Mary, a retired operating room nurse of 42 years, lives in Gainesville, FL where she enjoys cooking for old friends, family, and new friends she’s met through GetSetUp. She tells us about learning to cook at a young age, what her grandmother taught her about food, and why she didn’t let a diagnosis of diabetes stop her from enjoying delicious food.
Tell me about how you became interested in cooking.
When I was young, maybe 10 or 11, my sister and I were assigned a night of the week to cook. Friday was my night. We’re Catholic, so there was no meat on Fridays. My standard meal was fish sticks and macaroni and cheese. There weren’t any boxes of macaroni and cheese in those days. So, I made it from scratch, including a bechamel sauce and grated cheese. That was the start. I’ve always enjoyed cooking. My sister now doesn’t cook. After Hurricane Andrew, I went to live with my sister and her husband in Miami for seven months. Her husband loved it because he got home-cooked meals.
Who taught you to cook or are you self-taught?
My mother and grandmother taught me. My grandparents would spend winters with us. My German grandmother was a wonderful cook. She was a phenomenal pie maker. She also made German sauerkraut, red cabbage, and apple kuchen, which is like a cake.
Tell me a little about your recipe.
As a diabetic, I am always searching for keto and low-carb recipes. A very simplified version of this recipe came up on one of the blogs I subscribe to. Before the pandemic, I was invited to a gathering and wanted to bring this salad. But it would be cost-prohibitive to feed 20 people. So I added ingredients to the original to stretch it. I had rave reviews from everyone.
Who is your cooking inspiration?
I love watching cooking shows and competitions. I watch The Kitchen every Saturday.
What is one spice/ingredient you can’t do without and why?
I use a Badia seasoning mix that has cumin, garlic, onion, pepper, and salt. I use it in almost everything. I made Deb’s splice blend and may try some of my own. I also like Penzey’s spices and blends.
Do you have any favorite dishes or any favorite food memories from childhood?
Pork and sauerkraut - I always fix it for my siblings when we get together. I was just talking with my brother the other day and he was making mom’s porcupines - meatballs and rice in tomato sauce. I also remember Mom and Grandma making steak and kidneys.
What’s the importance of gathering around a table for a meal?
I live alone, so I don’t always gather around the table. I do Thanksgiving with my brother, nephew’s family, and neighbor. This past Thanksgiving I invited Heath, another GetSetUp Learner I met who lives in the same town.
At Christmas, one of the ladies in my Spanish classes, Marjorie, and her husband stayed at my house when they were in town, and I enjoyed cooking for them.
Learn how to make Mary’s zesty and healthy salad as she co-hosts her cooking demo with Guide Deb.
If you like swapping recipes, sharing pictures of your delicious dishes, or talking with other cooks, join us on the GetSetUp Community Cooking page. Here you'll find people from around the globe who share your passion for food. Let's get cooking!