About Nutmeg

I did not grow up cooking at my mother’s side. Though she plays an important role in many of my blog posts, my mother, Jane Hite Reilly, was not a cook. A fabulous hostess, yes! One of these days I’ll write about the Kentucky Derby party when she tied up a neighbor’s horse on our front lawn, complete with a bale of hay. But a cook, no. Jane knew how to throw a party, but cooking for her family was something she did to keep her three children and CPA husband from starving to death. “Basic, convenient and easy to clean up” was her kitchen motto. She was a devotee of the local butcher shop, though, and valued high quality meats and poultry. This is perhaps the one culinary trait she has passed on to me.

Somehow, I did become interested in cooking as a young girl. My favorite Christmas gift, circa 1967, was an Easy Bake Oven. Oh, to a 4th grader’s palate, those little cakes were divine. The first book I purchased from the Scholastic Book Club with allowance money was The Peanuts Cookbook. I still have the book and Lucy’s Lemon Squares still rock!

I graduated The University of the Pacific with a BA in English and History. I eventually became a travel agent, with my mother’s encouragement. Living back home after graduation, I used as much creativity I could muster to make the copious amounts of zucchini my father grew in our backyard into novel recipes. This was decades before Google or The Food Network and Gourmet was way too highfalutin’ so my only resources were friends of my mother’s who did cook and my own imagination. Memories of ratatouille from the summer I spent in France as an exchange student became an inspiration and I introduced my family to eggplant!

I loved being in the travel industry and by the time I was married in 1987, I was the travel manager for a Bay Area biotech company. This also coincided with a desire to become a better cook. It was my husband who really embraced the culinary culture of the Bay Area and encouraged me to enroll in a series of recreational evening cooking classes at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. By the spring of 1989, I knew I wanted to make cooking a bigger part of my life and I enrolled in the full time professional culinary program at Tante Marie. 

September of 1989 brought me into a whole new world as I learned classic French cooking methods (no, I will never make a Ballotine of Chicken ever again!) and much more about the intriguing culinary history and styles of San Francisco. Mary Risley, the uncompromising owner and chief instructor at TanteMarie’s, set a high bar for her students. Today, 20+ years after graduating, Mary’s voice is still in my ear as I slice onions, “Keep your fingertips back. Chopped fingers are not appetizing!”

I did not rebel against my mother until I was 30 years old and decided to attend culinary school (unless you count the 6 months I lived with two former football players after college graduation. Why did I think splitting food three ways with two guys who each weighed over 100 lbs more than I did was a good idea?). I was, for the first time in my life, pursuing something in which she had no interest, knowledge or expertise.  My mother’s approach to my culinary school attendance was to feign indifference.  Feign to me, she did; but to her friends, she bragged about her daughter, the chef! 

Oh, how I wish we could have shared our opinions on cast iron vs. stainless steel cookware, or the virtues of a Turducken and which one of us would actually prepare one. Those conversations will never take place, but those that I did have with my mother - from politics and history to well loved books to Mozart, Beethoven, the Beatles and Dave Brubeck, and so many things I cannot even begin to quantify - have made me the woman I am today. 

I started my business, Nutmeg Kitchens Culinary Services, in 2007, after 15 years as a stay-at-home mother and community volunteer. Throughout those years, I was always involved in something culinary at my sons’ schools. I earned my party-giving chops by hosting many a memorable event at our home - but never one with a horse tied up on the front lawn! I now have a very rewarding business with a loyal clientele, and I love cooking for them!

Nutmeg’s Spice of Life is my way of sharing my love of cooking, interesting culinary facts and a recipe or two with my readers. If you get to know my mother while reading my posts, then you are very fortunate. She is my inspiration, my comic relief and was one heck of a gal! I miss her but am so thankful that she is still a part of my life, in my heart and on my blog. She tied a horse up on our front lawn, for crying out loud! Someone has got to write about that, and I will, eventually!

To good food and find memories...

Margaret Reilly MacKenzie

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