I grew up in a foodie family. My dad's father was the first accountant to specialize in hotel and restaurant accounting, starting in the 1920's; in the 50's my father attended Cornell's restaurant school, after which he opened an inn in the Berkshires, across the street from Tanglewood.
Eventually the stress of the business got the better of him, and he turned in his Innkeeper's hat for a life in academics. But the love of food and hospitality never left him, and my earliest memories all center around meals and company.
My mother, meanwhile, grew up in Egypt. Middle Eastern food was a staple on our table from the beginning, and informed my tastes ever since I was a baby. Hummus, rose water, lamb and mint¡ - emblematic flavors of a distant land - are all favorites of mine even today.
As a professor at the University of Michigan, my dad had students from all over the world. It was our family's tradition to host "cast of thousands" Thanksgivings, at which stray international graduate students with nowhere to go for the holiday were invited and asked to bring a dish from their home countries. These extravaganzas went on every year, and are some of the most precious memories of my childhood.
My sister and I always cooked alongside my parents. The first dish I ever made for company was a chicken liver pate. I was 7. It was a culinary tour de force, I thought, but my parents' guest didn't even notice. Perhaps this experience made me appreciate Babbette's Feast even more when I saw the movie in my 20's.
Following in my father's footsteps, but backward, I went to school for an academic degree; out of school, I realized that I despised teaching, and much preferred the cooking jobs that provided pocket money during my studies. I worked at the well-known Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor for several years until I made my commitment to the food world official: I attended the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont.
The internship I took to complete my program was at a little specialty food store just starting up in Central Vermont, The Woodstock Farmers' Market. We had a vision of bringing delicious, made-from-scratch, creative prepared foods to the beautiful town of Woodstock. My best friend Leslie and I were the chefs, and we found a very receptive audience among both the locals and visiting skiers and leaf-peepers.
That was 15 years ago. In the meantime our little store has continued to grow; I have moved from the kitchen to the grocery department; and my husband does almost all the cooking at home. My love for food hasn't changed, however, and the greatest part of my job is finding amazing new products and introducing them to our community.