Welcome to the CrackerBoxKitchen! My name is Jessica and I live in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina with my husband Tristan and our furry menagerie of three cats and two dogs.
My blog doesn’t have a “theme.” I don’t cook gluten free. I’m not a vegetarian. And I certainly don’t cater to “weight loss.” What I do believe in is healthful food that tastes good. That’s what homemade meals should be: taking raw, mostly unprocessed ingredients and making something that you *want* to eat. I get such great satisfaction from the process of preparing a meal to then sitting down to eat something that I made with my own hands! I love the back story of ingredients and food, and the how and why we prepare certain foods certain ways. Alton Brown and Julia Child are my heroes.
For nearly two decade now I’ve been a home cook. I have no formal training; everything I’ve learned has been self-taught and learned along the way. I didn’t start out with the best equipment (as you’ll read below), but I was dedicated to preparing my own meals (mostly out of frugality; dining out is expensive!) I still prepare dinner just about every night of the week (with thankfully improved equipment and more kitchen space.) And still primarily for frugality, but also for health and for the desire to eat good, well prepared, flavorful food.
I started this blog in the summer of 2010 as a way to document the building of Tristan’s backyard fence and the subsequent “thank you” meal I prepared for the family and friend that labored for three days under the hot July sun. (You can check out the meal—sorry for the less-than-professional photos, that was the early days after all— in my very first post “Fence Building Food.”)
At that time, I was living in a cute little two bedroom duplex with a huge backyard, and a disproportionately small kitchen (80 square feet, stocked with a full-sized washer, dryer, refrigerator, and stove, to be exact)— hence the name “Cracker Box Kitchen.” My kitchen tools consisted of a Sunbeam hand mixer, a dollar store chef’s knife, a Black&Decker “Handy Chopper”, and the same set of Revere Ware pots and pans that my mama cooked dinner in when I was growing up.
As a child, it was like pulling teeth to get me to help make dinner. I wanted nothing to do with food prep. The one exception was dessert, or “special occasion” desserts to be more specific. Left alone on a Saturday afternoon, I’d pull down our copy of The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook and whip up a from-scratch cake, complete with food coloring “decorations”. They weren’t always pretty, but I tried!
It wasn’t until my senior year of college when I moved off campus and into my own apartment that my interest in cooking was piqued. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. It was either teach myself how to cook, or eat Hot Pockets and Zataran’s dirty rice for the rest of my life. I also started working part time for a high-end catering company and was thus exposed to all kinds of delicious things like marinated beef tenderloin and caprese salad and enough fine cheeses to make you swoon. The catering gig paired with a beau who made me mushrooms sauteed with garlic and butter for the first time, and I was hooked.
So come on in and see what’s cookin’ in The Cracker Box Kitchen!