Who are The Prague Basket?
Allison: Images of my Mom scooping flour into measuring cups from her flour drawer and peering into my Grandma’s pantry to see the colorful jars stacked neatly on the white shelves lined with peaches, pickles, preserves and more from floor to ceiling all flood my mind. Aromas of cakes, casseroles, cookies, and bread wafted through the air in my childhood home and tastes of my Mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies and my Grandma’s toasted coconut cake all take me right back to my roots.
My roots begin with my family as well as the small community nestled in the rolling wheat fields in Washington state where I was raised. People from all over the county called my Grandma to order her scrumptious cakes for their special occasion as she was an excellent baker. My Mom has thrown dozens and dozens of parties in the name of celebration. Baking, cooking and celebrating are in my blood. After living in a farming community where we ordered grass-fed beef from our neighbors and picked cabbages from our gardens and carried crates of berries away from local farmers at a road-side stand to living overseas where you’re learning to read menus and labels in different languages, farmers markets somehow make me feel at home. I continue to visit my favorite farmers for their specialty items to take home to hopefully turn those ingredients into something that tastes fabulous for my friends and family.
Liezel: My enthusiasm and curiosity for food started in the cafeteria of my NYC elementary school. My classmates and I would wonder about one anothers’ homemade lunches. Sometimes we asked for a taste of someone’s meal and other times we gave each other dirty looks that made you want to hide your lunch and yell at your mom for sending you to school with a meal that appeared weird and grotesque, but truthfully happened to be a favorite dish of yours from home.
Lumpia, palabok, kaldereta, sinigang, adobo, siopao and ube were familiar dishes at our Filipino table. My mother, grandmother and aunts never disappointed us with their cooking. But, I also remember how one day when I was in the 2nd grade and my mom came home with a deli made Tuna Fish Sandwich and the day I ate Italian Stuffed Pasta shells at a classmate’s family’s restaurant and how tasting those “other” kinds of food triggered my fascination.
My curious palate was further encouraged by my dad with visits to the borough of Queens’ many diverse eateries. I have to say I have a warm spot for jamaican patties, hot piping coco bread, chinese taro buns, cuban sandwiches, NYC pizza and green tea ice cream. Although food was important to me, I never really tried to cook until I reached my mid-20’s and moved to Italy. The dishes of my new country were deliciously satisfying, but I also missed the flavors of home and it motivated me to learn and recreate some of my favorite meals, both Filipino and “other.” Visiting markets in countries I travel to as well as reading cookbooks and cooking magazines became favorite pastimes of mine. Needless to say, many hours were spent in the kitchen making recipes that stirred my appetite. When I moved to Prague and the blogosphere took off, I kept one about my cooking experiences in my new home called, Adventures in the Red Kitchen, until the day my life changed tremendously.
In August 2011, I became a mom to two beautiful girls. Since then, my time in the kitchen has been limited to washing and sterilizing bottles and most recently, pureeing baby food. I am hoping that this blog, with the help of Allison and Nikki, will encourage me to return to doing something that used to be a big part of my life. My challenge will be finding the time to cook the dishes I grew up on using the local produce, with minimal time and effort. Can it really be done?
I look forward to getting back into my red kitchen and hope that this journey will give you some tasty dishes to add to your own cooking repertoire.
Nikki: In my family, food is the reason we gather; it ‘s what brings us together. Many of my favorite memories growing up include meals as a family. I am not surprised that each of my siblings and I, have become “foodies” in ways that are different and unique from one another, but all a direct connection to our family’s kitchen and entertaining through the dinner table! My mama makes the best meatloaf that I have ever tasted; not too heavy with ketchup, it is the perfect blend of herbs and fresh meats. On Christmas Eve, we eat Clam chowder- a recipe handed down to my dad from Grandpa Hume; it never fails to warm the stomachs (and hearts) of those enjoying a steaming bowl of this deliciousness! Many of the recipes I love and use today I have gathered over time from family members’ kitchens. Grandma Hume’s pie crust recipe never fails and the cobbler recipe passed down from her mother, Grandma Cameron, is a summer dessert staple!
After moving to Prague in 2009, I had to learn very quickly how to translate items at the market and to substitute ingredients. This completely opened my cooking world, and I have rarely since followed a recipe to the exact measurement. I like to explore in my kitchen using a variety of flavors and the seasonal ingredients available at the farmer’s market, from local farmers, and the Bio store in my neighborhood. Through my Prague kitchen, I continue to share my love of food with my international family! The Prague Basket is my challenge to buy locally for canning, cooking, and baking and to share my tips and creations with you.