My Story

I've always loved being in the kitchen. Isn't that the gathering place at parties and get togethers! That's where the action is, where delicious smells come from, and where I go to create some really great stuff! My Grandma was my inspiration. She lived her life in Baltimore and she was ALWAYS in the kitchen (or down at the VFW for a crab feast and beer) but Alice created so many wonderful meals for our family. I remember there was always soup before the meal, usually a steaming bowl of crab soup with a rich tomato broth and lots of vegetables. Her crab cakes were incredible, a recipe I use today, and undeniably the best. I would challenge ANY other crab cake recipe to match my Grandma Alice's. The first meal I made for my mom was macaroni and cheese from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook back when I was about 7 years old. I was very proud of it, and it was really good..a creamy white sauce combined with good old cheddar and shells sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs..yum. So off I went through life, cooking and baking, and came to realize that baking was the shizzy. I loved finding a great recipe and making it even better. Funny my kids didn't like sweets much, so I showered friends and neighbors with treats. Later down the road, when some real decisions needed to be made, I decided to attend the baking and pastry arts program at The California Culinary Academy. I was 47 years old and had no idea what I was in for (another blog). So I mastered the art of baking thanks to a dedicated and talented team of instructors. I did a gig in the basement of well known pastry kitchens and had a wonderful time working for a small caterer cooking with a great bunch of gals. But here I am now, still cooking, still baking and loving it, in my own kitchen where I can share my love of this sport with the world. I take all my own photos (another passion) and I hope you will have patience and stay with me in this newest adventure. So thank you Grandma Alice for all those delicious memories, stories and inspiration. Stay tuned..

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sunday Roast

My brother Ted and I recently had a conversation about our dad. Ted and a gathering of his neighbors are constructing a Dia De Los Muertos altar honoring their dearly departed relatives who are no longer of this world. A photograph of the chosen loved one, along with their favorite food is placed on the altar for a week or so in early November.   My brother, who is the actual builder of the altar, has decided to honor our mom and dad. He called me wondering what our dad's favorite food was.  There was no hesitation when it came to Mom's favorite, we both agreed that the obvious choice for her would be doughnuts.  Not just any doughnut you see, but the still famous Winchell's Donut's.  She was a Winchell's Donuts afficionado...a "french twist" girl, Mom made Winchell's one of her daily stops.

"What do you think Dad's favorite food was?"

"Ice cream... root beer floats", I said.  My dad was the root beer float king. He loved his Dad's Root Beer and vanilla ice cream.  Chatting about Dad with my brother made me smile remembering the image of my boys, then 3 and 5 gathering around their Grandpa Ed as he constructed a proper root beer float.

Although Dad loved ice cream, Ted and I both agreed that a root beer float may become unrecognizable even for the dearly departed after 5 days on the altar.  Instead I said, "How about a roast?"

Dad was a meat and potatoes man, growing up with a British mother and a father who was a born and bred Easterner from a large, well to do New Jersey family.  And despite living in the high country of Idaho for the first 15 years of his life, (besides being smack dab in the depression) it was likely that there was some variety of Sunday roast, be it venison or elk.  But when my dad's father died, he was sent off to live with the "Aunts and Uncles" in a big, old, beautiful house in Pasadena, Ca. The Aunts and Uncles, as our family refers to them, were a loving mix of silver miners, actors, adventurers and even a WW1 war hero.  They were seven brothers and sisters who, all but one (my grandfather) had never married.  This was a period of time (1934) when families actually sat down to dinner every Sunday afternoon.  The Condit's carried out the tradition of dressing for dinner and a highball with the family in the living room.   Then when the dinner bell was rung, (one of my treasured memories) they would all gather in the formal dining room around the beautifully set mahogany table.

There was always a roast on Sunday.  The meat tied and placed in the pan, roasted slowly in the old 1930 era porcelain stove, with no real temperature gauge, just a "moderate, slow, or hot" oven (much like the Aga stove still used in England). The potatoes would be mashed with butter and cream, the pearl onions creamed, perhaps some string beans, a lovely puffed yorkshire pudding, and always ice cream or sherbet for dessert.  I can imagine Aunt Molly in that big old kitchen, cigarette hanging off the corner of her mouth (as I am told) preparing those Sunday meals along with her brothers and sisters and their only nephew, my dad, all of them having a grand old time.

It makes me happy to imagine my dad as a young man sitting at that lovingly seasoned old table, surrounded by laughter and lively conversation, sharing a meal.. a Sunday Roast with the family.

I have those same memories as a child at that big old house, but by the time I came along there was just one of the uncles left.  My family would still go over on Sundays, and each of us would have a part in creating the memories of that Sunday meal, that to those of us that are still here, keep very close to our hearts.

I imagine that's why my favorite meal, like my dad's, is a roast.  Beautifully browned, surrounded by tender potatoes, carrots, fennel and onions, it sits before us on any given Sunday in all its glory, comforting and delicious.  Filling our bellies and our lives with memories of family and reminding us that the simpler things in life come from the kitchen.

So when my brother finishes the Dia De Los Muertos altar for the many well loved relatives of Flora Morgan Trail friends and neighbors, I know that there will be a Winchell's Donut, and a nice cut of roast and mash under my mom and dad's photo.  Cheers!


  1. Kate, loved this post about your father and his early years! Wow. Seems you could blog more stories like that with photos. What a interesting life. I too would relish the idea of a dad surrounded by the unique people you described. Besides that I too love root beer floats and I adore roast with potatoes. Really enjoyed reading this one. Thanks for a great post.

  2. wonderful story Kate-thanks for posting. Funny story-my grandma use to make a mean pot roast. And I would always watch her-then she started to show my sister and I how. The first step was to cut one of the ends off-and we NEVER questioned her as to why. But when I was maybe 18-cant remember-I did ask why. She went on to tell us that when she was a girl her mom would do that and her grandmother would too. The story goes-the end was cut off because the roasting pan was small and the meat would not fit! Generation's of cooks cutting the end of the pot roast off!-amazing. Looking forward to a highball with you soon.

  3. This roast that I photographed in my favorite neighborhood pub in Wimbledon, was my favorite meal of the trip. The 3 of us sat their one Sunday afternoon and watched a rugby match with the locals, while putting down a couple of pints. The lighting is bad, and I only had my little casio, but seeing this photo again reminds me of just how delicious it was!

  4. Checking in...your food photos are delightful. Are you out of the kitchen?

  5. Today you told me you were making pot roast. Isn't it funny I came to your blog to see a roast from last year. I am anxious to see your pioneer roast. Give us a photograph…

    Your kitchen must be smelling pretty good by now!