I was born in London, England. My father was an American in the U.S. Air Force, stationed there. My mother was a native Londoner. My parents met at a dance. They moved to New York City when I was two. Until I was 13 I grew up where the Bronx meets Manhattan, then we moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Although I was a skinny little girl I loved to eat. Sometimes my dad would wake me up in the middle of the night to have a sandwich with him. He would make triple-deckers on toast with all kinds of great fillings. After Thanksgiving the sandwiches would have turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce on them, plus lettuce and mayonnaise. He cut them into four triangles and skewered them with fancy toothpicks, and we always had olives and pickles on the side.
My memories of my mother's cooking are mostly of the roast beef she would make with Yorkshire Pudding. I loved the "pudding" because it seemed so strange...all puffy and empty inside. I couldn't figure out why it was full of air, but I loved the way it tasted.
Once a week we would have dinner at my grandmother's apartment at 125th street and Broadway. She was originally from Arkansas and was then a second-grade teacher in a NYC school. She hired a cook -- Gladys -- to come in and make the same menu every time: buttermilk fried chicken, collard greens (with the pot liquor served in teacups), green beans cooked with salt pork, big light biscuits, cornbread, and black-eyed peas. The same people were invited every week: our family (which by then included my younger sister and brother), a couple of distantly-related cousins, my great-aunt and her daughter, and several people who lived down the hall from my grandmother. Some of these people were characters: Ruth, who claimed to be mostly blind but if led to the clover patch outside the building could (I witnessed this) pick out one four-leaf clover after another. And Mr. Sapp the retired airline pilot who brought first one wife, then shortly after she died, a second, new Mrs. Sapp who was (to me) barely distinguishable from the first.
I went to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts, and was an art major. I adored the school (as did most students there) and went to school even on days off. If the school was open we were allowed to go in to talk to the teachers and work on our projects -- music for the musicians and for the artists: painting, drawing and sculpture, or framing and hanging our works.
I spent my first year of college at Windham College in Putney, VT, then transferred to the State University of New York at Buffalo, where I got a degree in Anthropology. I worked as an archeologist at prehistoric and historic sites around the country, including New Mexico, California, upstate New York, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. My favorite jobs were in the desert of New Mexico near Albuquerque (working on prehistoric Anasazi sites, the crew living in a sprawling, ancient adobe house), nine months at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, CA (working on prehistoric sites along the road where the space shuttle was to be towed, the crew housed on the base in transient officers' quarters, eating in the mess hall and wakened by reveille each day), and a year-long stint doing environmental impact reports for the U.S. Forest Service in Roanoke, VA (where I had my own apartment in the city).
Budget cuts made my government job uncertain, and while I was looking for another job I met the man I married, who was then the publisher and editor-in-chief of William Morrow books. We married, had two sons (he had a daughter from a previous marriage) and I decided to find a career that didn't involve the irregular hours required of archeologists.
When my husband mentioned that a cookbook editor at Morrow needed someone to test some recipes, I asked for the job. I tested cookbook recipes for two years, heard about an opening at the New York Times, applied and was hired. I have now been testing recipes for the Times for fourteen years, have been writing articles for them for about three years, and have done food styling for photos in the last two years. I have written articles for magazines, have edited two cookbooks (on lobster recipes and Italian recipes) and have taught cooking classes for children and adults. As part of a medieval studies program, I taught a three-month long cooking class on medieval food at an elementary school in New Castle, NH.
Twelve years ago we moved from New York City to Exeter, New Hampshire, and I was lucky enough to be able to take my job with me. We moved in order to be able to afford a large home with a kitchen for me and an office for my husband, who had by then retired from publishing to write novels. We used to go camping in New Hampshire and I sometimes say we moved here because New Hampshire has the best state parks we've seen for camping. It is also true that Exeter is less than an hour from Boston, eight miles from the ocean, close to Vermont and Maine, and near two excellent airports. It is a four-and-a-half hour drive to New York City and an instant away by internet. When people ask me why I moved away from New York and I want to get to the heart of the matter, I tell them that my kitchen is twenty-five feet by thirty feet, and that says it all.