Tamra Wilson

WFAEats Contributor

Tamra Wilson’s mother hated to cook and take-out in their small Illinois farm town was Dog ‘n’ Suds or Dairy Queen. Somehow Tamra escaped the pre-packed world of boxes and cans to win the Betty Crocker Award in high school. She learned about the greater food world through travel, imitation and (what else) the big orange Betty Crocker Cookbook. She’s a writer at heart and recently published her first collection, Dining with Robert Redford & Other Stories. The Wilsons have lived in North Carolina since 1979.

Favorite Flavor: maple

Who would you most like to have dinner with? Robert Redford

Most Exotic Food I Ever Tasted: Squid cooked with the ink sac. The dish, served in a bowl, resembled a boiled tire. There is probably a name for this; I call it “never again.”

What can you always find in your fridge? Open bottle of Chardonnay, skim milk, leftovers, farm-fresh eggs, home-canned zucchini relish and more leftovers.

If you got to choose your last meal, what would it be? Lobster. I did not go to the University of Southern Maine for nothing.

Best kitchen gift ever received: A handwritten cookbook my Dad made for my grandmother in 1936. The personal notations are priceless.

Most Memorable Kitchen Disaster: Unbeknownst to me, our oven was on the blink when I baked a red velvet cake for a church potluck. Not realizing the inside of the cake was raw (trust me on this), I iced the cake and took it to the picnic where people oohed and ahhed about the unusual “pudding.” After the meal, a large Labrador retriever leaned across the table and gobbled what was left, thus ending further questions about the recipe.

fried fish and french fries
Jon Sullivan

I never heard of fish camps – roadside eateries with a gravel lot, home-grown signage and knotty pine interiors – until I moved to North Carolina. In my native Illinois, the only time people ate fish in mass quantities was at the Catholic Church on Fridays during Lent or at a fish-fry event that involved a feeding of the flock. Fish camps in these parts are associated with Gaston County, where fishermen set up makeshift restaurants along the Catawba River during the Depression to sell their...

jars of zucchini relish
Tamra Wilson / WFAEats

Summer calls for potato salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad, egg salad, ham salad, chicken salad, deviled eggs. My magic ingredient for all of these is homemade zucchini relish. Forget the sugar-onion-vinegar combinations. This relish does the trick in one easy step. With zucchini-drop season upon us, I must share this crucial recipe. You know what a zucchini drop is: those well-meant gifts of squash that arrive at your door from neighbors, friends, co-workers. Zucchini relish and I became...

meeshaweingartova / Flickr/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve lived in Catawba County for 37 years, and I’m still learning things about local culture. Take sweet potatoes. Please. They’re not my favorite food, a sure sign I’m not a Catawba County native. If I were, I would already know that sweet potatoes are a snack food. I learned this nugget of wisdom at the Catawban Book Club that has been convening each week at the Museum of History. The group is studying Gary Freeze’s The Catawbans Volume I. The fun part of being in a book discussion is what...

Amy Rogers

Sometimes corporate America smiles back when you step on their toes. Consider the case of me and the giant Kraft noodle. Back in January, I was busted at the Kraft Foods plant in Champaign, Ill., by a security guard who caught my son photographing me by the company icon. It was a privacy issue, she said, regarding the large noodle behind a company fence on a public street corner. I know. I didn’t get it either, so I blogged about the incident on WFAEats . The next day I received an email from...

Tamra Wilson

My adventures as a foodie took a wrong turn when I ran into the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese police last month. It happened this way. I was visiting family in Champaign, Illinois, when I spotted a pasta lover’s nirvana: a giant Kraft noodle. There it sat behind a chain link fence along Mattis Avenue: a supersized yellow macaroni fit for Tyrannosaurus Rex. “Stop the car. I’ve got to get a picture,” I told my cousin. There was nowhere to pull over on such a busy street, so she drove up to the...

Tamra Wilson

Have you noticed the trend of putting food on Christmas trees? No, I’m not talking about strings of actual cranberries, popcorn or candy canes, but fake edibles: vegetables and fruit and baked goods, seafood and sandwiches. A gardener friend dove into the produce theme recently with glass ornaments depicting eggplants, lettuce, corn, broccoli, onions, strawberries, grapes, and tomatoes. It was quite a colorful stunner. Stores sell Lilliputian pizzas, bottles of wine, and beer steins. I’ve...

alamodern.com

Most gift registries focus on the kitchen, and one list I perused recently was no exception. Among the usual pots, flatware and dishes I saw several gadgets: a digital rice cooker, egg slicer and an apple wedger. I shook my head. After 38 years, I’ve never owned those last three items, but I’ve somehow prepared more than 21,000 meals. Yes, I remember my own new days in an apartment, and later as a bride in a townhouse in Hickory. We had received my fair share of useless kitchen gifts. A Hot...

Tamra Wilson

I remember my first dish of homemade ice cream. I was five years old and my parents had been invited to a preacher’s house. Adults sat on webbed lawn chairs while the minister and others took turns cranking the metal handle attached to a wooden bucket. After an eternity, the canister was opened. Inside was the most wonderful soft vanilla ice cream I had ever tasted. Growing up, I coveted our neighbors’ ice cream freezer. They had an electric model that would buzz and grind forever until we...

Tamra Wilson

Pie or cake? From time to time, a southern magazine or newspaper will pose that question and invite readers to weigh in. That only goes to show how Southerners don’t know pie like they should. Where I grew up in Central Illinois, the dessert question is this: What kind of pie shall you have? Ice cream is the consolation prize when all the pie is gone. Cake, banana pudding, and cheesecake aren’t in the running. Middle America is ground zero for pie cafes. Any truck stop, any local restaurant...

Jeepers Media / Flickr/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When I heard that Kraft Foods plans to take the orange color out of their mac and cheese “to meet consumers’ changing lifestyles and needs,” I thought: Here we go again. A major food manufacturer is playing the health-food game, trying to fix something that’s not broken. Or, to put it another way, something that’s so broken it’s campy. I know, you health purists think I’m off-base. That orange cheese powder is evil stuff and big, bad Kraft should get with the times and make their products...

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