Hi everyone. I’m Maura. I’ll be writing every Thursday about food and cooking, and what it means to me. I won’t be doing many recipe posts, although I do plan to pass on a few of my signature dishes over the next six months.
I’m a transplanted Northerner, originally from central Pennsylvania, now living in Durham, NC. I spent many years as a make-up artist and manicurist, and quite some time working in non-profit-administration. Due to circumstances out of my control, I’m not working at the moment. I’m a writer, of sorts, meaning I don’t make a real, actual living from it, but I do have a couple of regular gigs; and I occasionally do some party planning and catering. I spend my time writing, cooking, messing with my plants, taking care of my cats and my (mostly) self-cleaning husband, watching Law & Order reruns, and complaining about things over which I have no power
I’ve been cooking since I was 10 years old, and have learned much of what I know from my Sicilian (not off-the-boat, but close enough) mother. I have that same annoying pride in my cooking that a lot of Italian-Americans have. Everyone in my family loves to cook, and we all follow a few hard and fast rules that my mother laid down when we were kids:
Sugar has no place in red sauce.
Meatballs do not get browned before they go in the sauce.
Never use a recipe that begins with “1 can of cream of mushroom soup.”
I’ve been referred to as a gourmet cook, but that makes me cringe. Also, laugh. I’m a simple cook. Less is more for me. I think a roasted chicken makes one of the great dinners of all time. I believe gourmet pizza is an oxymoron. And I’m convinced that, given the choice between a homemade chocolate chip cookie and a really complicated dessert, most people will choose the cookie.
I have a few pet peeves, but the biggest one is food snobbery, because it encompasses all the others. I do what I can to be a good citizen of the planet, but I have my limits. I do most of my food shopping at a small, locally owned neighborhood store and go to the Durham Farmer’s Market most Saturdays, but also go to Costco about once a month. I grow my own herbs but also use dried. I make bread every other day, using only my favorite wooden spoon. But I keep packaged bread in the house, because you can’t make a peanut butter sandwich without it. I make cookies from scratch, but put a bag of Oreos in front of me and I’m a goner.
Food snobbery is tyrannical, because it says there’s only one way to think about food. It’s elitist, because it assumes that everyone has the time, the resources and the desire to use what it deems the right ingredients and methods. It’s classist, because it fails to recognize that a lot of people eat the food they eat because that’s what they can afford. There is no joy in food snobbery. It’s not about the food. It’s about competition to prove who’s the coolest, the smartest or the one most likely to get a surprise e-mail from Anthony Bourdain.
Food should bring us together, not make us set up battle lines. Those rules my mother set down? They’re for me to follow. I’ve had the sugar in the sauce argument, as well as the discussion over whether meatballs should be browned. But I’m done telling people they’re doing it wrong if they don’t do it my way.
So that’s what I’m about. I plan to talk about everything from the power of food to how I run my kitchen. I hope you’ll all join the discussion.