Here’s a little of my story…

Out of Africa

I was born in Iowa but moved to Paris when I was only one-year old. A year later, our family moved to French West Africa where my parents worked for the next 40 years as missionaries. In the 60’s the country we lived in was called Upper Volta and today it is called Burkina Faso. It is a landlocked country just south of the Sahara. Our adventures in growing up in that environment are recorded in a book about my parents’ experiences called Larger than Life.

The people of Burkina are quite poor in material goods but rich in culture, hospitality and relationships. The country is not famous for its restaurants and its chefs…but our home-cooked meals gave me a wonderful foundation in basic cooking skills. Literally everything we ate was made from scratch “”from our granola for breakfast to our hand-churned ice cream for a special dessert. Once you’ve cultivated a taste for home cooking, most other foods pale by comparison! Even at boarding school I have memories of good food, of shelling boiled peanuts, pulling taffy and sharing a bowl of rice and peanut butter gravy with friends. The smell of sticky buns baking during our siesta, fresh cinnamon-sugared doughnuts still warm from the frying pan, and light cheesy souffle right out of the oven fill my childhood “memory bank”.

My entire family loved to eat and meals were a highlight of our day. I don’t know how my mom did it, however, with four hungry kids living in such a remote area! In our small village, very little was available besides sweetened condensed milk and tomato paste, since the Africans ate only a type of “millet-polenta” each day. We ground our own meat, raised our own chickens, and collected our own eggs. No running down to the store if we ran out of anything…the closest grocery store was a four-hour drive away!

Was I looking for “My Good Husband”?

The Italian Connection

At the age of two I visited Italy while my parents were studying French in Paris. Some might think that I was looking for my good husband, Larry, who grew up in Naples…but of course I didn’t even know he existed!

I didn’t visit Italy again until 1989, this time with my husband and children, but the Italian influence had already affected my kitchen. My mother-in-law showed me how to make strouffoli and gnocchi while a dear, second-generation Italian in Rhode Island gave me hands-on cooking lessons in roasting peppers and making fresh pasta. These remain some of our family’s favorite foods to this day.

We spent 19 years in Rhode Island, putting down roots and almost becoming New Englanders, though we learned that unless you’re born there, you’ll never really be a New Englander! Our two children were born in RI and some of our happiest memories of those years are Family Nights together…enjoying a fun meal and spending quality time together.

The Peck Family when we first published O Taste & See Some More!

In 1999 we moved to Rome, Italy to teach at the Italian Bible Institute–a huge transition for all of us! As part of our financing efforts, I published my first cookbook, O Taste & See! After selling out of the first 500 copies, we reprinted more…and more…and more of them. People wrote to tell me how much they loved it. They found the recipes dependable and easy.

While living in Italy for several years, cooking had an important part in helping me learning language and in developing friendships. Once a week I helped cook in the Italian Bible Institute’s kitchen so I could hone my cooking skills while also practicing my Italian. After two years in Italy, I had so many more recipes I enjoyed that I added to to my first cookbook and called it O Taste & See Some More!

My family when we moved to Rome in 1999

Life in Europe

During our years in Rome (1999-2002), we enjoyed many invitations to the homes of Italians, and we invited them to ours. Students from the Bible Institute would often ask us to fix them an “American meal”. But what is an American meal? I realized how eclectic and varied our “American” cooking was! Usually, on those occasions we served hamburgers and potato salad. Or, we offered them an American breakfast. Warm pancakes (my Good Husband’s specialty). Or scones. Or muffins. These were all quite different from their cappuccino-and-biscotti-style of breakfast.

Our work took us to Kandern, Germany for six years (2002-2008). It was a quiet, quaint village, close to Basel, Switzerland. We were never able to learn German fluently…and so we always hoped we’d be able to live again in Italy.

So in August 2008 we moved back to Italy, but this time to the Torino area. While there, I began A Taste of Italy weekends, which offered samplings of Italy’s culture and cuisine to expats living in Europe. I also taught my Italian neighbors how to make American Apple Pie and several types of bread and muffins. And I’ve been in their kitchens, learning how to make regional specialties. I have to say that Italian food is my very favorite!

My gorgeous photos are the handiwork of my Good Husband, Larry. He is a course designer IMG_5270for Internet-based courses and every so often, I pull him away from the computer to shoot some photos. Usually it’s just whatever we’re having for dinner tonight, so he doesn’t mind. He’s also my #1 taste-tester!

My next favorite taste-testers are my kids…now grown and gone from the nest. But we still love to get together and share good food around our table. We even prefer eating at home rather than eating out! Now there’s a novel idea!

I’ve found enjoying food and cooking to be a common interest with people all over the world! So if you enjoy cooking–and eating, welcome to my kitchen!

Ciao!

Debbie