author of the blog La Fuji Mama
Rachael Hutchings, author of the blog La Fuji Mama has eaten her way around the world, having lived in a variety of fun food locations, including Paris, Tokyo, Yokohama, Memphis, and Los Angeles. She features recipes that are a fusion of different tastes, influenced by the variety of places she has lived and visited, and the people she has met. She says her food has global roots with a local homegrown accent. Rachael is a self-proclaimed Japanese cuisine advocate and loves introducing people to the wonders of homemade tofu and miso soup made from scratch. Read Rachael's blog at La Fuji Mama. Find her on Twitter at @fujimama.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking? Was it something you learned to love early or did you come to it later?
A:My mom made sure that I spent time in the kitchen with her at a young age. I could competently read and follow a recipe before I was out of elementary school. But I think it was when I was living in Paris, France as an undergraduate student that I really discovered my love for cooking. I lived with a French family and spent at least one night a week helping my host mom make dinner. Those evenings make up some of my fondest memories of my time spent living in France. I returned to the United States with a new passion for cooking and have been going strong ever since.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat important? How does it affect your cooking?
A: Eating grass-fed meat is important to me and my family for many reasons. Not only is it better for you (for example, grass-fed beef has lower levels of unhealthy fats and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids), but it has better flavor, and I feel better knowing that the meat I am eating is from an animal that was raised in a more humane manner that is also better for the environment. This has led us to cut back on our meat consumption so that we can afford to spend a bit more on buying grass-fed meat.
Q: Is it just about health or more than that?
A: Health is definitely important, especially as I worry about the health of my two little growing girls, but taste, humane treatment of animals, and the environment also play a strong role.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meats?
A: I became aware of grass-fed meats when I read Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. The book was eye-opening and I've spent time since reading additional books and articles and trying to educate myself as best as possible on the topic.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
A: Ingredients are the building blocks of a finished dish. If you build a house using shoddy materials, do you really want to live in that house? The same goes for cooking. If you cook with substandard ingredients you are cheating yourself out of a more delicious (and often more healthy) dish.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
A: Let go of any fear. I recently heard Mark Bittman speak and I loved what he said about home cooks. He said, "Get into the kitchen. Cook what you like. People think that it's hard. They say things like, 'I can't cook, I'm not a chef.' Go cook and then you're a cook. You may be a lousy cook, but you're a cook. Do the best that you can." Having a few basic cookbooks and access to the internet are also important. When in doubt, look it up! It's amazing what you can teach yourself. In the end, it's just food. So what if you overcook the pasta or your cake is lopsided? Eat or get rid of the evidence and start again. We all make mistakes. What's important is that we learn from them instead of letting them destroy our confidence!
Q: What home cooking tips can you provide for our readers?
A: Arm yourself with good resources and tools. Good resources will help you answer any questions you might have about technique, ingredients, or substitutions. Good tools will make the cooking process so much easier. It's also more pleasurable to cook when you're not fighting with problems like a dull knife. Most importantly? Have fun and taste what you're making throughout the cooking process so that you can make any necessary seasoning adjustments.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
A: I love a simple piece of meat grilled on the barbecue with some seasonal vegetables.