My journey as a stranger rape survivor, alcohol & drug addiction survivor, cancer survivor and liver transplant recipient who has been diagnosed with Depressive Schizoaffective Disorder (A form of Schizophrenia plus Major Depression), PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

I was blessed to be born into a culinary family. My grandmother and my mother were exceptional home cooks. I grew up with family dinners seven days of the week without the television blaring, unless there was a particular football game being played. Sunday nights were always special with the meal being taken up a notch whether it was prime rib, Cornish hens, fish and seafood. My older brother went to culinary school in a time before it was quite so in vogue. I even considered following in his footsteps, but my slight hand tremors due to my prescription medications made that all but impossible. If I hadn’t realized it before, when I worked in a professional kitchen other cooks would avert their eyes from my hand tremors while I went about my knife work. I wasn’t so concerned about the tremors and the risk of cutting myself as it was all I knew, but it was very frustrating that I couldn’t keep up with other cooks knife work.

I’m happy to have grown up on a small farm in Montana where we raised at varying times cattle, sheep, pigs and even chickens. There is a long and funny story behind the chicken I’ll perhaps share later. In addition to our large vegetable garden it was never a question where our food came from as it is for so many youth and some adults today. 

I have been highly influenced by French cooking and that of the American South. Region to region the American South is just as diverse as France and shouldn’t be lumped into one heading. The differences are astounding between the food culture of the Lowcountry to Creole and Cajun to Texas or the Deep South. The cuisine is diverse and that is before we even begin to explore the varieties of Southern barbecue. As for French cooking I was already predisposed before I relocated to Paris in my twenties, it was then my true love affair began. As Hemingway said,

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” 

I began practicing Zen Buddhism on a semi-regular basis in my twenties. I grew to appreciate vegetarian food more and more, but more than that I fell in love with the subtlety of Japanese cuisine beyond sushi when treated with the proper reverence. My knife skills and palate have learned a lot as I continue to explore a new cuisine to me, Japanese done right. I believe with my whole heart that Japanese and American Southern cuisine share one thing very much in common, that is the caricature presented in pop culture and in far too many restaurants that should be honoring the cuisine. 

As I’ve said I worked in a professional kitchen, but never for a long period of time and have never run a restaurant kitchen. With that said I am a cook and not a chef, but more than a cook a culinary researcher/historian. I thrive at researching food history and how a single ingredient is used in different ways with different supplemental ingredients in different regions. The examples of this in the American South are plentiful from grits, to cornbread, type of shrimp, type of fat, sweetener whether it’s honey, cane syrup or sorghum syrup.

I have a confession I’m not a Southerner, although I’ve lived there for a decade. My mother grew up in Virginia, but Northern Virginia around Washington D.C. I do have ancestors that were Southerners dating back to before the Civil War, but I am far removed from that time. I have had a long love affair with Southern food as I attempted to recreate those flavors from afar. In 2010 I moved to Northeast Florida or as I like to jokingly refer to it as Southern Georgia. My love of Southern food coalesced around sourcing Southern ingredients and devouring all that I could from my new friendships. I cooked with some of them, allowed to thumb through family recipe boxes and expanded my Southern palate. 


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