The Concrete Chef

Here I am sitting in a chair given by Queen Victoria in 1888. The first thing I was ever allowed to make on my own was concrete. Of course I slammed those grocery store cinnamon and orange muffins on the counter and put them on a cookie sheet.

But I got to make concrete at age eight. I mixed the right amount of Portland cement to sand to water in a wheelbarrow and wheeled it in to make our back door steps. Bricks. But I kept making the recipe, and making it, and making it because the guys said 3X4X3. Dad thought that meant three feet deep, not inches. If a tornado comes the house may go, but that doorstep will last forever. And I was the chef. No, I didn’t add salt.

I’m not a chef. I’m a cook. A good cook. School just made me better and fulfilled a wish I had since I was a kid getting the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook out of the local library and keeping it until it amassed $.31 of late fees. Mom bought it for my birthday three weeks later.

I went to cooking school in NYC and Italy. Before that I was a girl with a growing passion for cooking and had three role models.

This blog is dedicated to: my mother for teaching herself to go from the ’50’s ideal of cans of cream of mushroom soup to souffles from Gourmet Magazine (rest in peace, Mom); my Aunt Lorna, an English teacher with a more southern influence who made me taste everything before I could ask the ingredients; and Joan C, a family friend who, with Aunt Lorna, created a successful summer catering business.

Without them I would not have pursued this passion. Without my husband I would not have this opportunity to share stories and recipes with you. He has a hidden agenda – dinner on the table!

Let’s get started! Dee

ps the photo is me in the Lord Provost’s Chair at Glasgow City Hall. Our flat was across the street.

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18 responses to “The Concrete Chef

  1. You go Dee!! Very cool

  2. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate your interest in good food.

  3. Nice clean blog, Dee! Can’t wait to try some of the recipes… I’ll link over to your blog from mine when I do a food-relevant post! ; -)

    Cheers, KLR

  4. My sister sent along a comment, but to my regular email address, so here it is:
    Dee-
    I just read every word of your stuff so far. I learned some things too. I
    thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue to read it, Just send me links and
    reminders every now and then.
    Thanks, Alison

  5. Thanks to Kevin LaRue for writing in. To say I have a good blog is a platinum star on my forehead.

    Kevin and I suffered the “dog wars” in San Diego, trying to get legal leash-free areas to exercise and socialize our well-trained dogs. My dog died in the process and sometimes I regret the time I took from her to go to nightly community meetings and city council sessions.

    It took six years and he made great progress in his community, but elsewhere in the City it was much more difficult.

    Thanks, Kevin, best to the family! Dee

  6. A cook I’m not but I do believe I learned quite a few tips from your blog! Very easy to read, great narrative style, and a little addictive.
    Actually have a question for you…
    After reading Jim’s “ode to his frying pan”, it made me wonder…what type of cookware do you recommend?
    PS I like that your recipes seem simple enough for even me to try!

  7. Hi Pam, so good to hear from you again. Pam was my best friend in high school and we were separated for a very long time.
    It all depends on what you need and the kind of stove you have. Generally, a copper “sandwich” is what you’re looking for in terms of everyday use. All-Clad, Calphalon, look up Consumer Reports (become a member for $3,95 per month for online access only).
    For soups and stocks you need a large inexpensive aluminum pot – but don’t use vinegar or tomatoes or anything acidic in it. You could also use that big pot for cooking pasta.
    For your ski lodge I’d go to Sam’s Club and get a $140 set of Kitchenaid teflon pots and pans. Some are strangely sized but may work for you with a family of five because you’d only use the big ones.
    Best to Jim and the kids. One’s flying out of the nest to college soon? Tell her to be smart and not get into any trouble.
    Dee

  8. Note to Pam and others,
    If you’re a normal-sized woman and need to have a large saute pan please get one with two handles so you can lift it without hurting yourself.
    If you buy pans with silicone handles they can’t go in the oven for long so if you plan to do a lot of broiling with a saute pan, get one with metal handles. D

  9. You are so very interesting. I can’t imagine such skills you have. Wish you could have taught me somewhere around 65 years ago. I may not can cook like you but I’m good at eating.
    Love, Nanny

  10. Thanks for checking me out! My first cooking school was Peter Kump’s (now ICE) which used to be on 92nd Street in Manhattan. Second was La Cucina al Focolare in the Val d’Arno south of Florence.

    It always felt good that I had my knives with me, even securely ensconced in a knife roll, on the subway from 42nd St. to 86th and 2nd Ave. I used my life savings to escape from the rat race on the first, and luckily the second one was a precious gift.

    The knives gave me an air of confidence I really didn’t have in 1989.
    Thanks so much for enjoying our blog and participating. I appreciate your input.
    Dee

  11. Other role models include: Paul Grimes (now at Gourmet) and Margaret Fox, who supervised my internship in Mendocino CA.

    All my siblings are good cooks, the gals bake too, which I never really cared to do.

    My virtual heroes include Julia Child, Simone Beck, James Beard, and many others.

  12. Hi Dee, thanks for your comment!

    I have a good friend who is a wonderful cook, and she always gets upset when people call her a chef too, even though she went to Le Cordon Bleu. So I respect your modesty. There are many “chefs” with big egos!

    I look forward to reading your blog and learning a thing or two about cooking!

    Cheers!

  13. Hi, Dee:
    I am your husband’s coworker. I am a food lover and passionate about cooking too. I cook a lot of Chinese food for my 2 little hungry boys (5 and 3 years old). I would love to learn western style cooking. If you can post lots of pictures of what you have made, that will be wonderful.

    Xiaodong

    • I will try to do better. Perhaps we can cook together one day, and teach each other while entertaining our families. I look forward to meeting you and perhaps then we can plan a meal together. Thanks for writing in. Cheers! Dee

  14. Hi Dee-
    Thanks for the wine and company yesterday. Prana seems to be taking a liking to the raw dog food samples, so that’s a positive sign.
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and was amused to read about the frito pie.
    I made that many years ago but had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.
    Dinah

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