“I was born in Brooklyn and lived there for four years. I remember the sidewalks, the brownstones, and being in a stroller. I remember the Italian sausage pizza and Italian ice and understanding the pleasure of food at an early age. When I was four, I wanted to be a pizza maker so my mom took me to Dominoes and they let me throw a pizza in the air. There are some things you don’t outgrow.
My dad’s father owned a bakery in Virginia and my mom’s family moved around. She went to high school in Mobile and was homecoming queen at Shaw. Our family lived in Charlottesville and Boston and moving was a fun adventure. I met my husband in college at Florida State and we moved to Libby, Montana. We lived on a river and bald eagles were all around. It was beautiful, but I yearned to move to the South. My uncle taught at the University of South Alabama (USA) and bought a house on Ft. Morgan in the late ’60s. That was our family reunion house. I was raised in the North, but Mobile and the beach were always home. I love the unhurried, kindness to strangers way of life in the South.
My husband and I moved to Mobile in 2008 to get my master’s in English at USA so I could teach at the college level. He finished law school and passed the bar, but couldn’t find a job during the hiring freeze after the market crash. We moved to Hartford, Alabama because it was a small town with a square and the one attorney in town was retiring. My husband built a thriving practice, but our heart was in Mobile. When a position opened, he took it so we could move back here.
I teach English and literature at USA, but I had four different majors in college. My parents are scientists and I was an athlete in high school. I wanted to be an athletic trainer or a marine biologist, but chemistry and I are not good together. Meanwhile, I made A’s in every literature class. I realized I have many interests, but language and food have always been who I am.
When I was 12, I wrapped shrimp in snow peas because I saw it in a Martha Stewart cookbook. My mom had a whole shelf of cookbooks in our kitchen and I sat on the kitchen floor for hours reading them. My dad discovered there could be a vaccine for HPV (human papillomavirus) and gave talks about it around the world. Our family went on those trips, but most of my memories are about food. After we went to Italy, I showed my travel journal to my fifth-grade teacher. She asked, ‘I know everything you ate in Italy, but what did you see?’ Travel is experiencing local cuisine and street food. You can’t experience the culture if you don’t eat their food.
Food is my love language, my therapy, and what relaxes me. I spend about four hours a day cooking. Even grocery shopping is fun. You take disparate ingredients and make something different that brings pleasure to people. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and when she passed away, I baked her chocolate pie. I feel close to my family and honor them by cooking their recipes.
I started my first blog, Mixing in Mobile, as a place to put recipes where I could find them. My creativity was flowing after I the birth of my daughter, so I started the Lemon Baby blog to write about recipes and food. I named it after my daughter’s nickname and wanted to demystify ingredients and show cooking wasn’t that hard. My first post was how to grill octopus. I saw one in Whole Foods and brought it home. I had never cooked octopus, but Google said to boil it in water and wine with a cork because the cork makes it tender. Now my son’s favorite food is octopus.
Lemon Baby is a community of people who care about food as much as I do. I am an extrovert to the extreme and people and human connection energize me, especially around cooking. Before COVID, I went to the grocery store almost every day. Cooking also got me through the quarantine. I couldn’t hug my friends and neighbors or share a glass of wine, but we dropped food at each other’s doors. Leaving homemade pasta and pesto on the porch was my way of saying I love you and I am thinking about you. I drop off homemade soup for friends who have COVID.
I hope to publish my own cookbook one day, but I have to figure out the story and theme. I also write novels. I had an agent who got my first novel in front of editors but it went nowhere. I am writing another novel now. I am a character-driven writer and am always taking notes on my phone and getting ideas from conversations or things I see in real life.
Writing and cooking come from the heart. I love being a college instructor because education is paramount to an exceptional existence. I help students find what they are good at, what comes naturally, and who they are created to be. I want to be supportive of them like my parents were of me.”