California Food Summers: As a child, I spent summers at the ranch house of my grandparents (Bessie and Jim) in the grasslands of California’s Central Valley (near the little town of Snelling). Getting up at dawn was way-hard for me but the chores were actually a treat. Like, collecting fresh eggs in the hen-house, helping Grandma “put up” fresh peaches for the root cellar and helping her prep meals for the ranch hands. I also spent some summers back in my hometown of Merced with my Grandma Margaret. She was a passionate home baker and would greet the kids with a pie for each of us in our favorite flavors (mine was banana cream). I had so much fun baking cakes and pies and cookies with Grandma Margaret for her church fundraising and potluck events.
New York, New York!: During the Woodstock summer of 1969, my sister and I flew from California to reside in Greenwich Village with my mother’s dear friend, Roy Andries deGroot, and his charming wife, Kathryn Hynes. Baron deGroot was the author of a number of now-classic gastronomic books, including “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth” and “Feast For All Seasons“. My sister and I lived in Roy’s Bleeker Street apartment and typed manuscripts for Roy’s cookbooks and magazine articles on fine food and dining. We also got to walk his amazing seeing-eye dog, Ñusta, and escort Roy around Manhattan.
About a decade later, I moved to NYC and right into my very own 88th Street studio apartment, working as Roy’s Research Assistant by day (and coat-checking at night). By then, Roy was the Food & Wine Editor of Esquire Magazine so I helped him with recipe testing for his fabulous cookbooks and toured him around the city for his restaurant reviews and TV appearances. I also had the privilege of hanging out with his remarkable seeing-eye dog, Ateña. I was lucky enough to meet some of the world’s greatest chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers…and I sampled what seemed the finest meals the world had to offer. For a country girl, these experiences left an indelible mark on my world.
Solo Working Mom, Reporting for Duty!: Now, as a solo mom with 3 college kids and a busy legal career in Los Angeles, I am making my way back to my precious food memories in the late night hours (with a little help from friends and family) by authoring “Bake This Cake” and “Bake This Bread” in order to bring life to historic cake and bread recipes. Luckily, my secret pleasure is staying up late (yes, I blast the music loud)! I use recipes from my grandmothers and from my always-expanding antique cookbook collection. I test each recipe with family, friends and office workers (critically at times, I might add, with many a re-make). Course, when you start from suet and lard and move to butter and cream, you’re going to need some testing wiggle room.
Go-back history! I’ve worked hard to hone my research skills over the years (in that total research hound way) and I notice it comes in handy with the family tree, transcribing old tombstones and with these old-fashioned cake and bread recipes. I’m a proud member of the Culinary Historians of Southern California, the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, Slow Food USA, and Los Angeles Food Bloggers (LAFB). I also love hanging with writers who have a passion for bringing stories to life.
Holding the (waist) Line: When you bake a lot of cakes, you might imagine keeping fit comes up. My secret: I taste small and keep my slices thin. I studied Cecchetti ballet as a girl and somehow morphed as an adult into training in the martial arts. Actually, I spent so much time watching the martial arts classes of my kids that I practically lived at the dojo — so I decided that I might as well learn something while I was there. Nowadays I’ve retired my karate belt and take advantage of the house Wii console to let my virtual personal trainer keep me in shape. I also love fishing (lake, stream or ocean) so I do that whenever I get the (seemingly rare) opportunity — usually at our river house on the Merced River where we keep a nice little stash of canoes and fishing poles.
My goal: I consider cooking from scratch to be part of a larger and important generational craft so I’m hoping to open the window of heirloom baking by setting out carefully tested recipes from special vintage sources that are updated with straightforward instructions for the modern urban table. I’m learning ditital photography (with a starter background from my pre-law school days in film and television) so that I can share loads of photographs. I’ve met so many amazing photographers from around the web’s globe through various daily and weekly photo projects. So I’m hoping to entice you to explore history with me to create something special to serve to friends and family — just like our grandparents did back in their day.
While we all lead busy lives (oh how I know!), the gift of a vintage cake or homemade bread shows that you can carve out the time to create a gift from the heart. Brought out at the end of a fine meal, you will surely bring joy to those you love.
So — Here’s to gifts of love from the kitchen!
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- Vintage Labor Saving Cake Recipe with Broiled Icing (bakethiscake.com)
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