Just Add Lemon…

I’ve attempted to start a few food blogs over the years, but none of them have had a theme or a purpose… until now.

justaddlemon is a culmination of my cooking life thus far, informed by the things I learned to cook growing up in my “home.”[1]  Growing up with roots in South Baltimore (Brooklyn and Curtis Bay, specifically), many of my late summers and autumns have revolved around seafood:  bushels of crabs on the Fourth of July (also, my father’s birthday), oyster roasts during months including the letter “R,” and, always, cocktail sauce made from scratch (if you want that recipe, it’s ketchup, horseradish, Old Bay, black pepper, and, of course, lemon juice…. until it looks right).  In all cases, lemons (or lemon juice) were often the answer to what was missing in a dish.

I come from a family of cooks.  Definitely not chefs, as none of us have gone to school for the craft.  But my great-grandfather had a string of restaurants and food trucks during the ’40s and ’50s in Baltimore.  According to family legend, my great-grandfather, Reds, was serving sandwiches from his food truck to workers on the day the Harbor Tunnel was first opened.  My grandfather, father, and countless others family members and family friends were associated with those restaurants.  Along with these “official” cooks, I’ve inherited the recipes and cooking styles of my mother, along with several grandmothers, great-aunts, and, in my lucky case, one great-great aunt (who is still with us at 95-years-young as I write this).  From all these inspirations, I’ve gained my love of cooking.

To be fair, I’m not perfect at this craft.  As you will see, I often have to do math on paper for recipe conversions to keep track of what I’m doing.  I go too quickly at times and slice a digit at least once a month. My timing isn’t the best at getting several different dishes done at the same time.  But cooking is my stress reliever, my creative outlet.  And I love it.

Throughout many of the recipes I will add on this site, the common denominator you will find on this site is lemons.  There’s something about them that seems to be a recurring theme in much of my cooking.  Some of my earliest memories involve being an East Coast kid excited about getting shipments of lemons from her West Coast grandma’s trees, usually around Christmas, which we kept in the outdoor shed because the cold weather would help them keep as long as possible. Fast forward to getting my first apartment, during graduate school, at the ripe old age of 20, and learning very quickly to always have a bottle of ReaLemon in the door of the fridge “just in case.”  Finally into more recent forays into cooking, often Indian recipes (as a 90% of the time vegetarian, I find Indian recipes have the best balance of protein-to-veg), I find the crucial ingredient most often missing from most online recipes is…?

A dash of lemon juice.

Every cook has an arsenal of spices and additives from which they wield a secret weapon ingredient. For me, it’s lemons.  Hands down.


[1] Home is a strange concept for me.  I grew up a US Navy brat.  I was born in Baltimore City, and my paternal family is from Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, so for me, this area is the closest thing to “home” I’ve ever had.

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