Farm girl to food blogger

How does an Iowa farm girl learn to cook? Take a milk cow for butter, milk and cheese; a pond filled with frogs for a seasonal delicacy; a big creek filled with fish; a little coop of farm chickens, an occasional lamb (but usually mutton), fresh game and acres of wheat, corn, barley, rye and beans; and don’t forget the  woods where we foraged for mushrooms and wild asparagus and one gynormous garden that could be expanded for acres and acres whenever we wanted more of something… Like the time my Dad tried to hide the sweetcorn in the center of the huge field of corn so the raccoons wouldn’t find it…well we never found out if they did or not because we never found it either. I really loved my garden. I got to pick exactly what I wanted to plant and exactly where it was put in my square. I especially loved to choose the flowers I would put around the border. I loved the working of the soil and planting the seeds in the spring. I had visions of grandeur and that garden was really big…and I was only 8. I was not especially in love with the hours of weeding it took and my garden was not as perfect as some of my sister’s gardens, but it was my garden and every year I would be amazed at what those seeds could do. No matter how hard I tried the seeds I planted always came in too thick. I tried the next year to carefully space them and they were still too thick. It was so hard to picture those tiny seeds filling up that row. It reminds me of the passage that the faith of a mustard seed is all it takes to move mountains. It is one of the tiniest seeds, but has amazing potential. It doesn’t matter if someone tells the tiny seed that it can’t become something big. And that is what I felt life on the farm was like. Whenever someone takes the stuffing out of me, I learned early to pick up my stuffing and move on. Countless times I used this to propel me towards my work as a professor of food science and then as a PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCF.  I learn about cooking from everyone I meet.  A homeless Thai lady, a chef who was running from the Italian Mafia and a patient of mine who told me she was the long, lost Anastasia. After tasting each one of their creations, I believed every word they told me. I watched with fascination as they cooked and wrote every word down (except the Mafia chef would not allow me to write anything down so I had to memorize every ingredient and every quantity so I could recreate it later). I can not list all the others I have learned cooking from because it would take a 300 lb book. I learn of great food ideas from people who sit next to me on  a bus, train or plane or, in Van Buren County where I grew up it might even be a horse and buggy.
My favorite cooking award or honor I have ever won was a 4-H pin for bread baking when I was 10. Showing my heifer at the fair was for the money, but I baked bread for the love of it. And I still do. My mom taught me to bake bread. She died when I was 8, so I had two years to perfect everything she ever taught me so I could win that award. I still remember the breads I made. It would be over 100 degrees outside and even hotter in the kitchen and I would be making bread or buns or cinnamon rolls or who knows what else I could find to make. There was wheat all around us and Gram would go to Uncle Elmer’s to grind wheat into flour. There are lots of stories I could tell about Gram and the cooking I learned from her. She always shared exactly how she did everything with me, even taking the time to have one bowl for her and one for me so I could do each step exactly like she did and stir exactly the same as she did. OK so it still didn’t turn out the same, but we did try.