This is the first in a series of profiles of the Kitchen Goddesses: Friends who cook and can coax major culinary experiences out of a handful of fresh produce and a few utensils. Each of these women over the years has inspired me in some way. If I can’t exactly follow in their footsteps, then they’ve encouraged me to gimp along behind as best I can.
I met Julia in The Courtyard. For a select few who were there, it is understood that the Courtyard refers to our student family housing complex at UC Berkeley. There were many courtyards at UC Village. But ours was the best one. Fifteen families, all graduate students. All with small children. Potlucks were rampant. We had neighbors from all around the globe (and Utah). Julia hailed originally from L.A. We bonded instantly.
My fondest cooking memory with Julia? The one that springs to mind first is our gazpacho factory. Our plots in the village community garden were overflowing with zucchinis and tomatoes. She taught me how to make the stuff, tasting continually for the best combo of tomato and green. Our student family kitchens were way too small for two people to actually cook together, so more usually one of us would cook while the other sat and monitored the proceedings, filling the wine glasses frequently.
What’s the first dish you remember making by yourself?
“I attempted a very complicated butter cookie with strawberry jam filling at five (including reading the recipe from the cookbook).My mom found me bawling in a dark kitchen with the ingredients out and flour all over the place. I had never even helped her cook before so I think she was surprised.”
What’s your earliest kitchen memory?
“Being bathed in the sink”
Who inspired your love of cooking/baking?
“My step-mother among others (my sisters would probably be angry with me that I didn’t say my own mother but I just don’t remember her being that interested in cooking and my step-mother really was. I was her sous chef. We worked seamlessly together for hours in the kitchen. We really bonded over cooking together.)”
What’s your favorite dish to make right now?
I like simple recipes. I love thinly shredded zucchini in a lemon/garlic vinaigrette with parsley and shaved parmesean.
Are you a bread person or a pie person?
I don’t consider myself a pie person or a bread person, even though I’ve made successful bread and I’ve made successful pie. Because I think those were both flukes. I’m good at sauces, I’m good at soups. I’m good at vegetables.
Describe a dish you botched badly.
There have been so many – usually it’s because I’m not really wanting to be cooking or not paying attention.
Your favorite cookbook of all time?
I don’t have one, yet.
If you could be anywhere in the world, eating anything you wanted, where would you be, and eating what?
In Mexico, eating hot “elotes” slathered with cheese, lime and chile from the street vendor.