When you have taken a cooking class from Pam Anderson, she wants you to be able to open the refrigerator and see the dinner possibilities. She also wants to help you prepare a perfect recipe.
A typical cook has two sides to his or her cooking, says Mrs. Anderson, a cookbook author and nationally syndicated columnist, who will be featured at The Blade Great Taste Toledo Food & Cooking Expo in October. There s the side that wants to get the recipe right that elaborate birthday cake or that gourmet dish for a special occasion. Then there s the side that just has to get the food on the plate.
Most cooks don t have time to spend on elaborate preparations, she says. They just want to get the meal on the table.
Those two different situations will be the focus of her cooking shows at the event. I ll address those needs and overcoming those challenges, she said in a phone interview from her Connecticut home office. I know what cooks go through and what they need, whether making perfect muffins or chicken pot pie or roast turkey or prime rib.
The two-day food event presented by The Andersons will be from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and 10 at the Sports & Exhibition Center at Tam O Shanter, 7060 Sylvania Ave., Sylvania. (Mrs. Anderson is not related to the family that founded The Andersons.)
Scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9, Cook Without a Book for Busy Weeknights will be a formula or technique-driven cooking demonstration. Each presentation will be 90 minutes and will feature recipes from How to Cook Without a Book by Mrs. Anderson (Broadway, $26).
At 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10, Perfect Recipes for Having People Over is a recipe-driven cooking demonstration. It will feature recipes from Mrs. Anderson s book of the same name, published by Houghton Mifflin, $35.
Mrs. Anderson also has written The Perfect Recipe (Houghton Mifflin, $27) and CookSmart: Perfect Recipes for Every Day (Houghton Mifflin, $28). She is a food columnist for USA Weekend and expects a fifth cookbook to be published next spring called The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great Change Your Life for Good (also published by Houghton Mifflin).
Since she began recipe development in 1986 for Cook s Magazine (which later evolved to Cook s Illustrated), she estimates that she has created thousands of recipes, most out of her ordinary home kitchen for cookbooks, magazines, and countless articles.
Born in Alabama, Mrs. Anderson grew up in Panama City, Fla., with a Southern cooking tradition. Early on my grandmother, my aunt who was a fine Southern cook, and my mother taught me to cook, says the mother of two grown daughters. I dedicated the first cookbook (The Perfect Recipe) to those three women.
Thinking back to how she started a food career, she said, I was cooking in the kitchen at a young age, 4 or 5. My aunt gave me a small paring knife to let me carefully cut up potatoes for potato salad. I never had any fear in the kitchen. At age 12, I cut up a chicken and fried it. Watching my mother do that gave me the confidence.
It s little wonder that years later as a professional food writer and cookbook author she roasted more than 40 turkeys, steamed and boiled more than three dozen lobsters, cleaned more than 100 pounds of greens, and baked more than 50 cobblers so that she could write The Perfect Recipe in 1998.
Mrs. Anderson s youthful appearance belies the fact that she has been developing recipes for more than 25 years.
In 1980, she started a catering business while she and her husband, David, were living in Chicago. During this time, their daughters were born. When the family moved to Connecticut in 1986, I was a 30-minute drive from my favorite cooking magazine in Bridgeport (Cook s Magazine), she said. They were looking for a test cook. I worked there until the magazine folded in 1990. At the end of 1992, the magazine came back as Cook s Illustrated with Christopher Kimball as editor and publisher. He gathered the core staff. We had all scattered, but it was the beginning of people s ability to telecommunicate.
Mrs. Anderson came on board as the food editor of Cook s Illustrated magazine and later was named executive editor in 1998. At first the test kitchen followed her to her home in New Hope, Pa. Later the magazine established the test kitchen in Brookline Village, Mass., near Boston. Once a month she would travel to the magazine office, although most of her job was dealing with authors of the magazine s articles.
After Mrs. Anderson s first book was published, she left the magazine in 1999 to promote the book and do other writing projects.
Over time and several moves and thus several home kitchens, Mrs. Anderson has developed thousands of recipes.
Currently she has a big, nice, lovely kitchen that s big enough for a recipe tester to assist her.
But I m a big believer in having an ordinary kitchen, she said. It keeps me in touch with the home cook so I can see the problems they face. My mission is to experience the same problems that home cooks do and come up with solutions.
In the last 10 years of writing cookbooks, each one reflects an aspect of what most cooks experience. I go into the kitchen to try many techniques, she said. I test each ingredient line by line often to 50 to 100 times of testing.
The Perfect Recipe and CookSmart were geared to the perfectionist side of cooks to make a special dish whether it s a pot pie, meatloaf, strawberry shortcake, or brownies, she said.
Cook Without a Book was about internalizing basic cooking techniques or formulas to get dinner on the table with what ingredients cooks might have in the house. Open the refrigerator and see the dinner possibilities, she says.
In book four (Perfect Recipes for Having People Over) entertaining is missing from the book title, she said. Entertaining can be anxiety-producing or stressful. This book gives people information to succeed. The important thing about having people over is what happens around the table. The food is the means to the end, not the end itself.
The next cookbook, now being edited for printing in the spring, addresses what many cooks face: gaining weight. Three years ago, I lost 40 pounds and kept it off, said Mrs. Anderson. I want to share how I did it.
In 2001, she began writing the monthly column for USA Weekend, which has seasonal topics. She is a contributing editor to Fine Cooking Magazine.
Her food articles have appeared in Food and Wine, Fine Cooking, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, Saveur, Ladies Home Journal, and the Washington Post. She teaches cooking classes across the country and has appeared frequently on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Fox and Friends, and many TV and radio stations across the country.
During a typical week, she writes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday, she does recipe development and testing with an assistant.
There are times when I travel and do events (like the Blade cooking shows) and I teach cooking classes, she said. She expects to travel in 2008 to promote the new cookbook and do cooking classes.
Kathie Smith is The Blade s food editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.