Announcing the first live, virtual cooking class in my new kitchen. A Thanksgiving Cooking Class form of Turkey-Eve Cook-A-Thon Virtual Pre-Funk Get-It-Done Party!
But first, a gratitude induced reflection on the kitchens that got me here.
When Gen X reminisces about our first kitchens, we all remember the same kitchen – the kitchen of my childhood, up until the age of 5. Shades of mustard and brown. My memory of this kitchen was my Mom talking on our rotary phone with my Grandma for hours. The VERY long phone cord trailing her as she cooked, twisting it around her, handset crooked in her neck. According to my beleaguered mother, my brother and I always waited until she was on the phone to fight. “You’re driving me BATS!”
One of my earliest memories, (I was maybe 4?) was getting to the bottom of a cup of instant hot chocolate and seeing sludge that looked like mud. Horrified, I yanked on my mom’s sleeve. Without missing a word of my Grandma’s daily download of bad bosses, rude in-laws, and ungrateful neighbors, she grabbed the kettle, put some more hot water in the mug, and handed it back to me full. My god. She’d made cocoa out of MUD! What WITCHERY! My mother was MAGICAL!!!
As a child and teen, I mostly stayed out of my mom’s kitchen. She was (and is) a brilliant cook, and I remember her catering parties and weddings out of our house for her friends. But as a liberal kid in a house of republicans I thought it was anti-feminist to cook. (Oh, little Erin.) This was cemented with my first palpable political rage in 1992 when First Lady Hillary Clinton got absolutely dragged for her “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.” comment. (Here’s the full quote. The context changes everything.) Although I didn’t have the words for it then, I felt the Double Bind, and in protest I would stay the hell out of domesticity.
As a result of my protest
, a sweeping movement of equality made this nation a place where by 2016, that same Hillary Clinton became the first woman president. Oh shoot. I wrote that wrong. As a result of my protest when I moved into my first college apartment in NYC I had absolutely no idea how to feed myself. I often say I learned to cook because I was hungry.
After hours at Repast Bakery in NYC. The bread shelves are empty, and I’m all dressed up, so this must have been one of the holidays we celebrated by cooking in the big kitchen for lots of friends.
During my 11 years in New York I lived in ten different apartments, each with a kitchen tinier than the last. But something remarkable happened a few years into college: My mom opened a bakery/lunchspot in NYC. Repast Bakery, across from the 92nd Street Y. This is where she taught me how to use a knife, make every soup, and even, (though I wouldn’t say it’s my natural gift,) make amazing bread. The Repast Bakery kitchen was where I cut my teeth as a cook.
Café Nordo, the theatrical-fine dining hybrid where I served as chef for the past fourteen years, was born in my 500 square foot apartment kitchen in Seattle. Whenever someone kvetches that they can’t entertain or really cook because their kitchen is too small, or their stove is too electric, or what have you, I inwardly snicker. I prepped a five-course meal for 60 three nights a week out of a home kitchen the size of a closet. Oh, how I worked that little kitchen, and deeply appreciate every professional kitchen I worked in afterwards, especially my last one, the Culinarium kitchen. That kitchen was, by square foot, larger than that apartment. It was windowless, a little basement-y, but MASSIVE and well appointed, because, well, I appointed it. And though the creative work of designing dishes in the world of Nordo was usually done in the tiny solitude of my home kitchen, The Culinarium kitchen was where they were finessed, finalized, and multiplied by hundreds.
Just before the Culinarium opened I designed my first little home kitchen. If you watched any of my pandemic cooking videos, or took any of those classes, you’ll remember the lemongrass glass tile, the antique icebox, the arched passthrough. It was, at the time, the kitchen of my dreams, tiny but mighty, and above all, a beautiful space to create.
Two years ago, after spending my entire adult life in apartments, (and finally the most charming condo,) I wanted a garden of my own to tend. So, my partner Terry and I bought a house in West Seattle with the intention of renovating the elderly, small kitchen into one that would be a great workspace for me.
This has been…a process. But finally, (the drilling I’m hearing upstairs assures me) the new dream kitchen nears completion. In a few weeks it makes its debut. After many months without a real culinary workspace, particularly after we closed the Culinarium in December of 2022, I finally get to lay my hands on the soapstone, fire up the induction, and get back to work.
You are invited to help me break it in! I’m starting a series of live virtual classes, beaming right into your home from my new kitchen. The first is November 22, or Thanksgiving Eve – we’re going to make Thanksgiving Dinner! (Or at least prep all the sides…the turkey is up to you.)