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Laura Kumin's interview

Interview by Jill Interview by Jill

We interviewed Laura Kumin!

Visit the blog: Mother Would Know.

See profile page and recipes

Hello Laura Kumin, so tell us...

Where did the idea of the "nag free zone" come from?

The idea for a "nag free zone" for cooking advice came from a young friend of ours, a former nanny for my kids with whom we still stay in close touch. She used to call and text me at all hours with cooking and food-related questions. Late one night, after she had gone apple picking and had a whole crate of apples in her tiny apartment and no idea what to do with them or how to store them, she called me for advice. I gave her a couple of ideas and recipes, then asked lightheartedly why she wasn't going to her own mom with these questions. She paused and said that her own mom would have advice, but would take the opportunity to offer opinions and ask questions about her job and her boyfriend; she said that when she calls me, I give her cooking advice without the nagging.

Are you involved in the blogging community - how do you attract new readers?

Yes, I'm very involved in the blogging community. I participate in a local group of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia foodbloggers who meet monthly for get togethers, and I am active in the Facebook, twitter and G+ foodblogging communities. It's been wonderful to meet other food bloggers and share experiences with them, in person and online. Some of my foodblogging contacts have become personal friends too, which is a side benefit. it's especially nice to meet someone online and then get to meet them in person. I attract readers by posting on all of those social media channels as well as Pinterest and sometimes Instagram. Also, I blog for HuffPost and many readers find me through that outlet. I am amazed at how word spreads and honestly, when I get feedback from readers I am often surprised at how they found me.

Who would you say has influenced your cooking the most?

My own mom was not much interested in cooking and I didn't have other women (or men) to learn cooking from growing up, so watching Julia Child on TV and using her cookbooks became my introduction to cooking. Julia Child (& Jacques Pepin, who did a show with her for many years) clearly loved to cook and they taught me, not just how to cook, but more importantly how much fun it can be. Recently Grace Young has been a huge influence on me. Through her book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge, and a Facebook group that she and another blogger started, I've learned to stir-fry, which has opened up a whole new world of Asian home cooking to me.

From a totally different perspective, the greatest influence on my cooking has been my family. My husband and kids have been incredibly supportive, not just when I cook from well-tested cookbook recipes, but also when I experiment. Never underestimate the power of an appreciative audience for your efforts.

If you could be a contestant or guest on any cooking show what show would you choose?

That's a tough question because I don't watch many cooking shows. If I could meet (and maybe cook with) a chef I respect, for example, Jamie Oliver, I'd be blown away!

What is your earliest food memory?

My earliest food memory is actually part of the reason I learned to cook. As a young child, I remember visiting my grandparents' home and seeing my grandfather pull out ketchup when my grandmother served him chicken. I watched him dip the chicken in the ketchup and thought that was the oddest combination I could imagine. Later I asked my mom why he did that and she explained that her mom wasn't a very good cook. Grandma's idea of how to cook chicken was to boil it (for way too long, I'm sure), without any salt or spices. My mom explained that it was so tasteless that my grandfather used ketchup "defensively" as a way to add flavor, hopefully without offending my grandmother. Even at 4 or 5, I made a mental note that food should taste good - at least good enough that you don't have to resort to ketchup for flavor.

Do you have any secret tips or ingredients that help you cut corners in the kitchen?

I'm a salad fiend and I've learned to love re-washed baby spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula. There is nothing like throwing those in a bowl, adding chopped vegetables and maybe some leftover meat, chicken or fish and having a chef's salad in no time. Other than that, I rely on advanced preparation to make mealtimes easier. Whether it's marinating meat or chicken or cutting up vegetables ahead of time, I'm always in favor of having half (or more) of the work done when I get into the kitchen to make dinner.

Is there any dish, ingredient or type of food you refuse to cook or eat?

I'm sure Anthony Bourdain has a few stories about foods that I wouldn't want to cook or eat. And I can't imagine cooking frogs legs or pigeon because they remind me too much of those tiny animals. But in the normal course of foods we get in the US, I can't think of anything that I've refused to try.

Why did you focus on budget friendly meals, and what secrets can you share with us?

I focus on budget friendly meals because many of my readers are interested in saving money when they cook. Young professionals who read my blog often bemoan how much they spend on food. I want to show them that you can make really good food inexpensively. Compared to the cost of take-out or eating out, home cooked food is often tastier and almost always healthier and less expensive. You can use high quality ingredients and make interesting, varied food and still save money over what it costs to eat out.

What are your goals for your blog? Where would you like to see it in the next year? Five years?

I'm looking at growing traffic to the blog (of course) but more importantly, I'd like to increase my interactions with readers. My favorite part of blogging is to hear from readers who have learned something from one of my posts or have tried a recipe and loved it. I have an "Ask a Question" feature on the site, and I'd like to expand the number of posts that come from reader questions and suggestions. In 5 years I hope that through the blog I will have brought thousands of people who would otherwise have been opening take-out containers or going out, into their kitchens and cooking.

MotherWouldKnow is also part of a larger portfolio of my cooking-related work. I currently coach novice cooks in my local area and would like to expand that part of my portfolio (through readers who find the blog useful) to work with clients elsewhere through online chats, video, etc. With my son, an actor in LA, I'm writing a book for young people moving out on their own on how to organize a kitchen and get started cooking.

Anything else you would like to share?

I consider myself a missionary for home cooking. Whether you simply cut up fresh ingredients for a fruit or vegetable salad to have with a loaf of good bread and some cheese or make a more elaborate meal, if you cook more at home, you'll be happier and healthier. Plus, whether you're cooking for yourself or for a group or family, sitting down to a home-cooked meal is a chance to calm down after a crazy day or have a great conversation.

Thank you Laura Kumin for answering our questions and see you soon!
Published by Jill - 05/23/2014

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