Honest pleasures in food and motherhood from a restless Midwesterner.
 

About Jeanelle

I cook and write and write about cooking. Part kitchen romantic, part logistician, I've helped people write cookbooks, worked in restaurant kitchens, coached home cooks to new levels of confidence, and mined cookbooks and old family recipe boxes for new inspiration. 

I'm also a mother, a spouse, dog lover, and caretaker of a surprising number of thriving houseplants. I live in the Chicago area and love thin-crust tavern-cut pizza on both a spiritual and an academic level.

Keep reading below for some fun/absurd Q&A I've gotten from friends and readers over the years.

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Breakfast or dinner?

Dang, a hard one right out of the gate! I love them both. I love the ritual of weekend breakfasts. But I love the family togetherness that more routinely tends to happen at dinner, at least in our house. So if I have to choose, I’ll say dinner. (And you have the whole day to daydream about what you want. Planning!)

 

Sweet or savory?

Savory, 100%. Though I'm proud to have stepped up my sweets/pastry game in recent years.

 

Morton’s or Diamond Crystal?

David’s Kosher! Hopefully that doesn’t expose me as some sort of hack. I found it at a local Italian supermarket a while back and it’s earned the coveted spot in my salt bowl. It’s flaky and light and I love it. (It’s also inexpensive and you can get it on Amazon.)

 

Lowest cooking failure?

The one I will never forget is this: I was about 10 or 11, just getting my sea legs in the kitchen. For years I had served as apprentice as my mom, dad, and both grandmothers made entire meals, so at this point I figured I could handle something small on my own. I wanted soup, and we didn’t have any canned at the moment, but I unearthed some dry instant soup mixes from the pantry. I hadn’t seen it made before (uh, red flag alert, it’s because my mom only ever used the packets to amp up sauces, never for soup!), but I figured it couldn’t be hard. After choosing a flavor, I set to work, breezily dumping the contents into a small saucepan. Over a flame. With no water. I probably intended to add water at some point, but left it alone long enough for the powder and dehydrated vegetables to scorch on the pan. (I do not recall having any intention of reading the directions. Cookbook author in training, amirite?) My dad came into the kitchen sniffing the air, his eyes betraying a slight panic. “What’s burning?” Eyes darting to the blackening concoction, he blinked once and deftly killed the heat. That day he taught me my first real cooking lesson: dry ingredients will burn in a pan without a liquid. Science! I didn’t get in trouble, but I did have to scrub out that pan. (Some of the scorch marks stayed for years. Years!!)

 

Highest cooking achievement?

Anytime I make something my son likes. “Mommy, it is deyishiss,” are words I long to hear. (I don’t think he knows what delicious means because half the time he doesn’t want that thing the next time I make it. Feelings of success in the motherhood kitchen are elusive and fickle.)

I also have won juried contests for both my mac & cheese and a three-course vegan meal I once made. (They were different contests.)

Also the feeling of pulling off a Christmas dinner of any magnitude is pretty terrific.

 

Hey, what does your son like? For being a person who cooks everything it seems like you’ve got a pretty particular little chap.

It’s true! He has many opinions. As of this writing (at age 2.5-ish), his favorite foods are:

  • Any fruit. 100% of the fruit species on earth. All of the fruit.
  • Any nuts. 100% of the nut species on earth. All of the nuts. (Even, in fact especially, spicy roasted ones. We’ve checked.)
  • Peas
  • Brown rice
  • Peas and brown rice together
  • Pretty much any soup, provided it has enough broth to slurp. He’s a broth guy.
  • Raisins, aka ray-rays
  • The breadsticks from our local pizza place

 

So couldn’t you simplify your life and ditch this blog and just feed him those things until he’s old enough to cook for himself?

I could. But I’m raising a citizen of the world here. Doing the lord’s work. His food epiphany will come someday, because everybody’s does.

 

When did you have your food epiphany?

Between 5th and 6th grade. After a childhood of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I (probably rather rudely) informed my mom I would no longer eat those for lunch in the new school year, nor for any school lunch, ever again. I wanted lunchmeat! Cheese! Condiments! DELI. She informed me that that was a great idea, and that I should probably start making my own lunches. To this day I’m thankful to her for giving me more responsibilities in the kitchen, like making my own damn sandwiches. That was my first opportunity to get creative and learn more about what I liked and how flavors work together. To this day I also adore a deli tray. Sandwiches are my comfort food. 

 

What do you like to do when you’re not in the kitchen?

Hanging out with my husband and son is my number one favorite pastime. I also volunteer for food-related causes like this! and this! and will accept any excuse to spend time in the city, ideally involving friends and Chicago’s unbelievable restaurant scene. I’m also thrilled that this chapter in our life includes being a 15-minute drive from my parents, my sister and brother-in-law and their new tiny little baby (due March 2018), and my other sister. We see a lot of each other. I also love clothes and fashion, road trips, the Great Lakes, breathing outdoor air for any period of time, and using Google Images to “research” cute dogs.

I will drop everything for soft scrambled eggs, craggy, crusty bread with cloudy green olive oil, tiny homegrown strawberries, any cheese, or a perfectly roasted chicken.




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