When did you first get in to cooking and do you remember the first recipe you tried?
J - I've always liked experimenting in the kitchen and my mom and grandparents kept small gardens to I grew up with real tomatoes and sweet onions, fresh figs and such. When I became vegetarian I became obsessed with salads and dressings. But first dish I mastered was probably making beanie weenies after school for my little brother.
M - I started getting into cooking when I was in college. My eldest sister was very interested in cooking, and I learned a lot from her. I was sucked in by the exploratory aspect of it - the puzzle of planning and figuring out what works together and the challenge of pulling it off for happy people. The first recipe I tried would have been cinnamon toast or oatmeal cookies that I'd make after school with my middle sister. When you're a kid and you want sweets, you have to learn to be resourceful. The first full meal I remember cooking for others was for my college roomates. I made BBQ chicken with a vinegary white sauce (like Bob Gibson's in Decatur Alabama), green beans, and mashed potatoes.
What's your kitchen like and how do you keep organized when cooking?
J - I'm fortunate to have a large kitchen with lots of counter space and open shelving. I just try to have everything cut (mise en place) and often I'll lay out dishes and bowls and put a note in them so I'll know what will be going where. Apps and snacks are put out and covered before guests arrive and I like to have a welcome drink ready to serve. The mister does the dishes.
M - This is a sore subject. I live in Brooklyn where an generous kitchen is a rare occurance - its a constant source of self-pity. I have about 30" of counter space to work with so I use every available surface - the stove top, nearby radiator, a chair pulled up... Without a lot of storage space, I keep it as organized as possible. All spices are organized on racks mounted on the inside the upper cabinet doors so they're easy to grab. All vinegars, oils, salts, and peppers are grouped together and on lazy susans inside the cabinets so I can easily see what's available without digging around behind bottles and jars. Since my limited cabinet space is taken up by dry goods and spices, all my dishes are on an open shelf across the room. This was a solution built of necessity, but I actually like being able to see them. I have a weakness for dishes.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to become a better cook?
J - I'm still learning myself, so practice. Experiment. Looking at where an ingredient comes from and the conditions there helps to pair it in unexpected ways. Like likes like.
M - practice practice practice. Go to cooking classes they're fun and social and full of great tips on technique that you don't get in most cookbooks. Follow recipes closely until you feel good enough to stray.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would you cook for them?
J - I'd want an oddball mix of characters (ain't naming names) - painters and writers, storytellers and stylists and tell them to bring a friend. Maybe a float in cinema with a wet bar or in a big barn with a table laden with farm fresh goods, a bbq out back (I don't eat meat but not going to deny other folks) and an impromptu art show featuring what guests drew on the table. We could auction pieces off for a local charity. Maybe we'll actually throw these! Let you know
M - Let's just go with an architectural dream dinner party... Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Gunnar Asplund, Le Corbusier, Sigmund Lewerentz, Luis Barragan, John Soane, and Edwin Lutyens. I'd make a tasting table with something from each of their respective countries
Do you do any other crafts and what are your hobbies?
J - I had a jewelry company, triggerhappy, for a while. I like to hit up flea markets and estate sales. I'd like to garden but seem to just grow rocks. I joined a CSA instead. I collect and am writing children's books.
M - I draw, and have all sorts of excuses to craft for larks & japes kits and events: egg dioramas, hot dog boats, tasting notes, flower arrangements, favors and more... My husband and I built a wood and canvas canoe, and were beekeeping (in Connecticut) for years until a black bear recently discovered and destroyed our last remaining hives.
Which cooking blogs do you love to read?
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
J - stay curious!