1. Why do you want to compete in this challenge?
I'm ordinarily not a very competitive person, but recently I've changed my tune. I've been entering recipe contests left and right - haven't won a thing yet but somehow that's just making me more determined. For other recipe contests, I know what I'm dealing with ahead of time and I enter the contest because I like or am interested in the sponsoring product. This one, however, is a bit like Chopped - I have no idea what will be in the mystery box of 8 items I could receive. That's rather thrilling to me. But with the kinds of goods Marx Foods offers, I know every ingredient will be a pleasure to use.
2. Limitations of time/space notwithstanding, whose kitchen would you like to spend the day in & why? Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, James Beard, Marie-Antoine Careme, or The Swedish Chef?
While I must admit the Swedish Chef is my favorite Muppet, and that the ringtone my brother uses to announce my calls to his cellphone is the Swedish Chef's theme ("bork bork bork!"), I'm going to have to go with Ferran Adria here. So called "molecular gastronomy" is not anything that I've dabbled in - yet - but I am fascinated by the way Adria plays with his food. Not satisfied with merely cooking, he transforms ordinary ingredients into extraordinary dishes with the aid of food chemicals. I am held in thrall by descriptions of meals served at his restaurant, El Bulli, and would love to be able to occasionally baffle and dazzle my dinner guests with some of his tricks. Who better to learn from than the master himself?
3. What morsel are you most likely to swipe from family & friends’ plates when they aren’t looking?
I'm not above stealing from others' plates, but I do prefer to ask politely, first! I am a big fan of foie gras and any of this delicacy that makes its way onto a friend's plate is fair game for my thieving fork. However, I am probably more likely to swipe a bone, with or without traces of meat still clinging to it. I especially like the soft ends of pork ribs, and that triangular bit of cartilage on a chicken breast. My mother always told me that the most tender and delicious bits are closest to the bone, and sometimes includes the bone itself. She was right.
4. Sum your childhood up in one meal.
When I think of my childhood in general, the holidays are always foremost in my memory. Easter and Christmas were my favorites, not only because of the toys and treats that usually accompanied them, but also for the boisterous presence of my extended family. Grandma was the chef on these occasions and every year she prepared the same iconic dish, Kapusta i Kielbasy. This savory combination of sauerkraut and garlicky fresh Polish sausage seasoned with a plethora of peppercorns that stung my mouth when I accidentally bit down on one filled the house with an aroma that became the quintessential holiday fragrance. Even today, the scent of pork cooking with kraut brings back memories of those now long-ago days.
5. The one mainstream food you can’t stand?
Oh, so many to choose from! There's a special place in hell for Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies and the fake-butter smell of freshly-microwaved popcorn, but I'm going to have to go with lima beans. While I'm not picky enough to remove them from minestrone or crab soup, I find myself resenting their presence in my bowl. I find neither the flavor nor texture particularly pleasant, and they are all but banned in my house.