Five years ago, I moved to Los Angeles for the first time. After graduating with a BA in English (and a minor in Journalism) from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, I felt I had much more learning to do before I could hit the ground running as a real-deal journalist. So, I landed at USC's Annenberg for two (of the most challenging yet eye-opening) years. It was my first time living completely alone, in an unfamiliar city and state, with no family or friends nearby. I was equally thrilled and terrified.
Part of my excitement had to do with my first, very own apartment—an edgy, modern studio loft across the street from the Staples Center. Approximately 700 sq. feet for me to decorate, organize, and prance around in as I pleased. Considering it accounted for half of the space, I couldn't help but instantly fall in love with my kitchen. It was beautiful—seemingly endless wooden cabinetry, marble surfaces, appliances that even my mother would appreciate, and an abundance of uninterrupted natural light. It was time to start cooking. But, where would I begin?
I remember calling my mom, Kathy—the incomparable cooking savant, for whom simplicity is key—back home in Philadelphia. "Mom, I want to start cooking, can you give me some recipes?" I asked. "No," she replied. "Cortney, you are a Crawford [her maiden name] woman, it's in your blood."
I developed a nasty habit of doubting my mother even though I knew she was right (about everything) around 12-years-old, you know when everything "starts to change." But, this might have been the first time where said doubt motivated me to do exactly what she said, rather than the opposite. So, I purchased Jane Hornby's Fresh & Easy & How to Cook It aka the most visually appealing and least intimidating cookbook I could find in Barnes & Noble. Then came Heidi J. Swanson's Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from my Natural Food Kitchen, with Sarah Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take On Whole Foods, right behind it. I flipped through, bookmarked, grocery shopped, made a few stunning dishes, and even more messes. But, once I started, I couldn't stop.
I'd be remiss not to mention that prior to picking up these books, I spent the summer working as a counselor at Health and Wellness camp for young women (ages 14-24). It's safe to say the main goal for all campers that summer was to lose weight—develop new and improved habits. To my long-time satisfaction, I managed to lose multiple pounds as well, but that's a novel for an entirely different post(s). Point being, I was on what some would call a health-kick when I got the urge to start cooking. Whether or not it was a phase, I'm eternally grateful for that initial desire, because it led me to an endlessly stimulating world that encouraged me to be creative, confident, humble, imperfect, precise, silly, simple, and unbelievably messy—the latter being opposite of everything I ever hoped.
Today, the kitchen is my happy place. I find cooking and baking to be therapeutic. Even when I screw up a cake, or overcook a steak, creating meals and sharing them with others brings me so much joy. In addition to Hornby, Swanson, and Forte, there are several other women who have kept me in the kitchen, frazzled yet free. Be sure to take a look at the delicious foods created in their sacred spaces in links provided below. Without them, Ina, and Kathy, most importantly, I wouldn't be here. So, here's to people that sift and shout, and those that even shout as they sift— we make the world around us a little sweeter each day.
Oh, and here's a look at what we'll be getting into—a bunch of meals I've modestly made and photographed on my iPhone in the last year. I hope you're ready!