Merry-Jennifer Markham is a talented writer and blogger whose honesty is always laid out on the page. She inspires us with her marvelous recipes, kind heart and willingness to give. As a full-time oncologist, and mother of two, she has a unique perspective. Merry-Jennifer writes at The Merry Gourmet, where she chronicles her life through food. We’re regularly inspired by Merry-Jennifer, so today we’re thrilled to share her with you as we get to know her better.
What was the first food blog you ever read?
The first true food blog I ever read was Smitten Kitchen. I was finally able to meet Deb in person last month at IFBC in New Orleans, and it was so great to meet the woman whose blog inspired me from day one and continues to do so now.
What is your most recent addition to your list of must-read websites?
The most recent blog I’ve added to my Google Reader list is Lottie + Doof. I’m hooked on that blog. His style and photographs draw me in.
What is your first kitchen memory?
My mom didn’t really like to cook, but one year when I was growing up she decided to make homemade grape jelly from the Muscadine grapes that grew on the 100 year old grapevine on our property. The grapes ripened each July and August, the hottest months in north Florida. We had no air conditioning in our house, and there were no fans in our tiny kitchen. I remember her sweating away, straining hot grapes and their near-black juice through cheesecloth, during the jelly making process. It was pretty great jelly, but she refused to make it again because of the heat.
What is your favourite part about being in the kitchen with your kids?
Seeing them develop a love for creating with food is the best. My daughter has gone from a picky eater to the most adventurous eater in my home, besides me. She tells me that she’ll eat anything I make. I love that.
What is the one thing you hope they never lose about their relationship or experience with food?
I had such hangups about food when I was growing up. I grew up in a home where I had to eat everything on my plate, no matter how many hours it took. Weight issues became a big thing for me as a teenager, not helped at all by the fact that my father liked to point out if I looked chubby. I was always on some fad diet or another. My kids simply enjoy their food, and they have fun with it. They don’t have the emotional baggage that I do with food.
How does your career as an oncologist influence the way you look at food and blogging?
I’m constantly being asked by patients what they should eat while on chemotherapy, or what they should eat (or not eat) to avoid cancer from returning or developing. I also witness a lot of patients lose their sense of taste, or have an altered sense of taste, while on chemotherapy or radiation, and those are devastating side effects. And, besides the simple facts that cooking and writing for my blog are therapeutic creative outlets for me, I have a real appreciation for the simple act of eating a meal and tasting it fully. When so many of my patients can’t, I refuse to take eating and tasting for granted.
What was the last thing you ate?
A simple meal of pot roast and new potatoes, made in the pressure cooker. The only one who refused to eat it was my almost-five year old. He’s still in his hot dog phase.
What ingredient is never missing from your pantry or fridge?
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar, potatoes, canned beans, rice, eggs, dried pastas, steel cut oatmeal, stone ground grits. That’s not terribly exciting, is it? I keep a lot of basic pantry items for quick dinners during the week. On the weekends, I tend to shop both days for the evening meals. I like very my produce very fresh, so we shop for that a few times during the week.
What recipe idea has been bumping around in your head, that you can’t wait to make?
I can’t say that there is just one. I tend to have multiple ideas floating around at any one time. I keep a running list on Google Docs, and I also keep scraps of paper with recipe ideas shoved in my work bag and purse. The dish that I’m on a mission to perfect – or at least find the best version of – is shrimp and grits. I just can’t get enough of those.
Three words. Go.
Live. Dream big.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Merry-Jennifer. It’s an honour to have you here.
All photos courtesy of Merry-Jennifer Markham.