Before there was bartending, there was....
FOOD. At least for me. Most folks are surprised to learn a little more about my past. Understandable. What you see out there in the ether is mostly about cocktails and bartending, and sometimes info on books I've published like my cookbook "Tiki Lindy's Field Guide to Pupus, Tidbits & Exotic Provisions." I've worn many hats though. I started bartending in 2000, as a way to get myself through pharmacy school after a divorce at a very young age. I never really gave it up as you can see. I'd work in the hospital making IV solutions and then get off at 7 pm and go to the bar to work. Good (and exhausting) times. When I tally up my experience, at least in the 3 biggest buckets, I've been a Doctor of Pharmacy for 17 years, a bartender/mixologist for 20, but I've been a chef for 24 years. I had a full ride to college. but it didn't pay for doing fun stuff. So I held a wide variety of low pay jobs, and started my own catering company. For me, food was at the center of my ethos. Food was comfort, at least the creation of it, and sharing my creations with others. It's still that way! I can't help think about food when I think about cocktails...pairings are my absolute love! And passion for something gets noticed. Even though my operation as caterer was small beans, I garnered some attention from small local media when I ran a special catered Valentine's day picnic baskets. Someone just had to choose between 3 menus and then either the evening before or the morning of Valentine's day, come pick up their order, all packaged in a picnic basket, complete with serving ware and a mini bottle of champagne. Brilliant!
Recently I was combing through a slew of old file CDs, thumb drives and whatnot and came across a document where I had answered some questions from a local newspaper around 2001 surrounding the above mentioned Valentine's Day catering special. I don't even remember the name of the publication nor the interviewer, but I thought I'd do a "Then" and "Now" Q&A based on those same questions. Here goes!
Q: How did you get into cooking?
A: My parents were horrible cooks. My mother couldn't even master the mostly canned ingredient recipes she grew up with in the 1950s. My grandmothers, while very good cooks, kept the menu specific to the culture they came from. We had many farm life simple German, Irish and Spanish dishes. Part of me thinks my cooking as a kid stemmed from necessity. But I remember sitting in front of the TV before I could even read and write and watch shows like the Frugal Gourmet, Julia Childs and Justin Wilson the cajun chef. I'd memorize the recipes in my head because I couldn't write yet.
Q. What's your favorite thing to cook?
A: I really like adding a modern touch to comfort food. I make a baked "fried chicken" that uses tarragon in the spice blend, and I'm always working on learning recipes from other cultures too.
2020 Answer: I love trying my hand at authentic recipes from all over the globe. At this point, I get the most satisfaction from a challenge. There's not anything I won't try to make at home. Indian and Thai are regular in my home cooking, but I'll throw down making sushi, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, you name it! Just give me a challenge!
Q. What do you usually pair with what you cook?
A: We don't really have good access to wine here in the South, so I tend to pair food with beer or cocktails. I do some home brewing and many of my friends home-brew, so finding fun menus to go with their concoctions is fun.
2020 Answer: I've come along way, in that once I moved to CA I was very into wine, more so than any spirit based drink. That led me to bourbon, which led me to rum. Wine and food pairings can be somewhat parsed out by varietal but a true test of one's culinary palette is pairing cocktails with food. The complexity can be a challenge. I have done several rum flights with food menus and people always are so surprised with the match up.
Q: What are three things you always have in your fridge or pantry?
A: Butter. Bacon. Eggs. That sounds awfully unhealthy but fat adds flavor and no matter what else you have around, you can usually spruce it up one of those 3. If you have butter and eggs, you are basically two thirds to half way to baking most things.
2020 Answer: Soy sauce. Citrus. Garlic. I still usually have butter and eggs, but soy sauce makes almost everything better (and sriracha) and citrus, well....cocktails, duh. I keep a pretty lean fridge and folks are always surprised with what I whip up from what I've got on hand. I like sticking with fresh food, and as little waste as possible. So, I usually cook around what I have instead of shop around what I want to cook. I repurpose many ingredients so nothing goes to waste!
Q: What recipe would you say is your claim to fame?
A: My barbecue sauce I make for ribs and pulled pork is still in my humble opinion better than any I've tried at award winning bbq places here in the South. I've yet to share the actual recipe with anyone.
2020 Answer: I have a tropical bundt cake recipe that folks swear I must put something "special" in it. Even people who don't eat sweets can't resist. I don't have an official name for the cake, my family calls it my orange pineapple cake, my friends just call it crack cake. But it does have a special spice in it that no one can place and that, like my BBQ sauce recipe, I will probably take to my grave!
I hope you enjoyed this little blast from the past like I did. If you have a favorite recipe or have had one of mine, tell me about it!