wit // the ability to relate seemingly disparate things so as to illuminate or amuse— MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY
I come from a family where food has always been at the center of everything. A group of insatiable foodies, we often talk about what is for dinner during breakfast. Holiday dinners are like mini food festivals contained to our dining table. And even an everyday home-cooked meal is an opportunity to test and grow our abilities in the kitchen. When time permits, we’ll often spend the day in a marathon of sorts, researching the best methods and techniques for a recipe, shopping for the exact right ingredients even if it takes us to three different stores, and tasting and re-tasting to get just the right balance.
Likewise, going out to dinner is an event in discovering new flavors, trying new restaurants, and not a time to skimp on desserts. It is not necessarily about getting fancy or expensive, but more about the search for an experience that inspires us and produces meaningful memories of time together as a family. We were taught to try everything and that to be picky was to miss out on some of life’s richest experiences.
I’m sure there are those who would witness the intensity of our family and think that we are egomaniacs, obsessed with perfection and becoming experts in a thing none of us had majored in. But what they’d be missing is that, for us, it has never been about being the best. It is about the pursuit of flavor and the shared experience of being incredibly passionate about food.
In many ways, food defines who we are and who we are becoming. I remember as a little girl, standing at my grandmother’s wooden counter as she patiently taught me to chop every kind of vegetable. It was in that same kitchen that I learned how to bake fresh blackberry pies from the fruit we picked off the bushes down the lane on hot July days. Baking was my first culinary love and gave me a thrilling sense of independence. It felt like magic. Pouring and measuring different ingredients, mixing them all up, and reveling or lamenting in the finished creation. While the cakes, cookies, pies, and brownies had come from a recipe book, they always felt like they were an extension of who I was.
As far back as I can remember, the food I have made has felt like an intimate part of me, and that by sharing it with others, I am expressing and sharing a part of myself. Just as I have morphed and changed over time, so has my cooking abilities and style. If something in my life is not working, making a change in how I’m cooking and eating is often connected to the larger changes I’m making in my life.
For each one of us here at Whittier Cooking, my mother Beth, my sister Courtney, and myself, food is deeply connected to our experiences of life and family. Whittier is a family name, so it is meaningful in its connection to our lineage. But the word “witty” also refers to being clever about things, to bring things together in unexpected or imaginative ways. In many ways it describes our cooking styles, as well food’s role in each of our lives. Our experiences with food are closely entwined in our memories of people we have loved and lost, the stories we tell both new and old, and our view of ourselves and our health. But most of all, it gives us deep joy to celebrate life through cooking and eating. We hope that through our stories and concoctions, you will be able to connect to that sense of joy as well.