Just how many ‘usability’ engineers become a pioneer woman home chef of sorts. A gutsy South Dakota girl who’s wired for success! Since making her debut on Facebook in July 2011, just 14 months ago, she’s been like a pied piper foodie with t0-date over 12,000 followers! Ann’s page is Sumptuous Spoonfuls, and getting to know her has been one of the highlights of my foodie adventure on Facebook! I can honestly say that, Sumptuous Spoonsful~~is A True Engineer in the Kitchen. In Ann’s own voice, I’m going to share this lover of nature, preserver of the earth and black belt, yes, as in karate, foodie with you!
So, Ann, the stage is yours…tell me about you…
I grew up as a city child, but my parents both came from the farm, so trips to my Gramma and Grampa’s farm were frequent and we always had a big garden. My mother was a Registered Dietician and worked with food all day. She didn’t want to deal with cooking when she came home, so it was my dad who did all the cooking for our family. Growing and preparing food runs in our blood, it seems, because everyone in my family is a certifiable “foodie”. Food dominates the conversations a LOT when we get together. Needless to say, there is always something good cooking when we get together.
It might surprise you then that I didn’t choose food as a career. My dad was an electrical engineer, and he encouraged me to follow that path. At first, I wasn’t sure if that was right for me, but after my first year of college, I decided that I wanted something challenging, and I knew engineering would do that. It was a good career choice—I got to travel and meet a lot of interesting people and try new foods (and drinks!) everywhere I went.
I met the man who would be my husband at a wine festival in Santa Fe, NM, and we had two beautiful children, but over the years we grew apart. I was very lonely and turned to the kitchen because it seemed that was the one place where I could truly be happy. Cooking became my refuge, my solace … and it still is. Whenever I start to feel down, just the act of walking into the kitchen to cook makes me feel alive again.
Ann, what have you done in the past few years that has changed your life?
Over the past couple years, I’ve undergone a complete life transformation that started when my husband left me. It was a shock … I had never even considered the possibility that I would find myself alone at this point in my life and have to start all over again, but his leaving freed me. It was like I suddenly had permission to be me, to follow my own dreams, to do what makes me happy. I joined a choir because I love to sing. I cooked a lot of what I wanted to eat, regardless of what anyone else thought … and talked about what I
was cooking on facebook. One of my friends encouraged me to start taking pictures of my food and post them. Others asked me why I didn’t start a food blog. With their encouragement, eventually, I did.
Sumptuous Spoonfuls started out as a way to record my recipes so they would be readily available when I (or one of my children or family or friends) wanted them. It turned into a creative outlet, a way to relieve stress through writing and cooking. But as I “met” other foodies in cyberspace, we became friends and their posts began to give me inspiration in the kitchen and behind the camera. It’s a close knit group of thousands … we all love and support each other like we are the best of friends and even though we have never met in person (yet!), we really are. Sumptuous Spoonfuls is now a part of my identity, an integral part of my life, and something I never want to live without.
We all have bucket lists, what’s on yours, Ann?
I want to travel. I want to see the world, taste different cuisines, meet all my foodie friends. I want to go to Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and all the National Parks. I want to go to a yoga retreat because yoga also gives me peace and helps me see what is inside of me. I want to hike and swim with turtles and dolphins … I want to dance and sing. I want to visit my favorite breweries and wineries. I want to go the Garlic festival in Gilroy. I want to find more people to help me EAT all the things I create in my kitchen!
If you could give your 16 y/o self a few pieces of advice (knowing what you do now), what would that be?
I would say to be very careful about who you choose to marry and why. Looking back, I think I got married because I was lonely … and I don’t think that’s the right reason to get married. While I don’t regret my marriage because it resulted in two wonderful beings that mean the world to me and it taught me so much about myself and about life, I just wish I had known some of this earlier in life. I wish I had known not to let parts of myself die, not to give up the things I truly love in life, not to be so giving that you give away your own self identity.
OK, now let’s talk kitchen…how would you describe your style of cooking?
Eclectic. Healthy and delicious. I want food that makes my taste buds sing and my body feel good, so I take recipes and “healthify” them. I often cut the sugar and fat in half, but I want the result to taste so good that you can’t tell the difference. I draw from many different styles and ethnicities when I cook, and I don’t follow any rules. It doesn’t have to be “authentic” in my book … it just has to taste mouthwatering good.
Where and how did your love of food and cooking start?
I am not sure, but I think it must have started as a very young child because I used to draw stovetops on my blocks. I remember making mud pies out of berries and mud, helping mom and dad plant the garden and harvest the treasures that came from it. I remember as a young girl one day trying to make a pie with no recipe and no idea what goes into a pie except flour and water and so I made this dough of flour and water, rolled it out and stuffed it with some fruit and baked it. It was awful! To this day, I shy away from making pies, but I have found so many other things I CAN make very well. (Now my dad and I bake pies together sometimes, but I always let him make the crust.)
My parents encouraged me to cook and even made it my job to do the grocery shopping and cooking for the family when I was in high school. My boyfriend in high school got me a job at the restaurant he worked at, and he went on to become a chef. I loved working at that place and was totally in tears when I left it for my first “real” job out of college.
Where do your ideas and inspiration for innovative dishes come from?
Once upon a time it was Cooking Light and my treasured collection of cookbooks. Now my ideas come from chance things that people say to me, the creative dishes I see online, my personal cravings. Occasionally something I eat at a restaurant will inspire me. And it seems the things in my kitchen sometimes pull at me … I will be in the kitchen creating something when I see something on my counter or in my garden or fridge that would just go perfectly in the dish I’m making. I’m a very intuitive cook. I allow ingredients to hop in wherever it seems like they fit. I am most grateful for my circle of foodie friends who share their culinary inspiration every day, and you, Ally dear, are one of my besties! I do so love each and every one of the talented foodies I have met … they are an endless source of wonderful ideas.
Here’s what a ‘Usability Engineer’ whips up in her kitchen! Whatcha cookin’?
This all started when Justine at Full Belly Sisters shared her recipe for Cannoli Ice Cream. It looked SO good! A few of my foodie friends also made it and they ALL raved about it. I was totally intrigued by the idea of using ricotta in ice cream … and so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try it too.
Chocolate Pistachio Cannoli Icebox Cake (Click to Ann’s blog for the recipe!)