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.

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WFAEats
1:32 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Eat Your Yard - A Magical Idea

Nan Chase eats crabapples from her yard.
Credit Rebecca D'Angelo

I bumped in to Nan Chase at the Blue Ridge Book Festival last May. The Asheville author was discussing her book, Eat Your Yard.

Riding the crest of the Eat Local movement, she has produced an attractive, helpful book to help backyard farmers. But instead of ripping out the sod to grow squash and beans, Nan takes an aesthetic approach—mix food-producing plants into the landscape.

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WFAEats
10:48 am
Wed April 3, 2013

A Story With Morels

Morel mushroom
Credit Wikipedia Commons

  Few things excite me more than morel mushrooms. Hunting them is a rite of spring where I come from. My hometown, Shelbyville, Illinois, holds a mushroom festival Spores ‘n’ More, with a contest and auction. That’s serious mushrooming.

There’s something about that delicate nutty taste, the crispy-fried texture that makes my mouth water. Morels are the epitome of eating local, in season. If they were available every day, I wouldn't care so much.

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WFAEats
11:09 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Incredible Once-Edibles: What’s In Your Icebox?

Credit Flickr/Selbe B

When I clean the refrigerator, I always find two things in the butter/cheese drawer - one is a tiny container of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread. This particular sample expired July 5, 1996. It’s accompanied by a packet of Savora mustard from Argentina, vintage 2000.

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WFAEats
3:19 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Time-Tested Comfort Food

Recipe clipping from a 1936 newspaper.
Credit Tamra Wilson

Recently I shared a cookbook that my Dad gave to his mother at Christmas 1936. The old book is an endearing collection of hand-written recipes and clippings from magazines and newspapers.

The first recipe I tested was a dish clipped from a 1936 newspaper - "Pepper Chuck Steak," subtitled "Brookfield Sunday Dinner." The silhouette illustration drew my attention - a skier tumbling down a slope, obviously falling for this dish.

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WFAEats
5:00 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Family Recipes A Treasured Pleasure

Family Recipe Book and a recipe for Illinois Corn Salad. Click to enlarge image.
Tamra Wilson

One of my treasured possessions is a homemade cookbook my father gave his Mom during the Depression. Dad was sixteen and it was the last Christmas they would spend together for many years.

My grandmother kept and cherished the book, adding the clippings and notes as time passed. Among the pages are glimpses of family life as my grandparents raised six children on rented land in Alberta, Canada.

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WFAEats
12:00 am
Fri November 16, 2012

Oyster Stuffing, Friends A Must For Thanksgiving Swap

Your Thanksgiving table doesn't have to be empty.

Those who dread a lonesome holiday, listen up.

It’s possible to find a friend and trade hosting. Nov. 22 marks the 26th time we’ve swapped hosting.

It can work. Trust me on this.

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WFAEats
12:46 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

If You Can't Beat It, Eat It

Kudzu covering a field and trees.
Credit *Kid*Doc*One*/Flickr

News bulletin: kudzu is a food.

You can fry the leaves, chop it for casseroles and quiches, candy, jelly and more. Just as the folks at May’s Chapel United Methodist Church near Maiden. They’ve celebrated kudzu dishes for years. I dropped by there last month.

Of course most consider kudzu a scourge of the South, a once-welcomed Asian import to cure soil erosion, a monster whose tendrils choke trees, smother shrubs, and turn entire fields and hillsides into snake havens.

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WFAEats
12:00 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Yes, We Have Livermush

Livermush sandwich with fried egg, at a restaurant in Durham NC
Flickr/ross.grady

The Livermush Belt. You in the Piedmont know what I’m talking about…that string of counties from Cleveland to Guildford, where you can order a livermush sandwich on any given day.

Poor man’s paté they call it, a meat substance so indigenous to North Carolina that Tar Heel ex-pats have been known to to smuggle it out in coolers to far reaches of the country.

I first encountered the stuff when I moved here in the 1970s. I’d grown up with cornmeal mush in the Cornbelt, but livermush? I eyed the khaki-gray block suspiciously in the grocery store cooler.

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WFAEats
12:00 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Lunchmeat, My Beach-Time Treat

Lunchmeat

Nothing captures the spirit of Myrtle Beach like lunchmeat. Salami, bologna, pickle loaf and all the rest are bad for you, but whoever said a place that sells saltwater taffy is good for you?

The Grand Strand is all about having fun and instant gratification. So what if it’s fattening and unhealthy? What else is a beach trip for?

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WFAEats
12:00 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Yes, I Can… Vegetables

Canning season has come early this year. Pee Paw’s garden is overproducing, Syl says. She picks and stems the beans; I own the canner. We share the lids, rings and the jars.

This all began last year when we decided to eat more local and healthy. I invested $99 in a  pressure canner and attended a canning clinic at Home Extension.

“Follow the rules,” the agent advised. “Treat this like a science project,” which meant scalding the jars, sterilizing the lids, discarding rusty rings.

“Botulism can kill you. You must process properly to kill the varmints inside the jar.”

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