The Daughter-in-Law


Jess Baum - at Home photographed fro PsychologiesHello, I’m Jess.  I’m a Jewish girl from East London with a predilection for making real food, a penchant for books about real food, and a passion for growing – you got it – real food.  (Although I’m so new to the latter that the green is yet to reach the tips of my fingers.)

I began writing (twenty five years after my last attempt, when an English teacher accused my ten year old self of plagiarism) to help me through an unwanted but unavoidable move from London with my young family.  We were boracic, and like so many families struggling to make ends meet, we were forced to move in with family; in my case, it was The Mother-in-Law’s.

Writing has and continues to aid the transition to West Country life, and has more specifically helped me to knead my way into The Mother-in-Law’s Kitchen, where I spend a great deal of the day.  And night.

And although this blog started out life as a typical sort of foodie-type affair (missives about trips to local stores and markets, stuff about flavour combinations and nutrition, that sort of thing), it has slowly revealed itself to be an insight into the moonstruck multigenerational, multifamily household in which I live with The Husband, our two unbelievably amazing children (Zippy and Roo), a host of lodgers, and of course The Mother-in-Law – who last cooked in her kitchen in 1985, and instead used it as a medicine cabinet and store room for her collection of dried goods that were decades beyond their use-by dates.  That was until we moved in.

We pretty much live in what my own mother would have called a “FAR-OUT COMMUNE, MAN” back in the 70s, but without the nudity or the cross-nursing (try as I might).  And the many inhabitants, visitors and neighbours who frequent The Mother-in-Law’s House all play an important role in inspiring this blog and the food I make.  As does the 40 YEAR OLD AGA, which I am finally learning to love.  Even if it doesn’t always reciprocate my adoration or do what I say.

I love cooking, and I’m fascinated by culinary histories and cultures, as well as the relationships humans have with food.  But I ain’t no Cordon Bleu.  Think Gordon Bennett with a keenness on healthy eating and making proper homemade food, and a determined (bordering on political*) drive to get human beings cooking for themselves again.

This blog is dedicated to Nana and Bubbe for infusing me with both their love of cooking and the age-old Yiddishe art of enjoying a good old fress.  And to The Mother-in-Law for sharing her kitchen with me.

*Disclaimer: I’ll try not to be but, in advance, I’d like to apologise if I ever come over all evangelical.  I’d like to say that it’s probably because I’m a mother but it’s actually just me; I’m passionate about lots of stuff and, in particular, maternal, infant and childhood nutrition.  We so lack a positive and healthy food culture in the UK, and if I can inspire even one parent to cook with their child for the first time or reconsider one of the ways they feed their children, then “Robert’s your father’s nearest male relative“.

Photography credit: Alun Callender (amazingly talented portraitist)