It all started twenty years ago. I was engaged to be married to my best friend, Matt. When I thought about what our life together would look like, my vision was of a happy family sitting around a meal sharing the events of their day. The table would be made of wood, we would be using real plates, everyone would have a napkin on their lap. Matt and I would have two sons, close in age but not as close as me and my sister Jennifer. At the end of the meal, they would shower me with praise over the delicious meal I had prepared. These were the muses of an idealistic perfectionist. The bigger problem, however, was that I had absolutely no idea how to cook. My mother didn’t cook. My dad attempted cooking. He created a dish called fish-ghetti? Ever hear of it?! No? Of course not! Lucky you!
Nowadays not knowing how to cook would not be a huge hurdle. But back then... YouTube didn’t exist. The internet was dial up. Food Network had just started out. Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray would become my teachers. Martha Stewart Cookbooks and Food.com would become my resources for recipes. I would have some epic fails. Asparagus soup on the ceiling. I forgot to put the top back on the blender. Rolling flame ball up the wall of my kitchen. Who knew vermouth was so flammable?!? Angel hair pasta in a sticky clump in the bowl. I didn’t know to toss it in some olive oil straightaway. I got better and more ambitious over time.
Matt and I did go on to have two sons. They are 21 months apart and couldn’t be more different. My older son would try anything once. He was easy to please. Although, I recall the time I tried to give him pasta for dinner. He looked at it, looked at me, and said, “What is this? A side dish? I eat meat! I need meat!” My younger son would not try anything. His meals consisted of Dinosaur chicken nuggets, Ellios rectangle pizza, and Chips Ahoy cookies. We begged. We pleaded. We bribed. Nothing worked.
My next challenge would come in the form of an autoimmune disease. I elected to go on an anti-inflammatory diet. I remember going to the market, staring at the gluten free section, leaving without buying anything, and crying when I got home. It was overwhelming. I went on a quest to figure out how I could eat without gluten, refined sugar, and soy and a limited amount of dairy. These 4 inflammatory ingredients are in almost everything you buy in a package, from salad dressing to seasoning mixes to condiments to marinades. I read blogs, googled recipes, and began to find my way. It wasn’t as hard as it once seemed. I educated myself. I learned how to make my own salad dressings and blend my own spices. At this point in time, I was cooking 3 different meals for my family. It was exhausting. Thankfully, my younger son slowly began to request things off our plates while I learned how to make gluten free meals the whole family could enjoy.
The flood gates to our culinary world would open on a family vacation to Miami Beach. I had scheduled a food tour for the four of us. It started at a bakery where they offered us churros. My younger son looked at it and asked, “What does it taste like?” “Why is it shaped like that?” “Will i like it?” “How do you know?” “What if i don’t like it?” Finally, he reluctantly said, “I guess I’ll try it”. He loved it! The next to last stop was Gloria Estefan’s Bongos Cuban Cafe. They served us Ropa Vieja. If you aren’t familiar with the dish it is stewed meat that is shredded with peppers, and onions. It is usually served with plantain chips. To my surprise, he tried it without question or hesitation. Two weeks after we returned home, he requested I learn how to make it. It is now part of my regular repertoire.
In the end, I accomplished my mission. We sit around a beautiful wood table, bought for us by my in-laws. If I cook dinner, which I do almost every night, we use real plates. I am probably the only one with a napkin on my lap. We discuss everyone’s “best” and “worst” parts of their day. My boys often exclaim, “this is the best ever” after devouring a home cooked meal. They even nominated me to be on the Mother’s Day Edition of the Today Show called “Mom Makes it Best”. My family honestly believes I could win Chopped and possibly beat Bobby Flay. Their love and support gave me the confidence to start my own company called Kate’s Country Kitchen. My first launch is a line of Gourmet Spice Blends and Seasoning Mixes featuring all natural ingredients named, Keep It Spicy!