Today is International Women’s Day, a day to honor women and all they do. It’s a day to inspire girls to realize they can do anything. As a girl, cooking wasn’t my thing. If you had told me that one day I’d love being in my kitchen cooking meals every night, that chopping vegetables would be one of my favorite activities, that I’d be someone who writes about food, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But International Women’s Day is a day to believe that anything is possible, and when I look at how my life and career have turned out, I do believe it. Along the way from being that girl who was not interested in being in the kitchen to this woman who happily spends the majority of the day in the kitchen and thinking about food, there have been some women who have been inspirational. I thought I’d honor a few of them today.
Barbara Kingsolver – Reading Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” was the turning point in the relationship between my kitchen and me. Before that book, cooking was just a way to get food on the table, and I wasn’t too picky about what food that was. After that book, I started paying attention to what I was cooking. I started cooking a lot more from scratch — a lot more. I started to have a healthy relationship and respect for food and the understanding that it could nourish my family in many ways.
Audrey Hepburn – You know that scene in “Sabrina” where Audrey Hepburn learns to crack an egg with one hand and one flick of the wrist? For some reason, it’s inspirational to me. I always try to crack eggs exactly like that. And, I’ve spoken with other women who admit they do the same just because of that movie. Add that little egg-cracking skill to the fact that Hepburn’s character in the movie became a confident woman who believed she could do anything as she learned her away around sauces and soufflés, and there’s a lot of inspiration to be found in Hepburn’s portrayal of Sabrina Fairchild.
Ina and Giada – In the spring 2012 issue of Lucky Peach, Mario Batali writes that the Food Network wants the people on their shows to “resemble someone that’s gonna be in your house.” He specifically mentions Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis as two of those cooks. He’s right. I do want them in my house, and I invite them in many Friday afternoons from 4-5 p.m. when the Food Network airs their shows back to back. I pour myself a glass of wine, grab my laptop (so I have easy access to the recipes they’re cooking at the moment), and get cooking inspiration for the weekend. I like that they’re often not just cooking food, taking a bite of it at the end of the show, and then fading to credits. They’re often cooking for someone, and at the end of their shows they share the food they’ve made with friends and family. They inspire me to cook and to invite people into my home to share meals with.
My mom – My mom didn’t have a vast repertoire of dishes that she cooked. She did a few things really well and did them often. Spaghetti, meatloaf, roast chicken, fried flounder, and chili were always in rotation at my house. But she cooked, and up until the time I was in high school and my father and older brother went on shift work, we always had dinner together at the table served on real dishes. That habit of cooking for your family in your own kitchen and sitting down to eat it together instead of grabbing takeout most nights stuck with me. I’m very thankful that she made that a priority for her family.
How about you? Who are some of the women who have inspired you to get into your kitchen?