Welcome to the Summer 2015 edition of Backporch, where writers talk freely and openly. We asked our contributors to give us a few nuggets of honest-to-God wisdom about being writers. Here is what they had to say.
What’s the single most important thing in your kitchen?
— Changmin Yuan
Fresh garlic. I can’t make anything without it, and the pre-minced stuff you buy at the store is never, ever as good.
— Emily Hoover
The single most important thing in my kitchen? Good bread.
— Christopher Woods
Besides my cast iron cookware, my favorite kitchen utensil is a 10-inch, forged chef’s knife. Its broad spine is perfect for bruising herbs. It sharpens with little effort and is delicate enough to shave a red onion and tough enough to power through a chicken bone. It is perfectly balanced to my hand — and I’ve owned it so long that the maker’s name is worn off. I lost it at a catering gig once and it was missing for a year. Another chef found it at the bottom of her tool box and returned it, declaring it “heavy and cumbersome.” It no longer goes on field trips.
— Tim Rutherford
My favorite kitchen utensil is called a Kitchenmajig. It’s kind of a cross between a spoon and a spatula. Its fan shaped bowl is slotted, making it ideal for browning ground beef. You can use the tip to break up the meat, then move the Kitchenmajig parallel to the skillet’s surface to further separate the beef into smaller pieces by pushing them through the slotted area. After the meat has been thoroughly smashed, you can use the Kitchenmajig to stir and scoop it out. The utensil is also helpful when removing fried okra from a pan. The slotted area allows grease to drain back into the pan, and the curved sides keep you from dropping any okra. My mom has owned a Kitchenmajig for as long as I can remember. We kids thought we would never have one of our own because we never saw them in stores. Then one Christmas, we each received a Kitchenmajig in our stocking. Mom had found them hanging up at our local Piggly Wiggly.
— Abby Hogelin
What is your favorite food memory?
My favorite food memory involves cutting, breading, and frying organic okra at my former beach house in St. Augustine, Fl., with my husband, who is an expert at making the stuff. We later made Po Boys. This cemented our love of cooking together.
— Emily Hoover
I’ve been inundated with favorite food memories since I was a kid. As my appreciation for international cuisine grew, the best memories stem from a medley of my travels through Europe. We’d literally travel to Paris just to eat! From St. Tropez to Portofino to the coast of Spain—the seafood was exceptional. However, in my quest for sublime experiences, one recollection stands out. Once, my mother-in-law paid us a visit in Switzerland from the States, and my family and I were headed to Ticino for the day. After hours in traffic, we spontaneously got off an exit and traveled over a mountain pass, having no clue where we’d end up—which happened to be a remote farm village close to Italy. There wasn’t much variety on the menu so we ordered a simple cheese plate with crusty bread. The cheese was local and fresh, it didn’t even have a name, but it left an indelible mark on my palate.
— Jennifer Juneau
My favorite food memory is of my Grandfather’s garden. He made a splendid garden every year when I was young, full of green peppers and snap beans, cucumbers and mirliton. I remember following him around the garden rows and sneaking tomatoes from the vine when his back was turned. I ate them without even washing them or my hands, and it tasted like sunshine lived in each one. I thought I was being sly, but I realize now that tomato juice was everywhere and he knew exactly what I was doing.
— Katarina Boudreaux