AT ANY GIVEN TIME—pre-pandemic, that is—my fridge was stuffed with Styrofoam and cardboard carryout containers filled with leftovers of every kind. Pumpkin man two and pieces of lamb shish kebab from The Helmand, half a shrimp-salad sandwich from The Local Oyster, a few scraps of chicken marsala from Vito’s, some ramen from PekoPeko—food from wherever my work as the food and dining editor of Baltimore magazine has taken me. The truth is, I’ve always enjoyed cooking at home, but usually because it was a relief from all that eating out. Now, COVID has left me—and us—with no other choice. While carryout and delivery are still available, dining out, something I did up to five times a week for work, is no longer an option.
I learned to cook at the same time I learned to write. In 1987, when The Cosby Show was the top-rated television show in the United States, I was an associate editor at TV Guide Magazine, then the bestselling magazine in America. As part of my gig, I was tasked with writing a cooking column called Celebrity Dish. I interviewed TV stars and they gave me their recipes, which I tested and refined. I interviewed Wolfgang Puck, whose shrimp BLT taught me how to fry bacon to a perfect crisp; Jane Fonda, who explained how to shell pomegranates mess-free underwater; and, long before I was living in Baltimore, Montel Williams, who showed me how to make a proper Maryland crab cake and whose recipe I still use to this day. Thanks to my recipe testing at the magazine, my home was a strange ad-hoc cooking school, filled with colorful characters, including someone in the witness protection program who authored The Mafia Cookbook and taught me how to make Italian gravy. I’m grateful for those experiences now. There’s no question that recipe testing, eating out, and spending time in restaurant kitchens for my job at Baltimore over the years has made me a better cook.
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