I remember a piece Elaine Tait, the former food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote 15 or more years ago. She predicted that in the year 2000, people who cook for themselves would become minor celebrities. Amidst all the convenience foods popping up in supermarkets in the 1990s, Tait saw the demise of home cooking. And this before Wegmans ever came to Pennsylvania!
I often think about this prediction. On one hand, I disagree. Who could’ve foreseen the success of the Food Network? Or that cooking would become a spectator sport? Americans seem more into cooking than ever.
Then, on the other hand, part of me agrees with Tait. At the risk of sounding immodest, I sometimes cook or bake things that people don’t believe I actually made. “Where did you buy this?” they ask. “You made it? No!” I think I’m a decent cook, but I’ve eaten in enough fine restaurants, not to mention in the kitchen of my brother, a former professional chef, to know my place in the standings.
And then there’s Sharon.
Sharon Schwartz isn’t just a good cook. She’s not just a foodie. Among our friends, her cooking is legendary. An invitation for a meal at her house is always accepted. I hope you’re fortunate enough to have a friend like this, the kind of person Elaine Tait may well have been thinking of when she wrote “minor celebrity.” In Sharon’s case, anyway, the moniker fits.
When I sat down to interview her a few weeks ago, Sharon provided for lunch an exquisite Greek lemon soup, made moments before, followed by a simple but perfect Greek salad. Mark was jealous. All in a day’s work for me.
I wanted to interview Sharon for several reasons. She’s lived in Bucks County for twenty five years and has seen the changes to its food scene up close. She’s also evolved from someone who simply likes good food to a discerning, semi-professional cook.
Professional chefs live in a different world from the rest of us. Their kitchens are set up for cooking. Their equipment is top-notch. They have studied. They have sweated. They are not like the rest of us. Really. Just watch the Food Network.
So I was fascinated by Sharon. How did she make the transition from Mom-cook to Wow-cook? I also wanted to pick her brain about where to get the best ingredients in Bucks County, but that will have to wait for another blog, a kind of “Sharon Schwartz: Part Two.”