Post by community member: Suzanne McMinn
Food interests: all of them! Well, not organ meats, bananas, or raisins…but you get my drift.
Hobbies: community theater, quilting, horses, watching my daughter play fast-pitch softball.
Q. What are your favorite things to cook?
Boy, a hard question right off the bat! I love to try new recipes, especially ethnic dishes. My family includes the more typical German, Irish, English heritages along with Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino. I’ve lived in many places across America as well, from my Oklahoma roots out to Hawaii and now southern New Jersey. Along the way I’ve been exposed to many cuisines and have grown to love them all. I often say I need two refrigerators – one for the many condiments and seasonings I’ve acquired for the different kinds of cooking – and the other one for ‘food’!
Q. How/when did you learn to cook?
My mom was a fabulous cook as were both of my grandmothers and I learned from them. I get the adventurous cook leanings from my mother. She loved trying new things and we never were a family that ate meatloaf every Wednesday and chicken every Sunday. My grandmothers were more traditional and I still love to make their standards like chicken and dumplings, homemade noodles, fried chicken, etc. I’m in the midst to putting together a family cookbook. Hopefully it will be ready for it’s first issue in time for Christmas. I’m planning to put it in a 3-ring binder so I can add to it as time permits. It gives me great joy to go through the recipes that I have been blessed to have passed down to me. Some are new, some are old. Some I typed as a teenager at my Mom’s request. Others are in her handwriting or that of one of my grandmothers. I’ll keep the stained 3×5 cards and notepaper long after the more polished printed version is ready to use. Those connections to the past are precious and I’ll save them for my daughters to reminisce over when I am gone.
Q. Tell us about some of your cooking triumphs.
It might not be cooking, exactly, but some years ago I took a cake decorating class with my dear friend, who also happened to be our pastor’s wife. Not long after the class ended they were transferred to another church, much to our mutual disappointment. A lovely farewell reception was held and I asked to do the cake. My friend and I had done many things together, including attending the huge Philadelphia Flower Show together every year, and sharing plant cuttings, gardening tips, and a love of flowers. I made a very large sheet cake and created a garden on the top using the techniques we’d learned in the class. Roses, violets, daisies, etc. It turned out beautifully and the cake tasted good too!
Q. What was your most memorable cooking tragedy?
My most memorable tragedy so far was Aunt Ruby’s Devils Food Cake which I share with you here, but of course there have been lots of others. Like the time I made fresh squeezed lemonade for the pastor and his wife moving into the manse across the street on a very hot August day. Seems I never put the sugar in it…….which I discovered much later. They were gracious and never said a word. I’m quite sure they were dumping the rest down the drain after I left that day.
Q. Describe your kitchen. Do you love it, hate it, and why?
I HATE my kitchen….all of it! Our home is a Victorian era Queen Anne style and the kitchen was an afterthought. I don’t think anyone must have thought very much about it ever! The layout is impossible. It’s kind of an upside down L and the short part is very narrow so only one person at a time can be in that part of the room. The house’s back door is the only door anyone uses and of course it comes right into the kitchen. You have to walk right between the stove and sink to get to the rest of the house.
Or, you can walk between the sink and the refrigerator on your way to the bathroom that opens into the kitchen. Yuck! When my girls were little it was convenient to be able to watch them in the tub while doing some prep work but that advantage is long gone. I know why that bathroom is there…no place else to put it, really. That used the be the landing for the second staircase. Long ago it was converted to a second bathroom and the stairs done away with. We aren’t willing to go back to just one bath, especially since it’s upstairs, but I really hate having it open into the kitchen.
DH and I can’t seem to agree on what to do about the kitchen and so it stays the way it is. Old, unattractive, and yet still very much in use just because I really do love to cook.
Q. Is your pantry organized and are your kitchen drawers tidy? We need to know.
Kinda…there are not many drawers and the ‘pantry’ consists of a big set of open shelves in the old porch that serves as a mudroom off of the kitchen. I’m the neat sort….my spices are alphabetized…at least the ones that fit in the racks. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the others who share my kitchen. I spend more time that I’d like to looking for a certain dish or tool, or putting the food items back in order on the shelves. I try not to complain about it since I’m glad they are using the kitchen. I work full time and they do have to fend for themselves sometimes.
Q. Do you have any favorite family cooking traditions?
Since we are coming into the holiday season the first thing that comes to mind is Christmas cookies. When I was about 5, I was helping my Mom bake something–I’ve long forgotten what–and came upon a little recipe pamphlet in a new bag of flower. We decided to try one of the recipes which was labeled pepparkakor. We loved them and made them as a cutout cookie every year thereafter. I’ve kept up the tradition with my girls, baking the traditional tree, star, and bell shapes and making simple powdered sugar icing. The girls love to decorate them with all kinds of colored sugars and candies. I like to decorate them, too, but most of all I like to eat them with just icing–the way we did that first year.
Q. What is the one gadget (or ten) you couldn’t do without in your kitchen?
I would hate to be without my rice cooker. We eat quite a bit of rice and I would have to have to cook it on the stove. I can do it that way, I just don’t like to, and sometimes I call or text my girls from work and ask them to get the rice started. The rice cooker is very simple to set up. Anyone can do it, even my oh-so-blonde youngest 😉
As a working mom, my crock pot is dear to me as well. I remember being so thrilled when they started making them with the removable liners! I’m always on the lookout for new recipes to expand my repertoire.
Q. If you had to take one food to a deserted island, what would it be?
I think it would have to be potatoes. I love them so many ways–baked, mashed, scalloped, and probably my favorite way, in classic potato salad (the recipe on the back of the mayo jar).
Q. What is your go-to comfort food?
Ham and scalloped potatoes, or pork chop potato casserole–see above LOL!
JerseyMom is one of the few who have shared a cooking mishap (even though she was only ten) with us on the blog.
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