Life is full of firsts.  First steps.  First day of school.  First date.  First car.  First job.  In this my first blog post for the J.Selby’s web site, I thought of some of the other “firsts” in my life.  That led me to thinking of my very first food memory.

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J.Selby’s celebrated its first anniversary during the spring of 2017.  Being here from the beginning, I can attest to the fact that we have come a long way.  We keep evolving and getting better. From the operational details unique to a restaurant to determining specifications that achieve consistent cooking and plating, every day, every week we are continuing to improve.  As the kitchen manager, I am also working diligently to improve my skills and to explore the wonders of plant-based cooking.

I’ve come a long way since my first restaurant job: ten years ago during college, I was cooking up burgers and fries in a biker bar.  Since then, my kitchen horizons have broadened significantly thanks to working and traveling.  There is no doubt in my mind that the best way to learn about another culture is by eating the food and sharing meals with local people. That’s also a great way to learn to cook.  Along the way, I combined my love of travel and culture with my desire to live a healthy, compassionate life as I shifted to a vegetarian diet.  While I wholeheartedly embraced the change, it was not necessarily easy.  In fact, it ran against another one of my “firsts”.

Anyone who grew up in an omnivorous household might struggle with food nostalgia while trying to follow a plant-based diet. The good news is that it’s usually not the ingredients themselves that are nostalgic, but the sensory perception of that food. The smells, the conversation had over dinnertime, the spices, textures, etc. Most of these things can be recreated in a plant-based way. 

My first food memory: lasagna.  Even though I am not of Italian ancestry, Italian food was a central part of my childhood.  My parents made cooking an all-day event, usually on Sundays, as they simmered the sauce from scratch, filling the whole house with wonderful aromas.  This was one weekend day where we were all home together and the day often centered on food.  Lasagna often was the Sunday meal.  The memory of the joy my parents shared while cooking, the memory of the delicious sauce, and the warmth we shared makes lasagna, for me, a true comfort food.  Below is a super flavorful plant-based version of lasagna I came up with.

A “last” word, on “firsts”.  Back in May I gave birth to my first child.  Reminiscing about my childhood food experiences, I thought about how much I look forward to sharing my love of food and cooking with him. I hope he can look back on our Sundays with many fond food memories.  At this stage, he is rather remarkably able to make quite a mess, even with a piece of bread, so it may be a while before he gets to ply his eating skills to this lasagna recipe ... fortunately, you don’t have to wait.

Please, enjoy!

Shiitake Mushroom & Olive Lasagna

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