In 1984 I discovered that I love to travel. My parents sent my two youngest brothers and me to explore the West. We left Wisconsin, traveled through 16 states and put over 3,000 miles on that tiny little Toyota Mini-Cruiser camper.
We slept on roadsides, truck stops and campsites – things I wouldn’t allow my daughters to do now. We ate local food, cooked local food on our tiny propane stove and made lots of memories.
The next summer we tried the East Coast. It was the same plan except that we stayed with some friends in Brooklyn. I met Alyse, the mother of my friend, and she changed everything I knew about food! She was the first person I had met who made food an experience, not a necessity, from presentation to pairings – so much more than ingredients went into her meals.
That Christmas I was invited back and I was able to help with the holiday meals. Alyse, born and raised Jewish, married into an Italian, Catholic family. To say that Christmas was an extravaganza was an understatement! The Christmas holiday ended with a New Year’s Day celebration. She invited all of her friends in her Brooklyn neighborhood to her New Year’s Day Dessert Open House. It was the first time that I had heard of a Trifle and I was able to build it. We spent the day preparing ambrosia, cakes, pies, cookies; drop, bar and sugar, it was all there and there were so many people there to enjoy it. I saw the look in Alyse’s eyes as she saw her “works” being enjoyed and saw the enjoyment on everyone’s face too. It was a moment that began to define how I feel about food, of course I didn’t know it then but as I look back on what has inspired me in the kitchen Alyse holds a major role!