Interview with Jessica: Gardens and Cooking

We think conversation is one of the most fun parts of language learning. On Thursdays, we switch languages and ask each other questions to learn more about Tuesday’s topic. Today, Rober interviews Jessica about her garden cooking style. You can read Jessica’s original post about Ratatouille made from her garden vegetables here


Rober: What is the best part of having your own garden?
Jessica: I asked my mom what she would answer for this question. She is a long-time gardener and I knew she would have a hard time settling on one thing. She said: “That’s hard. It’s complex…self-sufficiency, fresh food, knowing what went into it, watching things grow, nurturing life, beauty…I guess I’d pick any one of those…tradition shared with parents and grandparents.” I think that’s a pretty good answer!

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R: Is it easy and affordable to get seasonal ingredients in Missoula and in US in general?
J: Yes, it’s relatively easy. Colder places are more of a challenge, of course, but there is a pretty booming agricultural community here in Missoula. You just have to plan a little bit more. There is now a winter market that runs through the year, and it happens to be conveniently located just a few blocks from my house. And I just signed up for 2 winter CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes. One is a weekly pick-up from Missoula Grain & Vegetable Co. and runs for most of the months that the outdoor market will be on hiatus. The other is a one time cold storage pick up from Harlequin Produce with several pounds of onions, potatoes, beets, and squash. It would be nice at some point to build a greenhouse in our yard to extend the growing season a bit. We’re coming up on our first frost here in the next week or so, but the days are still warm enough for things to continue growing. So, the short answer is, it’s not as easy in Missoula as some places, but there are people working to supply fresh options throughout the year.
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R: Do you like to prepare food from another countries, or are you a traditional cook?
J: I do like to prepare things from other countries. It always takes a bit more preparation, but I’ve recently made a Thai massaman curry and an Indian korma and they turned out well. I’m not much of a planner when it comes to cooking. I enjoy improvising with what I have on hand, so that probably means I cook less world cuisine than I would like to. Missoula has fewer restaurants so there is more impetus to cook with more variety here, whereas, in San Francisco, you could find basically whatever kind of food you were in the mood for. 

R: Did you learn to cook by yourself, or did someone help you?
I learned the basics at home with my parents, and then practiced a lot on my own once I was in college. For several years, I read cooking blogs. And I go through phases of cooking from recipes and then improvising, based on what I learned. When I find myself in a rut, I know it’s time to go back to cooking from recipes to learn some new techniques.

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R: What is your favorite dish?
J: I have a few favorites that I cook pretty often. Most of the stuff I make is simple. One of my favorites is shakshuka. I sauté hot peppers and onions, and when those are soft add tomatoes. After that mixture cooks down for a while, I poach eggs in it. I like to eat that over polenta and Jacob likes it over toast, both sprinkled with cheese. That is one of my favorite dishes because it is always delicious and very simple to make. Another favorite lately is a broccoli pasta I learned from my friend. She sautés anchovies, crushed garlic, and red pepper flakes, adds chopped broccoli and cooks it down until it is soft and starts to break apart. Then she serves it over pasta. I think my third very common thing to make is a red lentil soup with cilantro and lemon. It is warming, filling, and light all at the same time.

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