Don’t apologize for your shortcomings as a cook. Making food is an assertion of capability. Even a bad meal, made for another, tells that person you will try, that you will come back stronger and better informed.- Tom Chiarella, Esquire



Matt Wright’s Buckwheat Pancakes, a favorite weekend treat.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve always known how to cook, though that can’t possibly be an accurate statement. But from a very young age I understood the joy of cooking for others, thanks to parents who taught my sister and me that most important value.

I think we were just 8 years old when they bought us a kids’ cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens. It contained recipes for things like “Hot Dog Roll Ups” and “Super Supper Salad,” easy meals that kids could put together. I think the most complicated of the bunch was a recipe for a “Creamy Lemony Pie,” which consisted of a store-bought, graham cracker crust and a filling made entirely of condensed milk, whipped cream and lemon juice. The point of the book wasn’t to turn us kids into gourmands, but to teach us how to put a meal together and, more importantly, the pleasure and satisfaction of feeding others.

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Starter of seared scallops on rocket with warm lemon dressing; Main course of pan-fried mackerel with salsa verde and couscous – the first meal I cooked for my boyfriend in my tiny Irish kitchen!

Since moving to Ireland, cooking has become a humbling experience that’s taken my ego down a few pegs. I went from having a decent-sized kitchen to one with about two feet of useable counter space and I left behind my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer and Cuisinart food processor as they were too costly to ship and required convertors. But the biggest change was going from a gas stove/oven to electric, which I’m still not used to. In the last two weeks alone I’ve had exactly three major baking disasters involving biscotti that refused to set, sesame cookies that came out as sticky sheets of goo and granola that burned to a crisp. Oh I also burned my hand and sliced the heck out of my thumb. Good times!


Enchiladas, made in my partner’s even smaller and more challenging (as in he has very few utensils, pans, etc.) kitchen!

There are other obstacles as well, like that Irish butter contains a lot more butterfat than American, which has led to more screwed up cakes and biscuits than I care to admit. Or that Irish recipes are all in grams and ounces vs. cups and pounds. Then there’s the fact than in Drogheda, I don’t have access to all the exotic ingredients that were everyday staples in Los Angeles. Last week I went to three stores in town to find avocados.

But even with all these challenges, I still love to cook. I think I actually appreciate it more than I did when I had all those bells and whistles at my fingertips. In some ways I’ve had to re-learn how to cook in my new environment, and the satisfaction I feel when my friends and boyfriend devour something I’ve made is kind of like how one would feel after finishing a 1000-piece puzzle, with a blindfold on and one arm tied behind her back. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating here but it feels really good.