Women Who Ignited My Cooking Passion

My Personal Journey as a Foodie

Preparing and sharing food has been part of my life since I was old enough to pull up a chair to the stove. My mom dedicated her life to making home cooked meals, primarily consisting of foods she nurtured from seedlings in her garden.

Every Sunday, we gathered at my aunt’s house after church and indulged in a meal fit for a king. Mom would bring a fresh garden salad or side dish and my aunt prepared everything else.

Laughter filled the air as the women lovingly tended to each dish while the men watched TV in the living room. I grew up with the philosophy that food nurtures the soul and bonds families together.

My fondest childhood memories stem from helping the grown-ups prepare meals and sitting at the kitchen table next to my mom watching Julia Child’s cooking show, The French Chef. Mom and I used to dream about traveling to France and spending our entire vacation eating chocolate Éclairs and beignets. We’d giggle in anticipation as we toasted our pretend champagne flutes to the words of Bon Appétit!

If memory serves me correct, it was during an episode of The French Chef that I saw a commercial for the Easy Bake Oven. I dreamed about all the food I could bake if I owned one. I begged and pleaded with mom for months, but her answer was always the same, “It’s not in the budget right now.” Little did I know, mom was saving her pennies so Santa would have enough money to bring one to our house on Christmas Eve.

To this day, I vividly remember the excitement of tearing off the sparkly red gift wrap that covered my very own Easy Bake Oven. My dad could not assemble it fast enough and my giddiness nearly overwhelmed him. I spent the rest of the day baking my heart out and presenting little cakes to my family.

I never tired of baking in my compact oven. I’d run home after school, finish my homework, and commence with cake baking. I made so many cakes that I started taking them to school and selling to my friends for a nickel. By third grade, I was known as the Cake Baker because everyone in school, including teachers, staff, and the Principal, had been presented with my mini cakes and cookies.

After burning up three Easy Bake Ovens due to excessive use, mom said “no more.” However, to ease my cake baking withdrawal she allowed me to start baking cakes in the real oven. By age 10, I had mastered many of Julia’s cake recipes including the infamous ‘Queen of Sheeba’ cake. To this day it is my favorite.

Most of my career has been spent in the food industry. At 14, I worked the serving line at MCL Cafeteria. In my 20s, I worked as a cocktail waitress and bartender. My 30s were devoted to preparing vegetarian dishes at a popular health food store, along with a short stint as a Sous Chef at a private Country Club.

Sadly, the antics of the Executive Chef drove me out of the food industry. He ruled with an iron fist and nothing was ever good enough for him. When I left that job I vowed my cooking days were over and I would never work in a restaurant again.

At the time, I was furious that one person was capable of driving me away from the work I loved. But, as they say, everything happens for a reason. After walking away, I started a gift basket business offering gourmet foods. Unfortunately, that business never took off, but led me to open a catering business.

The best thing about being a caterer is everyone loves you, as long as you prepare great food. The worst thing about catering is it is back-breaking work. My catering jobs focused primarily on motorsports teams. Most of the time I worked outside with limited access to cooking equipment. After a few years, I began experiencing health problems and no longer possessed the physical endurance required.

Around the time I had to throw in my chef’s hat, blogging was emerging. I created a food blog to share recipes acquired over the years with friends and family. My blog posts (on topics as varied as waffle makers and electric knives) captured the attention of food manufacturers and distributors of cookware and cooking gadgets. Today, I spend my time sharing my love of food from the comfort of an overstuffed chair in an office decorated with food art.

Although mom and I never made our trip to France before she passed away, I was blessed to inherit everything in her kitchen including her dining room table. Today, we carry on the tradition of sitting down to share an evening meal at the very table where my love of cooking began.

Mom had a cake pan she used when baking cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, job promotions, births, and death. During her funeral service the doctor she worked for presented the eulogy.

He talked about the cake pan and recalled a time when mom baked him a birthday cake. He noticed the bottom of the pan was covered in marks from the numerous times a knife had been inserted. During the eulogy, he referred to it as “the pan of a million marks.”