Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Chopped" Questions

Blame Twitter.

I received a tweet from Food Network this morning, saying they were looking for looking for families that like to cook together.

You know my philosophy..."What the Hell".... so I retweeted to Anna-Grace that we should sign up.... she said "yeah!" soooo...I have.

I know nothing will come of it, but still...the application is lengthy and caused me to think.  Really think.  So I saved the questions and answers.  It will be fun to look back on it in a few years.....  and I thought it would make you giggle a bit.........


In a few sentences, please share your story: Tell us who you are and your current situation.

I'm a recently-divorced, 30-something mind locked in a 50-something body.

I'm in the process of moving from Georgia back to my birth home of Shreveport, Louisiana --embarking on my "encore career" now that my youngest child is in college.  What that career will be, I have no earthly idea.  Please send any ideas my way via email above.

I'm the mom of 2 fabulous kids at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. My son, who is recently engaged, is a senior majoring in Physics, my daughter, a freshman in biomedical engineering. 

I'm an adventurous cook, and I've been told I'm good.  But it's my boy I want to tell you about. My son is passionate about cooking.  Male?  College student? Science-type?  What did I do right?   He and his fiancee visit the Buford Farmer's market every Sunday, buy their weeks' worth of food for about $40 and feast on things like handmade gnocchi and goat cheese and arugula pizza.

I TIVO "Chopped" as does he (ever since I gave him my old TIVO box). We play along whenever we are together--pausing just after the baskets are opened, and thinking of what to make. Sometimes we like our ideas better, but we always learn something.

But seriously, y'all--chocolate and mussels? Octopus and animal crackers????  

Describe your background/history-where are you from?

I grew up in Shreveport, LA. My grandparents were cotton and cattle farmers. My mom was a city-girl wannabe.  My mom couldn't cook (well, she thought she could, but I didn't know roast beef came in a "rare" variety until I went to college).  I have a bracelet with a charm that says "Mama TRIED"- because she did.  She still dreams that I will be a proper southern lady.  I'm more like a Rebel Without a Clue.  

I was married for 28 years. Finally had enough of a verbally abusive relationship and got divorced 2 years ago. My kids asked "What took you so long?"

You want to know where I am from?  After my first eighteen years in Louisiana, I have lived in (deep breath) Virginia, Germany, Arkansas, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Tennessee and now Georgia. (and, no, I am not a member of the witness protection program--my ex-husband was a corporate turn-around specialist).  I have live in Middle-of-Nowhere, Georgia--aka rural Washington County- for 11 years.   I love it here, but if you want basil, you have to go to Walmart and buy the seedlings. Anything not fried is considered a luxury food item. Catfish is the seafood of choice.

I go to New York once a year with my mom, sister-in-law and about 20 other Louisiana ladies. We travel like a well-heeled gang. Bendel's, Bloomingdales and Balthazar. JoJo is still my favorite NYC restaurant (I make orange dust to give to my friends at Christmas along with Jean-George's recipe).

I'm moving back to Louisiana in the next few months.

List family members and note any that may be involved in the culinary industry

My son, AJ (short for Alan, junior).  He's working this summer as a host at Steel in Atlanta (sushi-SE Asian)

My daughter, Alix (short for Alexandra)- loves to eat. Learning to cook.

My daughter-in-law (to be) Anna-Grace- baker extraordinaire and lucky recipient of what AJ cooks.

My sister-in-law Julie (in Louisiana) cooks every evening for her family of 5. Cooking is her therapy.  
She knows all the cashiers by name at her local grocery store. And they know her!

Why do you like to cook? Who do you cook for and how often?

Cooking is a creative release.  Learning to cook without a recipe, trusting my instincts, opened a whole new world.  I am actually looking forward to moving back to Louisiana so I can play "tag team" in the kitchen with my sister-in-law!

When my ex-husband and I were first married, we lived in Germany-he was in the Army.  I never knew how much to cook--the bachelors always came to our house to eat.  It was like a frat house--I cooked for 8-10 every night, and I knew SOMEONE would eat the food.

When my kids were teens, our house was the "hang out" house--I had an "opened door-opened fridge-opened mind" policy.  "Let me fix you a sandwich, tell me what happened" kinda thing. 

It's really weird to cook for one, I've learned.

Do you cook professionally? If so, where, and in what capacity?

Nope.  Even if I wanted to, I'm too old.  It's a "knees" thing.

If you are not a professional chef, list any goals past or present regarding cooking professionally. 

I really want to write a cookbook for my children.  So they can share it with THEIR kids.

What inspired you to start cooking? Where did your interest in food begin?

I watched my great-grandmother's cook Prudence (the child of slaves) make biscuits when she was in her 80's.  No one could make them like her, and the secret died with her.  I think it was in her hands.

My best friend in high school's mom taught me about  flank steak and vinaigrette-things that didn't exist in the South in the 70's. Oh, could Helen cook.  She was the perfect Jewish mother to this shiksa chick.

Oh, and there was this restaurant in New Jersey where I learned about dark chocolate paired with red wine. THAT was life changing.

Describe your cooking style, ingredients you love and any specialty dishes.

Anything, anywhere, anytime.


I love to play around with food and wine pairings. Two of my favorite things brought together.

You don't have enough TIME to read my thoughts on food.  You have a life to live.

What are you like in the kitchen when you are cooking?

Glass of wine.
Apron (I'm messy).
What the hell- go for it!  

Discuss some of the results/rewards of your cooking, the ways your culinary work has touched others.

Back when I was still married, we donated a game supper for twelve  to the annual Rotary auction. In rural Georgia, hunting is a big deal.  The ex would kill it, and I would cook it.  It was fun figuring out new ways to present wild boar, deer, dove, and duck.  One year, two bidders got into a bidding war, and, with the bid up to $900, we offered to do two suppers.  Made me feel really organization can help a LOT of people on $1800. 

How would your friends/family describe you?


Describe your greatest accomplishment. (Culinary or otherwise)

My children.  Spend an evening with them and you will understand.

What is something that we wouldn't know about you by looking at you?

I'm Buddhist.

List any cooking competition experience

None at all.

Describe your passions/hobbies besides cooking:

I travel a lot as my mother's companion (I'm basically a cruise 'ho--I'll travel anywhere someone else is paying......). My favorite place on the planet is Norway, but that's not much for foodies. Whale with red currants is wonderful.  Southeast Asia has been a revelation. I still remember the amazing pork belly I had in New Zealand. Oh, and the spice market in Istanbul.  Yep, I remember places I've visited by their food.

I needlepoint and knit. I design canvases for other stitchers.

I'm passionate about photography.  I have completed TWO "Project 365"s--a photo a day for a whole year.

I write a blog... .  Yes, you translated it correctly..."Red Neck House"

Why do you think you can be the next Chopped Champion?

I'm a quick thinker and problem solver.  I have a sense of humor. I fly by the seat of my pants.

I actually think my SON would be more clever than I...............

What would you do with the $10,000 Chopped winnings?

Give it to my son and his fiancee so they could have the wedding they can only dream about.

In ONE sentence, tell us why the Food Network needs YOU on a special episode of Chopped

Whilst I appear to be a fairly-typical, 50-year old, Stay-At-Home-Mom, I am NOTHING like a fairly-typical, 50-year old, Stay-At-Home-Mom......... nothing could be farther off the mark.  Don't judge the book by its cover.

Describe any TV appearances.

I appeared in the on-floor audience of the local "Bozo the Clown" show in the late 60's.  I don't think the tape survives, though.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Big Changes at Maison Cou Rouge

I said 2012 was going to be a year of change.

I didn’t know how MUCH change, though.

If you are standing up, I would advise you to sit down.

I am moving back to Louisiana.

I’ll give you a moment to recover.

I know, I know....I said I wouldn’t.  It was a gut-wrenching decision-a decision I never in my wildest imagination thought I’d ever have to make. I actually decided back in the spring, but have been waiting for the right moment...which is guess is NOW.

I love living here in Middle-of-Nowhere, which, for the record is Tennille, or more appropriately, the twin cities of Sandersville-Tennille, Washington County, Georgia.  It’s tiny, yes, and it has its drawbacks-like the never ending quest for fresh fish and basil, or dining out on something other than fast food. But it’s a wonderful place to raise kids- just look at my two (not that I’m proud or anything).

It’s time for me to realize that, after twenty plus years of being a mom, it’s time for what is sardonically referred to as an “encore career”.  One that puts cash in the bank.

It’s purely an economic decision. The money has run out.  For the past two years (actually probably the last five) I have been relying on the generosity of my mother to pay my (and my kids’) expenses.  Call it pride, or hitting rock bottom, but I just can’t keep asking her to do it. 

It’s time for me to take care of me.  No one else.

Back ten years ago, I imagined the day when Alix graduated from high school.  I imagined the things I’d finally be able to do- study subjects that had been pushed by the wayside, explore my creative side, have the time to write cookbooks, and make jewelry and design needlepoint. I always anticipated this time in my life where things would get easier, more fun.

Well, as I always say, we make plans and God laughs.

I also think maybe I was a little bit naive.  LITTLE BIT?

I stayed in a bad marriage for so long because I thought I had no option.  I had no way of earning a living.  I was a stay-at-home mom- which is not a skill set valued by many in our day and age. At least not in the business world.  Fast forward two years, and it’s status quo.  Nothing has changed.

And I am lonely.

I realized THAT back in April-  Easter afternoon to be precise.  I’d  had the most wonderful morning-my kids (all four of them, for I consider Anna-Grace and Wesley mine almost as much as AJ and Alix) gave me the first Easter basket I’d had in almost forty years. Then they went off to the other sets of parents, and when I talked to my brothers and my mother that afternoon, I realized I was lonely.  Here I was, sitting by myself in this ridiculously big house listening to everyone having a great time at my mom’s.

So maybe it’s not purely an economic decision.

Actually, this really isn’t the best time to pick up and move.  I would really have preferred to stay here another year, at least until AJ and Anna Grace get married, so I’d have a base of operations and  so Alix would have a home to “come home” to during her first year at college. 

Even if I won the lottery and could afford to stay here, it would just be postponing the inevitable.

I need a life.  I need to MAKE a life. 

An “Encore Career”.  

I am scared. No, not scared.  TERRIFIED.  There’s this great big “Unknown” out there and I am awfully old to be dealing with great big “Unknowns”. I vacillate between scared, terrified, useless, incompetent, hopeless, humiliated, afraid, pessimistic, and worthless.  Basically a total epic fail.

Words like “optimistic”, “excited”, “enthusiastic” haven’t been in my vocabulary for so long, I can barely spell them. 

My sense of humor?  What sense of humor....and if THAT’s gone.....

It’s time to change.

It’s time  to put on my big girl panties.  It’s time to take charge of my life.

It’s time for me to LIVE my life.

Stay tuned  here for updates and timeframes.  I’m selling just about everything I own and planning on traveling light from now on.  So if you’ve ever admired anything of mine, make me an offer............

Maison Cou Rouge won’t be a place....It’s now a state of mind.

Pray for me.