I am Judy and I was born and raised in an Italian-American family in central New Jersey. As a child, I enjoyed sitting with my mom while she cooked. During my childhood summers I read my mother’s cookbooks for fun and experimented with recipes like Vanilla Bavarian Cream, pickled eggs, eggplant parmesan, and cheesecake. Shortly after I was married I had the good fortune to live in Cambridge, England and Tokyo, Japan. When we moved to England I was a novice cook. My first attempts at homemade pasta sauce were not very good. I missed the flavors I grew up with and wanted to try new ethnic foods.
One day, while in England, I wandered into Heffers Bookshop and purchased a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking. I took the book with me to the local fruit and vegetable store and purchased small amounts of spices, then went home to my tiny kitchen and cooked lamb chops with whole spices and yogurt. I next bought an old out-of-print English cookbook. I experimented with ingredients I had never eaten before: I stewed rhubarb for rhubarb fool, made custard, then followed it with trifle, and started cooking leeks, parsnips, and turnips–all vegetables I had not been exposed to in my southern Italian family.
We spent some time traveling around Europe and Asia and each place offered new and interesting food. Moving away from home and international travel helped me expand my horizons and learn that there was a world full of fascinating regional dishes and produce to try and cook with. I also began to have an appreciation for the rich culinary heritage that I had from my Sicilian and Pugliese family and discovered that I could tap into it for inspiration. As I got older I sought the advice of my mom and my aunts and uncles. They gave me family recipes, stories, and sometimes seeds and gardening tips which have been very valuable in learning to grow the foods I wanted to eat.
I have been collecting cookbooks for years and am fortunate to have a good culinary library to reference. I always have a stack of cookbooks near my bed and when I settle in for night, I read them like novels, making notes and lists of recipes I want to try. There are not enough hours in the day for all the recipes I would like to cook, but I keep working at it and continue to learn new and interesting things.
I live in the West now with my professor husband and our two wonderful children. We have a small yard from which we enjoy growing a Mediterranean-style garden and eat from it about six months of the year. When I first began this blog my goal was just to share recipes with friends and family. As time goes on, it has become more than that. It is also a family journal where I document the rhythms and the seasons of our family life that include milestone events, our holiday traditions, and the rich food life we enjoy. It is my hope that, as my children grow up, leave home, and start families of their own, they will refer back to this blog and find joy in reading about their childhood and our culinary life together and pass some of the traditions on to their children.
(photo by jeffreycornwall.com)