Q. What are your favorite things to cook?
I suppose I go through phases. I am always trying to learn how to do something new, so I will spend a month trying to get something right. Once I have it down, I usually add it to my monthly/weekly regime. Recently I added homemade bread and noodles to my Sunday “weekday” prep.
Q. How/when did you learn to cook?
I am still learning. My grandmother was a great cook, and so my mother thought she was too. (Sorry mom, but you aren’t). Mom had 9 dinners she could make without any major issues, and she would cycle through them. I will never, ever!, eat kielbasa and sauerkraut again. Heavens forbid Grandma come visit with her suitcase filled with pierogi. *Bleh*
Just recently, I ran into her Mom’s boyfriend: after asking how Mom was, he said, “Remember her Friday stir fries?” Yes, yes I do.
I guess eating the same 9 meals over and over as a kid made me determined to widen my “cooking repertoire”.
Q. Tell us about some of your cooking triumphs.
Any meal where my husband or guests say, “I am so full, but I can’t stop eating the XXXX”.
Q. What was your most memorable cooking tragedy?
There have been quite a few. The one most told was from college, when I lived with my then-friend (now husband) and his best friends. I got almost-free rent if I did all the cooking and most of the cleaning. The guys loved it, and their girlfriends loved coming over to a clean house.
One night I was making regular-old tacos, when the top came off the taco flavoring and dumped most of the bottle into the pan. It didn’t land on the meat, so I scraped it all out, and continued cooking. I finished, the boys served themselves while I cleaned the kitchen. I sat down to eat, took one bite and spit it all out. The grease had absorbed all the salt from the taco flavoring. The meat was almost gritty with salt!
I looked at my housemates who were (muscling) down their dinners.
“WHY ARE YOU EATING THIS?” I asked. “It’s TERRIBLE!”
Their reply: “We didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
I went to Taco Bell, and picked them up a bottle of Pepto.
Q. Describe your kitchen. Do you love it, hate it, and why?
I love my kitchen. We recently finished a major remodel. We tore the house down to its original 960 square feet, and then added 1700 square feet. We did all the work ourselves, so it is really satisfying, the kitchen especially. It isn’t really fancy, but it is ours. We even poured the concrete counter-tops ourselves! I went from a 30 sq-ft galley kitchen to one where grandma can run wheelchair/scooter races with the kids.
Q. Is your pantry organized and are your kitchen drawers tidy? We need to know.
No. I have toddlers. I have this beautiful new kitchen, and all the lower cupboards are empty. If they weren’t, I would spend the day picking up and re-washing cooking utensils. Everything is packed haphazardly into the upper cabinets.
It is only going to get worse before it gets better. The 2-year-old now uses his potty as a step-stool when he can’t reach something I have hidden up high.
Q. Do you have any favorite family cooking traditions?
Yes. A number of years ago on Christmas Eve, my dad started making this big pot of potato soup filled with whatever type of seafood he could get his hands on. Usually he’d make a side meal of something fishy: ie crab or lobster. It was messy, gooey, buttery, and best eaten outside. Dad liked setting whole crawdads in your bowl of soup, so they peeked out at you over the rim, daring you to eat them.
Usually, the night degraded into Dad putting crawdad head shells on his fingers and chasing my sisters (or any other little kids in attendance) through the yard.
Now that we’re older and he’s disabled, my sisters and I take turns preparing “The Great Paetow Seafood Soup”.
Q. What is the one gadget (or ten) you couldn’t do without in your kitchen?
My Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I have only had it 2 or 3 years, and I am pretty sure I have already blown out the motor. Maybe I need a new one? Electric blue, with flame decals. Yes….
Q. If you had to take one food to a deserted island, what would it be?
Mashed potatoes made with milk. I read somewhere they have all the vitamins and minerals needed for survival. I am practical like that.
Q. What is your go-to comfort food?
Starchy things. Biscuits, breads, potatoes, pasta, beans. Nap-inducing items which I can slather with cheese and butter.
Find all of Larissa’s recipes here.
Larissa blogs at The Henway.
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