It is no secret that I love food. Just bounce over to my Insta, Facebook, or Twitter accounts, and you will see that the social media pages which were created in order to drum up support for my books in fact contain far more pictures of food than just about anything else. Though not a conscious plan, I think that my purpose behind this is two-fold: not only is food necessary for our physical survival, but it is also pertinent to our social well-being and is a universal part of our collective human experience. Indeed, we use breaking bread as a way to share traditions, negotiate accords, celebrate, and mourn. It is a common and relatively easy way to show that we care for others when they are ill, hurt, or recovering.
Food has had a special meaning in my life for as long as I can remember. My dad’s mother, from Sweden, made the most amazing meals, and I fondly recall being in her kitchen while she cooked up yet another amazing Swedish dish. Her Mjuk Pepparkaka, or gingerbread cake, was to die for. I always got excited when I saw that big iron frying pan out on the counter with the circle of parchment paper on the bottom. She also made many other delicacies, from her hand-rolled Köttbullar (Which ironically were fried in that same huge iron frying pan. I remember my grandma had some serious guns from shaking that thing back and forth over the stove over the course of many, many years to ensure even browning on all that meaty goodness), to her méringue cookies- delicate and crispy on the outside, while somehow still chewy on the inside. I learned early to appreciate good food in large part thanks to her.
Ironically, I don’t remember my farmor (father’s mother) making many American dishes, though I am sure she must have. Instead, what has stood the test of time and fading memories of my youth is her finesse with Swedish cooking. She grew up on a farm in Northern Sweden, and always appreciated the “farm to table” mentality that is popular now. In my home town, we had a local farmer’s growing stand, and I remember wandering through there, helping her pick out the fresh options. She always prepared healthy and balanced meals, and she was “crunchy” before being “crunchy” was really a mainstream thing. Even with all her talent to replicate Swedish staples made with American ingredients, however, she sometimes still had to settle; I fondly recall how she so missed her beloved lingon and Filmjölk so much that she made do by trying replicated it with canned cranberries and buttermilk from the local dairy farm.
Farmor made sure that her two sons knew how to cook, so my dad entered into marriage with my mother with an already-established love and appreciation for both good food and cooking. My mom in her own right had learned to be a very good cook, as well. Due to family circumstances, she had been cooking full family meals from the time she was about twelve, when her own mother had re-entered the workforce. Together, my parents only expanded on their appreciation for food. My mom often told me growing up about how when they were poor newlyweds, they would save their pennies for a special occasion and go out to eat at a restaurant. They would then come home and write down everything they remembered about each dish in order to recreate it at a later date.
Therefore, I grew up in a house where both my parents had adventuresome palates and a love of good food: any food. Growing up in my rural Nevada town, we had cuisine from every corner of the world. The continuation of the tradition established early in their marriage lived on: if my parents ate something and loved it, they would later make it at home. As a result, it was not out of the question that our weekly fare would span the globe, from variations of egg foo young to chicken cacciatori, with a stop midway in Cajun country for some gumbo, then a take on spicy and fresh Mexican albondigas soup, before ending with a mean Indian-inspired vegetarian curry.
So, it is really no surprise at all that I have inherited an enormous affinity for food. I, too, have almost perfected the art of deconstructing a dish in order to recreate it in my own kitchen. A first, this became a habit of mine for much of the same reason it had been one for my parents: it was about wanting delicious food on a college student budget. I knew that with a little effort, I could conceivably make whatever we would get at a restaurant for a fraction of the cost. Then, it became a source of pride to be able to make many varied and delicious dishes from around the world. Eventually, as I began to no longer tolerate cows’ milk and eventually wheat, and having four children with their own various issues with different foods, it became the only way I could still eat what we liked in a way that wouldn’t make anyone sick. Now that we have both milk and wheat intolerances in our family, making our food at home myself is about the only way I can truly guarantee what goes into and may come in contact with it. From dairy-free Hollandaise sauce to gluten- and dairy-free copycat Goddess Dressing, gluten- and dairy-free Chicken Cordon-Bleu, apple fritters, and birthday cake, reinventing recipes and trying endless substitutions is now my norm.
When I posted pictures of my pretty ugly, yet deliciously satisfying gluten- and dairy-free apple fritters to my various social media accounts last night, I wrote that Kat, from A Good Kind of Crazy, would be proud. I think she would be, too. Just like when she patiently taught Ian how to make Greens, or bake biscuits, I think she would have been thrilled to know that I share her passion for making delicious and interesting foods for others to enjoy.
I guess it was no accident that I made Kat into a caterer when I wrote A Good Kind of Crazy, rather than the millions of other jobs that she could have done while on location of a TV film set. While not a conscious decision, it is a pretty striking example of the old adage that most authors write what they know.
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