Off-Road Cooking


She Started It!

This will be my mom’s page. (For now I am writing on her behalf, since she’s busier than I am!!) She is the amazing mother, lovely writer, sweet, kind, awe-inspiring woman who started me off on the journey to recipe-free cooking.

This is also a loving, happy, warm-and-fuzzy page of hugs to my grandmother (my mom’s mom), whose clever innovation, sense of humor, and hard work (necessity, really) shaped my mother’s view on cooking. We both dearly miss cooking with her.

As for my Romanian grandmother, whom I never met, her cooking is inspiring too. If not for her, I wouldn’t know about cozonac and mamaligouta! I’m sure she cooked without recipes too!

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Post by my mother: See below!!

“NO, SHE Started it!”

Whoa, hold on a minute! I started it? My lovely, sweet, bloggerbaby daughter claims that I am to blame for this off-road cooking thing?? Let’s get this straight. From my perspective, she started it! Some of my earliest, funniest memories of veering off the beaten food path began when my daughter, Larisa, was still an infant.

To set the scene, let me take you back 23 years.…It’s 7 am. I am propped against the kitchen sink, disheveled and bleary-eyed from the latest round of sleep deprivation that marks every new parent’s first year on the job, seeking out the coffee pot through one half-opened eyelid. Suddenly I am startled by a shriek of delight! Immediately my eyes pop open. I look down to see an innocent face with huge brown eyes excitedly gazing back up at me from the body of my one-year-old crumb-encrusted daughter, firmly cemented to her high chair by oatmeal goo and apple juice.

That’s when two baby hands packed with squishy, slimy mushmash wave triumphantly as they fling her latest concoction of gooey glop across the room. A smile breaks out across her cherubic face. I imagine a little thought bubble popping up from the spikes of matted-down hair on the top of her head: “Yes! It stuck to the wall this time! Aren’t you proud of what my new recipe can do, Mommy?!”

I am instantly reminded of cats and dogs that admiringly place their latest roadkill on the front porch as a sign of respect. This thought reminds me of our animal nature. It must be our instinct to enjoy our food and take pleasure in presenting it to others whom we love. This little critter of mine, as grimy as she was, had just taught me a memorable first lesson in cooking family style: it’s not always pretty, but it sure is an adventure!

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(YET ANOTHER post by my fabulous mother!! Enjoy!)

Food Fashionista

When it came to babyhood food antics in our house, there were those who mushmashed their lunch…and those who were better known for wearing it. The Mushmasher (aka Larisa, whom you know as co-editor of this site) reigned from her high chair for about 6 years before being dethroned by her younger sister. That’s when Olivia came along, the Food Fashionista, quick to mark her rule with a new definition of the term food palette. Give her less than 5 minutes in her high chair and her little body rapidly donned dessert, transforming itself into a canvas. Her skin soon displayed a rainbow of hues brought on by “watercolor” cherries or blueberries.

Whereas Larisa would meticulously mold a science experiment out of her sandwich, Olivia took it to the next level, or past, mashing food into her hair with abandon until the stiff little spikes on top of her head could surpass the claims of any superhold hair gel out there on the market. Early on, she discovered that oatmeal worked great for this effect, but throw in a little peanut butter and jelly, and you could go over the top.

Then there was the day we cooked beets for lunch. Olivia entered her high chair as a Caucasian and emerged…well…PINK. I had heard of Indigo children. I began to wonder. Where was my child? Was she it? Whoever she was, she was giggling with delight, a magenta ring now framing that toothless smile below her dancing eyes. And so our family had ushered in a new era of culinary creativity, in the presence of a budding Van Gogh. Or, in the spirit of veering off road, shall we say, van gone?

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