Do you know Jeannie, everyone knows Jeannie. In my neighborhood that is. A woman tuned in, she is the one who orchestrates the neighborhood meetings and potlucks; she is that soul. Earnest gardener and true home cook, Jeannie discusses how the kitchen is a venue for experimentation and learning; all the while with two small daughters and a rambunctious puppy at her busy heels.
What does eating well look like for you?
When I am eating well, I am baking and making good food for my family. A sweet potato, maple sausage and parmesan egg bake or blueberry muffins for breakfast. Trying a new vegetarian recipe or going with the old standby of meat and potatoes for dinner. Eating well for us is eating organic as much as possible and buying meat that is ethically raised – either from our local co-op or directly from the farmer at the downtown St. Paul farmers market.
What is a favorite and reliable everyday dish for you and your family?
We love tacos! Recently I discovered a vegetarian taco meat made with baked quinoa – it is so delicious! A homemade lentil soup with homemade bread always hits the spot for everyone on a cold winter day.
Can you share a defining food memory?
I was born in Melrose Park, Illinois, which at the time had a large Italian population. Most of my mother’s family (her parents were from Sicily) lived there or in the suburbs surrounding. Every summer we would drive to Melrose Park and go to Aunt Millie’s house for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. There would be a procession honoring the Madonna in front of Aunt Mil’s house. Inside her house I remember eating the best pizza! I recall it being cooked on a cookie sheet, so it was square and a bit salty (I am guessing anchovies) and did not have very much sauce, if any, on it. Oh, how good it was! After the parade we would walk to the carnival and eat Italian ice out of paper cups – as a little girl I looked forward to that Italian ice all day! I also loved going to visit my grandma’s side of the family on Christmas Eve and eating cucidati (Italian fig cookies) and pizzelles. My mom passed away when I was nine, but those fig and almond flavors always make my heart feel warm and connected to her and her family.
What topics around food are you most interested in, and why?
I was never allowed to help in the kitchen as a kid, so I never learned how to cook. I met my partner, a chef, when I was 24 years old. At the time, my specialty was making a poached egg – and that was about it. Sean started helping me learn to cook and I am still amazed when I find things that I can do on my own or find a new way or process for making something in the kitchen. Years ago, I was thrilled when I found out I could make my own yogurt. Last year I took up kombucha and kvass making. I also love learning about how food can be used in the healing process. During flu season I make Elderberry syrup for my family and homemade fire tonic for Sean and I. it feels so good to take care of myself and my family in this simple way.
I have to ask. What would you hope for as a last meal on this earth?
Such a tough question! I am sure my answer would ebb and flow depending on the day, week, year. Currently, if I had to choose it would be good bread with olive oil and salt, cut up grapefruit, cashews, hard salami, a nice white cheddar, fig jam and crackers and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and raspberries on top served on a lovely table with candles and fresh greenery or flowers.