Q. What do you do for a living and where are you from?
A. I am a young professional in my early thirties from the Greater Boston area. In May 2012, I graduated with a Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree with a concentration in health policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. You can learn more about my career on my professional website: www.daniellethompson.net. In June 2013, I completed a post-graduate fellowship in government relations at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I currently work on child nutrition policy for the federal government. I am also a writer and an artist. I am very involved in the community and hold leadership positions in several nonprofit organizations. Like many 20 and 30-somethings in Boston, I live with roommates and am lucky to have some nice ones who enjoy my cooking!
Q. What is your family like?
A. I’m not married and don’t have any kids yet, so my immediate family is small. My mother died from colon cancer when I was 20, leaving behind my father (Tommy), my younger brother (Gabe), and my older sister (Adrianna) who lives out in San Francisco, is married, and has a son. My extended family is quite large and mostly lives in Virginia. My mother came from a family of five and each of her siblings had children for a total of 13 first cousins! Now that my cousins are getting married and having kids, I have many “little cousins” too.
Q. How much cooking and baking experience do you have?
A. I would say that I am an intermediate level cook. I am no longer a novice, but am certainly not a professional chef and I don’t have the plethora of experience that my grandmother, mother and aunts do/had, but I consider myself to be quite competent. I started cooking in my early twenties and have really gotten into it during the past five years.
Q. How did you become interested in cooking and baking?
A. Many of my most treasured childhood memories center around food in one way or another. Whether it was sitting around the kitchen table during “Kid Friendly Dinners” or learning how to make apple pie with my grandmother, food has always been an important theme in my life.
I love cooking/baking and am fortunate to come from a family with many excellent cooks to learn from; however, as a kid, I never had much interest in cooking. I used to sit on the kitchen floor and talk to my mother while she fixed dinner, but it never occurred to me to ask her how she made anything. Cooking seemed so difficult and complicated. Something I didn’t have time to deal with. Then, when I was 20, my mother died and I had the sudden urge to reclaim my childhood recipes. I realized that if I did not learn how to cook, I would never be able to pass these recipes down to my own children someday. It was too late to get them from my mother, but fortunately, many of these recipes were from my grandmother, so I was able to salvage them from my maternal relatives. I also borrowed some recipes from my father’s sister, my Aunt Gail who self-published her own cookbook. Over time, I have developed some of my own recipes which are also included on this site.
Q. How did you develop confidence as a cook?
A. Once I started cooking, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is really quite simple. As my grandmother used to say, “If you can read, you can cook.” She was right: If you can follow written directions, you can make anything with practice. It is not that hard. My grandmother was one of the best cooks I’ve ever known, but when she got married, she didn’t even know how to boil water because her family had a maid who prepared all their meals for them. I figured if my grandmother learned how to cook without any help at all, I could certainly learn with some guidance.
I started out learning basic recipes and then moved on to more sophisticated ones. Of course I made lots of mistakes early on and I wish I had some of them on video (like in the movie Julie and Julia) so I could laugh at myself and show how far I have come! I still mess up every now and then, but not as often as I used to. I’ve finally reached the point where I feel comfortable making modifications to recipes without worrying about completely ruining them. To me, cooking is an art and I am happy to say that I now have a style I can call my own. My mother was an improvisational cook and my grandmother and aunts are more “by the book.” I am a blend of the two. I love using other people’s recipes, but also enjoy creating new ones.
Q. What cooks have influenced or taught you the most?
A. My maternal grandmother (Grandmama), my mother’s older sister (Aunt Jaymie), and my father’s older sister (Aunt Gail) have been the most influential in my culinary development. Without them, I wouldn’t know how to make most of the recipes on this site. I loved my mother’s cooking as a child, but she never actually taught me how to cook. After my mother passed, my father also taught me a fair amount about cooking. He had to re-learn how to cook as a single parent and has become a fantastic chef. Many of his recipes are included here.
Q. What are your favorite recipes?
A. Pies. I love making all kinds of pies, especially Southern varieties like key lime and sweet potato. I also eat a lot of salad. In the winter, I often make meatloaf which was my favorite food growing up.
Q. Why do you cook?
A. There are many reasons why I cook!
- Cooking is great for getting your mind off of things. For example, during my mother’s final days, her older sister, my Aunt Jaymie stayed with us for a few weeks to help out. While Mom rested, Aunt Jaymie taught me how to make Peach and Raspberry Crisp. During that time, she taught me all of the basics I know about cooking. That experience showed me that food can be a meditative strategy to deal with situations where you feel helpless and don’t know what else to do. You get the satisfaction of having a finished product that can be enjoyed by others. After all, everyone needs to eat and wants to feel cared for.
- Stress Relief
- As a graduate student, cooking became one of my favorite stress relievers. If I needed a study break, I popped some cornbread in the oven or bake a pie for a friend. Students need energy like everyone else and what better way to address that need than to make something that would give my brain fuel?
- Economic Efficiency
- You can tell I’m an academic at heart when I use terms like “economic efficiency” to describe a personal hobby. Yet, it is true- cooking can be very economical when you are on a budget and cannot afford to eat out. I love going to restaurants, being waited on, and tasting other people’s dishes for a change, but as a graduate student I needed to be more resourceful about how I spent my money. Unlike in college, I couldn’t eat all my meals at a dining hall, I didn’t have a lot of disposable cash, and if I didn’t cook for myself no one else would. (This remains true as a young professional). So, cooking is not only a hobby for me; it is an economic necessity. Pre-packaged frozen meals are expensive too and they are not nearly as healthy as a fresh salad I can throw together myself.
- A Creative Outlet
- I’m a very creative person and cooking allows me to express that side of my personality when I get tired of staring at my monitor and burying myself in books. Something as simple as decorating a cake can be done in so many different ways!
- A Way to Help and Show That You Care!
- Cooking is a wonderful way to cheer someone up and show you care about them. When my father was ill one winter I took over the planning and execution of our family holiday dinners. In my family, the holidays are a big deal and you can’t have a legitimate Thanksgiving or Christmas without plenty of homemade food. By doing most of the cooking for Thanksgiving and all of the cooking for Christmas, I helped my father enjoy the holidays (to some extent) despite his condition.
Q. Who do you cook for?
A. Anyone who will appreciate my food! Family, friends, whoever! I enjoy cooking and baking when I need to (so that I don’t starve!) and as a hobby when I have some free time. I frequently entertain and will prepare dishes for events.
Q. How important is presentation to you?
A. When I cook for myself, I don’t usually worry about presentation, but when I’m cooking for others, “looks” are equally as important to me as taste!
Q. Why did you create this site?
A. I created this site after several friends suggested that I turn my “Recipes” photo album on Facebook into a blog. I thought that made a lot of sense considering that I have enjoyed using recipes from other websites for years, so why not start my own? I also thought it would be a good way to give back to the online recipe community and to organize these recipes for myself and my family in an easily accessible format. I have enjoyed so many recipes from other sites- I feel the least I can do is share some of my own! At some point in the distant future, I would like to turn these recipes into a book to give to my children as my grandmother did for my mother. Hopefully, mine will sell!
I welcome all feedback and suggestions, so please make comments on the recipes, especially the ones I created myself!
Feel free to share my recipes, but please give credit to my site. All content here is copyrighted.