And now... I'd like to introduce the newest adopted member of my blogging family: Caroline from Engineer and an Oven. Caroline is a civil engineer who lives in Chicago where she cooks up a storm (just take a list at her Christmas cookie list. It's seriously impressive) and she tells good stories to boot. Do you have any camera advice? A kickass recipe for Osso Bucco? Some family stories you'd like to share? Feel free to comment with your insight and encouragements for Caroline!
Note: this interview was a lot longer, but I had to cut it down so I could fit in some pictures and you could read it in one sitting. I hope Caroline will forgive me! For more of her stories, read her blog!
Do any of your parents or grandparents cook or did someone particular inspire you?
It is difficult for me to talk about my relationship between food and me without divulging my entire life story. Just like a specific song can take you back to the first time you heard it, certain foods trigger very specific memories of my childhood and my family.
Growing up on the East Coast, one of the biggest treats of the summer was getting a bushel of Maryland Blue Crabs, some pre-made dinner rolls and boiling up some sweet corn. We would sit down at a newspaper-lined table for hours picking crabs, talking, and just enjoying the luxury of being able to relax and enjoy the company around the table.
I think family is what transforms ‘food’ into a ‘meal.’ I started cooking because as I got older and moved away from home, it was a way to make my own family feel closer, and make where I was living at the time feel more like home. Now that I’m married and have a home of my own, I am looking forward to starting new food traditions, as well as maintaining some of the ones I so fondly remember as a child.
What do you like about blogging?
I like being able to catalog my progress and share some of my creati ons (like my Hokie Cut-out cookies [see below]). I love when I get comments on my blog (or in person) that someone has tried a recipe I’ve posted and enjoyed it. The idea that someone stepped slightly out of their comfort zone or tried something new just because they saw it and thought it sounded appetizing is one of the greatest feelings. I’m still new to the game, but the community is so warm and welcoming; how can you not enjoy being a part of that?
Hokie Cut-Out Cookies (aka where Caroline uses her mad engineering skills for baking)
What do you find challenging about blogging?
As an engineer, my math skills are used much more than my English skills and it is sometimes difficult for me to articulate posts in an interesting, non-rambling way. I constantly push myself to try new things. It pains me to write about kitchen disasters or dishes that just don’t live up to the hype – but I want to be realistic. Not every dish can be a masterpiece. Being a true engineer/math nerd, I love the quote from Thomas Edison - “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” And believe me, with my chicken pot pie, I’m well on my way.
The other challenging part is the photography. I rarely can get a shot of anything I make in natural light, so I have to rely on the flash of my little P&S camera. I am looking into getting a DSLR camera in the not-too-distant future, so hopefully that will help, but any advice is greatly appreciated!
What is your favorite kind of food and/or favorite restaurant?
Well, I may be slightly biased, but I adore Thai food. I love how spicy, sweet, sour and salty flavors are artfully balanced in their curry sauces. As for a favorite restaurant,I’m really into a place called Roy’s - a hawaiian-asian fusion restaurant. It is a chain, but not in your typical Chili’s, Applebee’s or T.G.I. Friday’s kind of way. Many of the entrees there change depending on what the head cook has available to him/her at the time. I admire when people can make an amazing meal out of things that they have in front of them.
A favorite person/group to cook for?
Cooking for my husband is always a highlight, for sure, because he is always appreciative of the effort I put into a meal, whether it is something special for a date night, or something easier for our “pasta Tuesday” or just typical work night dinner. I also love cooking for a crowd, because I can try new recipes, and make lots of food. I have always found it easier for me to make a ton of food, especially if I’m going to end up with a dirty kitchen anyway. Might as well make the cleanup worth it, right?
What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
Thanks to my mom, who was a huge advocate of the phrase “how do you know you don’t like it if you won’t try it!?,” I will try pretty much anything once. When we were in Thailand, that meant eating things like fish stomach, pig intestine, jellyfish, shark fin and durian fruit. If you don’t know what durian is, at its best, the smell and flavor is like sweet custard; at its worst, it’s like sucking on a dirty, sweaty gym sock.
What’s one dish that you’ve never cooked that you want to try?
I would love to try making Osso Bucco. I have seen many recipes for it, but I want to find the one that I could make that would taste like I had channeled someone’s Italian grandmother.
Do you have any passions besides cooking?
Besides cooking, I love eating, of course, but I also really enjoy sewing and being crafty in general. On some of my earlier blog posts, I showcased a series of quilted sugar cookies that I made, and that was truly a combination of two passions. I do some embroidery, some knitting, sewing and quilting. I also really enjoy movies and music. I am that person that if I have good song or CD blasting on the stereo, I will be dancing and singing in the kitchen while baking or cooking. That’s a fun afternoon in my book!