For this month's author profile, we have a story from Aida
Mollenkamp, a TV chef and former editor for chow.com, reminiscing
about an accident that would shape her career of choice and the
cookbook that inspired it. Her current book, Keys to the
Kitchen (Chronicle), is a kitchen primer with recipes that are
simple enough for the new cook yet untraditional enough for the
more experienced one.
It's impossible to remember which was my first cookbook, but I
do know that if it weren't for one specific book, I very much might
not be doing what I'm doing today.
After a knee surgery sidelined me in high school, I started
reading anything and everything, and eventually, I turned to my
mother's cookbooks. It was Lorenza De'Medici's Italy,
The Beautiful Cookbook with its sleek photos and regional
Italian recipes that got me off my crutches and into the kitchen. I
cooked the whole book and, by the time I got to the end, I was
completely hooked on cooking and the stories that cookbooks convey.
My mother then gifted me the kitchen essentials of Martha Stewart's
Entertaining and Mastering The Art
of French Cooking and I read them nightly as if they were
my kitchen bibles.
Writing a cookbook has been a dream ever since then, but it's
taken almost 10 years of working in food media for that to become a
reality. The planning and development of the recipes was something
I loved doing ever since I worked in the CHOW kitchens; what I
wasn't ready for was the amount of non-recipe writing a
technique-based book like Keys To The Kitchen would
entail. It was hours upon endless hours and tons of research to
ensure I was providing practical pointers that would make this a
true manual to the kitchen.
The idea with Keys To The Kitchen was to create a
book that can't cook for you but can make you a better cook. And to
create a book that friends could give to beginner cooks as a
reference, but would have intriguing enough recipes for seasoned
cooks. While I used to hesitate which cookbooks to give as a
kitchen resource, now I give Keys To The Kitchen.
Recipe testing and photography are my absolute favorite part of
my job and, having written and photographed well over a thousand,
it's seriously hard to pick favorites. But, if I had to, it'd be a
tie among the Caramelized
Fennel Tarte Tatin, the Oatmeal-Cheddar
Breakfast Soufflé, or the Shortcakes
with Citrus Compote and Orange Flower Whipped Cream. All these
recipe represent my passion of food that's familiar enough to be
comforting, creative enough to be interesting, and communal enough
to achieve my ultimate goal of fostering memories and friendship
through good food.