Hi, I’m Isabel.
As for my job and location, I am an attorney in New York, NY. It wasn’t always that way.
I grew up in rural Connecticut where I worked for a while on a tomato farm. I learned to cook because of that farm, although I can count a few other influences. My father, for example, went through a fanatical spaghetti sauce phase. He grew his own tomatoes, eggplant and basil in a prolific and messy garden at the corner of our yard. My sister, Lily, and I were sent for the ingredients and watched–sometimes under the table–while he sautéed, boiled and stirred with a madman’s zeal.
My mother makes great pesto and ratatouille. But aside from the summer, when things are at their peak, we didn’t do much farm to table eating when I was growing up. Mom worked away from home a lot, and often when she was gone, we subsisted off of my father’s favorite dishes. A favorite weeknight entree: chocolate or butterscotch instant pudding in a pre-made graham cracker crust. If we were being fancy, we might spread some peanut butter into the crust before pouring in the pudding. We ate a lot of curried egg salad on toasted rye, too, which I suspect was a relic of his bachelor days. I stay away from the pies now, but I still make a fair bit of marinara and curried egg salad.
My grandmother, when she came to visit, was a tour de force in the kitchen. She had a logician’s mind and followed recipes exactly: she sifted and re-sifted, inspected and leveled off. She made everything from sugar cookies decorated with thematic glaze to pirogues and Polish feasts. While I remember my father’s pudding pie fondly, I remember Grandma’s cooking profoundly. I don’t have her patience for detail, and I often reinvent recipes on the fly, but she showed me how cooking can transform the house from a quiet, dark space into a holiday scene: even on a Monday.
The Evolution of Bread & Courage
Given the limited repertoire of our meals growing up, I’ve decided to make new recipes and cooking at home a priority. Bread & Courage is the result of my learning to cook. It’s mostly a private site, something to look back on as my palate evolves. It’s also a mobile recipe box, accessible from anywhere. Most of the recipes are estimations and blueprints. I hope people who cook from this recipe box will do so intuitively, too.
When Bread & Courage started, it was a little blog called Taste. Taste began in Houston, Texas, where I lived for four years with my boyfriend-fiance-husband, Christopher. I loved Houston–it took a while for me to find the green cracks in the fields of concrete, but eventually I discovered that the city had a whole subtext of great, locally-grown food.
While I was there, I worked as a cooking gardening teacher for inner-city kids with a program called Recipe For Success Foundation. I tended a plot in a community garden a few blocks from our home. I apprenticed at a restaurant called t’afia, with a plucky chef named Monica Pope. Then, Christopher and I moved to Vermont. I went to Vermont Law School to pursue environmental law and social justice issues. Christopher went to business school at Dartmouth. We finished in May, 2013 and moved to New York.
Unfortunately, writing for pleasure was shoved to the back burner for nearly all of 2013. During my last year at law school, I worked at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in their legal department, planned a move to New York and studied for the bar exam. I also got pregnant. I have deferred my job offer at the Brooklyn D.A.’s office for a year and am happy to have some time to revisit B&C and to expand it beyond the kitchen to include my interest in gardening, conservation and other issues.
This blog also features a few articles and reviews I wrote from The Huffington Post before I went to law school.