About me

I live with my husband, 3 children, a cat and a dog. We have a grandpa in town who often swings by for dinner. I ignore things like laundry, cleaning and gardening (all of which I am in charge of) using the excuse that I am far too busy because I have to go grocery shopping or make dinner. I don’t do fun breakfasts like french toast or waffles during the week (unless it’s for dinner) and my kids get by with very simple, often repetitive lunches in their lunch boxes. Our lives are busy, and I don’t apologize for this. But I do love to make dinner. I love to know what other people are eating.  I like to solve tricky culinary problems, like children who only eat white foods or adults who hate vegetables – I love a good dinner challenge.

What makes me qualified to write about food?  There are plenty of people who could justifiably say I’m not. But here’s what I can tell you. I have been cooking since I was small. I was 7 when I started making cookies out of the Joy of Cooking. I bet I tried every cookie recipe. Then, when I was in 8th grade, my best friend Patty and I formed the International Food Cooking Club. We used my mom’s copy of The New York Times International Cook Book and made dinners for our parents.

In high school all my friends liked to cook, a couple of their parents had incredible food stores – one an Italian grocery and the other a Viennese bakery, where I tried my first flourless chocolate cake. When we all cooked together the night before senior prom, I made Julia Child’s Reine de Saba, which I learned to make from my mom. Fold the egg whites in very carefully, not too much! Don’t deflate them! I still love that cake.

In architecture school, when I got my own apartment sophomore year, I had a dinner party after studio most Friday nights. Black bean soup for 30 hungry architecture students? – No problem!  In the mood for apple pie? Stop by my apartment at 11:00…PM. In our semester in Rome during my thesis, my friend Nelson and I did 14 different dry rubs on 14 different turkeys that we then dispatched to our fellow students miniscule apartment ovens and to several restaurant pizza restaurants (who had very kindly offered space in their pizza ovens) around Rome.  We stayed up until 1 in the morning, plucking stray feathers from those birds and rubbing them with garlic and olive oil or herb butter. Our dinner for 70 architecture and art students and professors was served on our drafting tables in a library with Raphael frescos on the ceiling, lit by candles.

After college, I couldn’t stop the Friday night dinner parties. It seemed natural to race home from work, stopping by the market on the way  to get ingredients for crab linguine or paella. Other nights I would try new restaurants, in a futile attempt to eat at every restaurant in the city. One day, my roommate’s brother brought me the tenderloin of an elk. It was enormous and I had no idea what I would do with it. I ended up roasting it in the oven, and with the pan drippings, dried sour cherries, brandy and cream I made a sauce. We served our dinner for 14 on an old hollow-core door on a pair of carpenter’s saw horses with green enamel garden chairs for seating. That was a wonderful dinner.

When I met my husband Martin we practically lived on restaurant food. When we did cook, we made elaborate multi-course meals. Martin is a fearless bread and pasta maker. And then we had kids. And for 2 years we lived on take out.

Let me tell you, there are far worse things than having to eat take-out every night in San Francisco but at the end of two years we were done. I began to think about what I loved eating when I was a kid.  My mom is a good cook, my grandmothers were fabulous cooks and I grew up eating well. I wanted my kids to know something more than Dragonwell, Star India, Eliza’s and Pluto’s. I went back to the kitchen and I started from scratch.

When I first really began life as a family cook, I made meatloaf and spätzle, macaroni and cheese with steamed green beans, pasta with tomato and butter sauce. Stuff I had never bothered with before…ok maybe the tomato-butter sauce – it’s ambrosial – see Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan). And I made them over and over again. But kids don’t need a steady diet of standards. And neither do I. It’s boring. Sure, those menus are good when you’re tired or they’re tired. That kind of cooking is very comforting and it becomes the stuff of childhood memories. I remember LOVING my mom’s tuna casserole!!! I think I still would probably like it a lot. But I can’t cook like that everyday.

And so, armed with my cookbooks (I have over 100) and some wonderful cooking magazines, I began to rethink how I made dinner. With help from books by Alice Waters, Annie Somerville, Julie Sahni, Madhur Jaffrey, Julia Child, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Marcella Hazan, Simon Hopkinson, Nigella Lawson I had made an enormous range of dinners since I was in 8th grade.  Right there under my nose – a rich resource of ideas to turn into food I could make on a busy week night!  Making dinner fun can be an adventure. I try to communicate that to my kids. I am taking notes here.

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11 Responses to About me

  1. Kathleen Connelly

    What a great idea! I get frustrated with nearly 8-year-old Patrick, who will eat some things with gusto (salmon, baba ganoush, venison, broccoli, spaghetti, pizza – of course) and anything else gets stern negative looks, even if cloaked in catsup. It would be great to have family dinner recipes that would make them WANT to put down their iPhone and DSi and enjoy the food!
    (P.S. I am so bummed I missed that turkey dinner in Rome!)

  2. If your kid eats venison, baba ganoush and salmon, you hardly need my help! Kids are ALWAYS picky about something! What if he only ate bagels?! Or only white food?! I am very impressed with his eating repertoire ;-)

  3. Karen Cooper

    Oh, Sarah! I want to hug you for all you’ve done here!! It’s all so completely flowing for you, and so perfectly complete. I want to eat every word and I deeply regret that it’s now 11:20 and that I haven’t been on FaceBook to find your posts for the last month (or however long) and I have to walk the dog and go to bed and can’t stay up ’til 4am.

    These posts are all so completely interesting and so real and smart and funny and warmly witty. You are really saying things and we are treated to such a giant hit of your humanity in your work. You are the modern living MFK Fisher. You must go on. You must keep doing it. You must keep creating, cooking, writing this blog forever and ever and drink the blood of young lambs and offal recipes, if that’s what it takes to keep you awake at the stove 24/7…

    xox,
    K.

  4. Help, Sarah! I’m discouraged.

    Yesterday I planned, shopped, and prepared a lentil stew over rice dinner for my family of 5. I was proud of myself for using a slow-cooker and getting all the work done in the early part of the day when I have more energy and less interruptions than in the evening. The stew was pretty tasty and very nutritious, especially for my practically vegetarian 11 year-old daughter who is protein-challenged. But the “family dinner” idea was a bust! Husband worked late and brought teenage son home from baseball practice at 8:30pm. Son said he wasn’t hungry but then made himself an enormous peanut butter smoothie at 10pm. Husband didn’t comment on stew — probably just cares that it filled his belly. Now tonight we find ourselves split up again — kids at activities, husband at meeting. Me staring at a lentil stew that is going to go bad before it is eaten.

    Maybe I need family counselling as much as recipe inspiration. Sigh.

  5. Here’s what I think. Your kids are older than mine and your husband has longer and more irregular hours. Can you choose 2 nights a week that you can all eat together? Sundays are a great place to start. And maybe Fridays. Saturdays are for sleepovers. And the other nights are for after school activities. Then buy a sandwich press. And make more soups. Lentil soups and bean soups are great for vegetarians. Cook bacon and crumble it on the top of the soup for the carnivores. And the sandwiches can be really fun! I will give you a dozen ideas offline. Soup and a sandwich you could eat with your younger two and your husband and oldest could have them for dinner together later. It wouldn’t even taste like leftovers. It’s hard to eat together when the schedule is so crazy. This will be my life in a couple of years too!

  6. Martin just posted “Pear Cake with Cardamom” and I was instantly captivated by two things — the idea that this delicious-sounding cake might be something I can actually make, and the sheer and simple beauty of the writing itself. I bookmarked it immediately. After a little more time on the blog I realized, wait – this is Sarah, wife of Martin!!! So how exciting. I can’t wait to read more recipes and stories on your blog.

  7. Sharon Phillips

    Very impressive blog, Sarah. I especially enjoy your personal commentary and photography. Looking forward to making some of your recipes and will check often for more recipes.

  8. Pingback: notes on dinner | Living In Healthy Balance's Blog

  9. Gerry OScannlain

    Sarah,
    Cool blog. I just found you. Hope all is well.

    Love,
    Aunt G. xxoo

  10. Gerry OScannlain

    Hi Sarah
    Cool blog. Just found you online.
    Hope you are doing well.
    Love,
    Aunt Gerry

  11. Sarah, I love love love your whole history and am SO glad you included all of the details!!! So if a family is too busy to have dinner together, why not try breakfast? Just a random thought since I read all of your responses even though some were from years ago. I love reading about food and cooking… I just prefer when my husband cooks… he is such a divine chef! And the weather in San Francisco has been so over the top perfect we ate 3 meals on the deck yesterday!!! Not something that happens often in San Francisco! He made grilled shrimp with avocado and feta cheese…. super yummy!!! Best to you, Alicia

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