Who’s tango mango?
In April of 2013 I was contacted by Matt, tumblr author of pentacles-and-pastries. He kindly asked me if I would participate in a survey for his “Food blogger of the month” series. He posted this interview which covers my love of food, cooking, baking and photography. I answered questions about my upbringing, events in my life that have helped shape me as a person, and words of wisdom to other foodies.
Here’s the interview.
When did your passion for food begin?
I’ve loved to cook as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a nurturing environment and my parents encouraged all of us to cook whenever we wanted. Pretty much everything we ate growing up was made from scratch. My mom loved to cook but I think her primary motivation for cooking with raw ingredients came from my family’s need to save money. As a result, homemade noodles, lasagna, fresh fish from the lake, caramel rolls, corn, beans and tomatoes from our garden, a toothsome gelatin cheesecake are all foods I remember eating as a kid.
Over the years we’ve entertained friends and family, cycled through different sets of cookware, taste-tested scores of recipes, and enjoyed growing food in our gardens. All of these things have influenced my ambitions in the kitchen.
Sometimes cooking is my therapy. I’ve been known to begin cooking a meal at 9:00pm even though I know it will probably be carefully packaged away and eaten the following evening. But the motions of chopping, sautéing, using a favorite spoon or kitchen gadget and enjoying the smells that come from my stove or oven bring me pleasure. I don’t usually even mind doing the dishes.
What inspires you to create recipes?
I tweak recipes pretty often but only occasionally create a recipe from the ground up. Soups, casseroles, salads and stews are forgiving and once you know the basics of food chemistry it’s easy to make something unique. Rarely do I change a recipe when I’m baking unless I’m absolutely sure it won’t compromise the integrity of the end result.
Inspiration for trying different recipes comes from everywhere. It can come from paging through a cooking magazine or seeing a picture in a circular from Williams Sonoma. Sometimes it comes from trying something in a restaurant, or talking to a friend. Finding new foods or foods that are fresh-picked from our garden inspires me, and planning a dinner for guests always gets the creative juices flowing.
When did you begin blogging about food?
August 4, 2011
What is one of your favorite ingredients you use?
Probably shrimp. I try to have at least one bag of raw shrimp in my freezer at all times. I have a multitude of salad recipes that use shrimp. I can stir fry them, or marinate them and then put them on the grill. They cook in no time. A handful of shrimp, some angel hair pasta, fresh herbs and lemon can make a Primavera. If you have shrimp, butter, garlic, white wine and mushrooms you can make magic. They’re high in protein, low in calories and almost everyone loves them.
What is one of your favorite go-to recipes on your blog?
I have lots of go-to recipes so I’ll pick two. Next to the bag of shrimp in the freezer sits a bag of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. They’re easy to defrost and I can make multitude of recipes from them. I love to marinate them and grill them, or use them in a salad. The recipe for breaded chicken cutletsis a favorite. Another great recipe is spicy chicken chili. I almost always have everything I need to make it without running to the grocery store.
What is one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without in your kitchen?
I love my kitchen tools but it would be almost impossible to live without my chef’s knife. It’s fairly large but it fits my hand perfectly and has a nice heft to it. I keep it razor sharp at all times and I use it every day. I also have a first-rate paring knife that sees a lot of use. I can cut almost anything with those two knives.
Do you enjoy taking pictures as much as cooking?
I have a BFA in advertising design and have always enjoyed involving some creative aspect into what I do. Combining photography with cooking comes naturally. Sometimes when I’m cooking a dish I’ll consider how I will photograph it. Things I think about are the type, shape and the color of bowl or plate I’ll use and if the shot will be taken at an angle or from above. If the food or any piece of it is translucent such as a potato chip, a lemon, or a lime, I’ll be sure to line up the shot so that the light shines through it. These are a few of the things I think about before I take pictures of food. However, once I get started, I usually see other opportunities and I’ll end up moving the dish into different lighting, shoot it from an odd angle or try a different lens.
A few encouraging words to other food lovers.
I read a story years ago about a young couple who had very little money and hardly any food. One evening they were surprised by a group of friends who showed up at their small apartment unannounced. As the evening wore on, everyone got hungry. Looking for something to feed them, the hostess made crepes out of the few ingredients required. She made a white sauce with a little bit of margarine, some powdered milk and flour. The few vegetables they had were steamed and stirred into the sauce. Candles were lit and everyone ate crepes!
I’ll never forget that story and think about it occasionally. If you know how to cook your world is a richer place. If you can, shop locally. Buy fresh. Experiment in the kitchen. Entertain friends with simple foods. The more you learn the greater your passion will become.
All images are from Tango Mango