away a cookbook.
The cookbook club and employment with a book store subsidiary meant I had a lot of recipe interest and a 40% discount at my disposal, so the cookbook collection began. Meager at first, it’s grown, despite some Sophie’s Choice culling to close to 400 volumes. I tend to read them to learn more than cook recipes.
Since moving into our house over 15 years ago, I’ve had regular dinner parties. For the last several years, I’ve hosted a holiday open house with a full spread of appetizers displayed across my kitchen island. I agonize for months over the menu, looking for the perfect mix of old favorites and new nibbles. Last year I made a Milk Bar Cake Truffle Croque-en-Bouche. I’m pretty proud of that.
So why Savory, Sweet & Sly? This blog is a way for me to share recipes with friends and family and let people see the great joy I feel when making people happy through cooking. You won’t find long rambling posts about my last trip to the Maine shore to spend a week on a lobster boat, or whatever people write in posts that take 2,000 words before you get to a recipe. It’s going to be a glimpse into what I’ve got going on in my kitchen. I hope I have fun writing recipes. I hope you enjoy reading it and trying a few things yourself.