Nancy Mullis and James Mann of
She Cooks...He Cleans
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
NM — I’m not sure how I first became interested in cooking — I suspect I was just looking for something to do as a bored teenager in rural North Carolina. I remember going through my mother’s recipe box to find something I could make, and ending up with a chess pie because that’s what I had ingredients for. I had no idea what a chess pie was! I apparently have an affinity for mixing things up and “cooking” them, which later translated into a career in clinical laboratory science. I have to say, my creations in the kitchen are far more delicious!
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
NM — I feel that cooking and eating meat from pastured animals and wild-caught fish is a more natural choice than animals that have been raised in environments that they are not adapted to. These animals are healthier, and therefore healthier for us as consumers.
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
JM — More than just health, focusing on the “total experience” with the food you cook becomes a part of your lifestyle. You don’t want to eat food that taxes the planet, is grown with chemicals, or pollutes our water and topsoil.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
JM — From reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, particularly the chapter dealing with farmer Joel Salatin. The idea that what — and how — an animal lives and eats was eye-opening to me.
NM — For me it started with the documentary, “Food, Inc.”, which opened my eyes to the horrors of factory farms. At first I began to seek out alternatives to big industrial farms primarily because of sustainability and food safety issues, but along the way learned about the tremendous health benefits from eating grass-fed meat.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
NM — Using ingredients of the best quality only makes sense, if you want the end result to be of the best quality. As the old saying goes, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Whether you prepare food for your family or friends, or just yourself, you not only want it to taste good, but you don’t want to poison anyone with your efforts. Everyone knows that stale spices or spoiled ingredients will ruin the taste of the dish or make someone sick. Those are short-term effects. Consuming fruits and vegetables laden with pesticides, or animals kept alive with antibiotics, pumped up with hormones, and fed a low-nutrient, grain-based diet — these things will affect your long-term health.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
JM — Passion! If you don’t love food, and look at mealtimes as just another “chore”, then your food will reflect it. I grew up in a household where my mother cooked after a long day at work, and never really got into it. So until I met Nancy, I had no idea what creative cooking and good taste were! But from the very first dish she prepared for me — Goat Cheese Chicken — I became a “foodie”!
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
NM — “Keep it Simple” is good advice for cooking (and life in general). Often the less tinkering done with the food, the better it is because the natural flavors shine through. Also, read a lot of different recipes to pick up on what flavors complement each other or enhance the taste of the main ingredient, but don’t be afraid to experiment on your own.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
We are big fans of ribs and steak — neither of which need much in the way of a recipe to be delicious. We also really enjoyed the Beef Chili Rellenos, and the Lamb Chops with Moroccan Spice Rub!