Steph in the Luang Prabang market in Laos

My friend Steph and I have been friends since she invited me to her Sweet 16 party. Soon after and for many years after, we were basically inseparable. Our high school law teacher referred to us as the Bobbsey Twins (I’m just realizing now that one of the original twins was a boy…) and the attendance office was known to check if we were both absent from school when one of us called in sick… Not sure what made them so suspicious of us. Ahem!

I ate countless meals at Stephanie’s house, every single one of them a downright treat. We’d polish off what was her family’s entire dinner of salt fish and dumplings, and her grandmother would happily make more before her parents came home from work. It was at their table that I ate my first escovitch snapper, ackee and salt fish and other irresistible Jamaican food, but also where I had the best roast beef, gravy and roast potatoes–her mother’s specialties. What Steph and I ate together provided both a framework for so many flavours for me, and a benchmark for so many dishes. That, and the fact that she’s still one of my favourite dinner companions at home and abroad, is why she’s the focus of this cook love interview. Meet Steph!

Steph_interview_3

I know you have a sweet tooth. What would you love to make?
Anything chocolate and/or caramel.  I had these caramel covered potato chips in Japan that were so good.  I haven’t been able to find them here so I will probably try to make them one day.  I also had macaroons from Laduréein Tokyo and I love a culinary challenge, so they’re definitely on my list.
Think of your absolute favourite food experience ever, tell us what it was or what it would look like. 
I really enjoy cooking and sharing meals with people who are really passionate about food, cooking and eating well.  A favourite experience would be renting a villa with my friends in Tuscany that has a large, rustic kitchen.  I envision us visiting local farms and markets for the freshest produce, spending the afternoon cooking together and then sitting down to a family style dinner at a large wooden table out back as the sun sets over the hills.
You spent some time in Southeast Asia. Where were your most memorable eats and what were they? 
There were so many!  I guess one that really stands out in my mind was when I was in Hanoi over Tet (their new year).  The guesthouse that I stayed at was run by a young couple who had two small children.  My traveling companions and I were invited to partake in the family’s new year dinner.  Not only did we get the chance to taste real, home cooked Vietnamese cuisine…

…we were invited to learn of the traditions behind the dishes that were prepared solely for this special occasion.

I always try to eat with and like the locals when I travel.  I find it makes for the most memorable experiences.  Although it has occasionally resulted my consuming some less than desirable “foreign delicacies”.  

Steph_interview_2_3
We sat down to dinner as a family pretty much every day. 
It was a part of my childhood that I loved and I feel fortunate
to have experienced.
Did you have any special requests growing up? Anything you always wanted for your birthday dinner?
Crab. Mostly curried. Food was a really important part of our family celebrations and birthdays always meant a special feast. My mom would ask us days in advance what we wanted for dinner on our special day. I remember once, I think for my 18th birthday, my mom bought a whole live king crab.  It was huge and we cooked it a few different ways, steamed with garlic butter and of course with coconut milk curry!
 Steph_interview_2_2_2
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I feel very fortunate to have been raised in a home where wholesome home cooked meals were a daily occurrence.  I think that my love of making and eating good, real food came from watching and sometimes helping my grandmother prepare delicious meals with so much love and care every day.