The Kee family lives thousands of miles apart, but when we visit by skype, within minutes the talk turns to our latest interesting meal. Put us in the same location, then conversation and flour begin to fly. We uncork a bottle of wine, whip up a quick frittata, analyze and argue the subtleties of the seasoning and catch up on each other’s lives. Some of our family’s happiest and most lively moments have been spent around the dinner table. Sometimes that’s at home, but often it’s in an faraway locale.
Louise gave her first dinner party at age 12 with recipes from her grandmother’s Gourmet/Bon Appetit cookbook. Pretty ambitious for a kid raised on chicken fried steak and who didn’t know what Gourmet Magazine was until years later. College in New Orleans -with spur-of-the-moment meals at some of the world’s greatest restaurants- and numerous trips abroad cemented her love of cooking and ingredients different than those at her family’s mid-twentieth century dinner table, namely Velveeta, canned corn and Salisbury Steak TV Dinners. Homebase: Dallas, Texas
John provides intellectual conversation and comic relief during our culinary sessions. He’s most famous for the meal he ate nightly during his single days -Minute Rice and butter served with a side of bourbon. Cooking really isn’t his thing. Homebase: Dallas, Texas
Youngest daughter, Sarah, is a college student in Boston. Her early food inspirations include Southern specialties such as fried chicken, TexMex, barbeque and catfish which she endured every Friday at summer camp for nine years. Sojourns in Thailand, Ghana, Europe and New England expanded her culinary interests, though. A grillmeister, she makes perfectly marinated and grilled vegetables. Her Asian quinoa salad is to die for! Homebase: Boston, Massachusetts and Dallas, Texas
Middle daughter, Lizzy, is the family baker with a knack for combining unique ingredients. (Her cousins still rave about the walnut spice muffins with rose icing she made last year.) Lizzy spent four years at college in New Hampshire with extended stints in Paris, Buenos Aires and Costa Rica. Now that she’s a college graduate did she run home to live with Mom and Dad in Texas? Of course not! She spent a year working in Paris, providing suggestions on hidden food gems in France. Sadly, all adventures in Paris must come to an end and now she’s working in Washington D.C. Lizzy still loves to cook, albeit now in a closet-sized kitchen instead of a flat overlooking Place de la Nation. Homebase: Washington, D.C.
Eldest sibling, John, lives in Budapest . His favorite Hungarian dish? Chicken paprikash. On second thought, maybe it’s palinka –which definitely qualifies as a meal in Hungary. John lived in Brooklyn for a year after college and explored all the fascinating cuisines of New York City. (Uyghur food, anyone?) In his own kitchen, he’s been experimenting with Sichuan peppercorns. Oh, and he’s great at picking inexpensive (less than $15/bottle), good wines to go with whatever meal -traditional or exotic- we’re eating. Homebase: Budapest, Hungary
Bill and Frank take the gateau in the Kee family for being most adventurous. Although they pose as genteel southern gentleman with their gracious, old home in Charleston, in real life they are extreme travelers, the Marco Polos of our family. London, Paris and Frankfurt? Mere stopovers before heading to the jungles of Borneo or the highlands of Myanmar. Opening their Christmas presents is always fun, but a bit dicey because you never know what you might get. We mean that literally. You might not know what it is:
Homebase: Charleston, S.C. and a mountaintop in North Carolina.
Family friend, Jessalyn, lives in Manhattan, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find her there. A serious photographer, she beautifully documents her travels whether it’s a short jaunt to New Orleans or a long, slow journey through Rajasthan. (Ask to see her photos of the Pushkar Camel Fair. Yes, she’s been there!)
Growing up in Omaha, Jessalyn learned to cook by following the recipes in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, which in those days arrived at the local news stand on Tuesday. After living 20 years in the San Francisco Bay area, she is an avid canner and fervent CSA supporter. In Manhattan, this requires schlepping big bags of kale and cabbage home on the subway, a source of amusement for her fellow passengers. When the days are short and dark, she dreams about the citrus section at Berkeley Bowl. Home base: New York City.