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Friendship fostered through cooking

The two women met more than 20 years ago when they were co-chairing a cookbook fundraiser for Schnell Elementary School in West Carrollton.

Leslie Parsons and Kim Brown have been best friends ever since.

“We’ve shared many of life’s ups and downs, shed tears of laughter and pain, buried our parents, and raised five great kids between us with each other’s help,” says Leslie, who wrote to recommend her friend for Our Good Cooks. “She still does some canning and always has homemade cookies in the cookie jar.”

Leslie says she admires her friend for the tireless efforts she continues to put into her family’s meals and the enjoyment she derives from those efforts. Many of Leslie’s recipe cards originated in Kim’s kitchen, and when she has a kitchen emergency, Kim is her 911 call.

“It’s gotten to the point that when I bring a dish to one of Kim’s wonderful carry-in dinner parties, it’s most likely one of her own recipes!” says Leslie, who says the two have eaten many a meal at locally-owned restaurants throughout the Miami Valley and have also taken cooking classes together.

“But I still favor a meal at Kim’s house over all of them!” Leslie says. “Kim’s passion for home cooking still amazes me at a time when my desire to cook at home has waned. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner at her house is always something homemade and delicious — even sloppy joe and mac-and-cheese always start with a recipe and real, natural ingredients.”

Says Leslie: “You couldn’t find a better example of a passionate homemade cook than my friend, Kim.”

We chatted with Kim about her cooking journey.

What are your earliest memories of food and cooking?

Growing up, our family lived right next door to my grandparents who farmed. Grandma was from Germany and she always had a kitchen garden outside the back door and a larger garden and orchard a little further away.

Grandma was a great cook. She baked her yeast coffeecake about every two weeks and would sit them on the registers of the coal furnace to rise. She would always top one coffeecake with whatever fruit was in season. In the winter, she would use cottage cheese or fruit that she had frozen.

My mom taught me how to make a pie-crust — her crusts were very flaky and tender. I also was involved in the 4-H cooking club for about five years and learned to make yeast breads one summer.

I really didn’t cook much until I got married. During one of the first meals I cooked, I opened my brand new cookbook on the range and burned the front cover of the cookbook.

Unfortunately my grandma didn’t not write many of her recipes down and they are lost forever. That gave me the idea to write a cookbook for my daughter-in-law and son prior to their wedding. I included my favorite recipes as well as my favorite recipes from my mom, both grandmas, sister, mother-in-law, friends, aunts, etc.

What are some of your favorite ingredients?

Real vanilla, butter, King Arthur flour, bacon, olive oil, chocolate chips.

Did you have dinners together as a family?

Dinner was always an important event at our house. It wasn’t necessarily grand, but we worked around all of the school schedules, music and dance lessons, sporting events and work schedules to eat dinner together. I felt that it was important to touch base together as a family. We sat at the dinner table and the TV was off and the phone could ring and not be answered. It was our short time together for the day.

Did you teach your children to cook when they were growing up?

I decided one summer that it was important to me that my sons learned to do some cooking. My oldest son, Matthew, was a freshman in high school; Amanda, our daughter, was in 7th grade and Dan, our youngest son, was in the 4th grade. Every Wednesday that summer, they planned, cooked and cleaned up. What a treat that was for me.

I am proud that all three of my children still cook. Matt and Dan lived in apartments during college and they both would cook. I would get questions about “how do you make refrigerator mashed potatoes?” or in the grocery store they would call and ask for ingredients. I am proud that all three of the kids cook.

Who do you cook with?

When our son, Dan, was about 3 or 4, he wanted to help me cook. He would be at my side on a stool helping me mix a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Now my grandson, Liam, likes to help cook and taste. He is only 2 so we make a lot of messes. He thinks that every time he eats dinner at Grammy’s that there are muffins.

Another dear friend of mine, Deni, and I cook together. We lived next door to each other for close to 10 years. We have been known to make several casseroles of eggplant to use the eggplant from my aunt’s garden or stock pots of homemade spaghetti sauce or pulling many Sunday dinners or holiday dinners together.

What tips do you have for new cooks?

  • Find a good basic cookbook such as Better Homes and Gardens or Betty Crocker.
  • Subscribe to a cooking magazine — my favorite is Taste of Home.
  • Have a well stocked pantry.
  • Try to make your meals appetizing by having a variety of colors.
  • Try to use fresh vegetables and fruit that are in season.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new recipes.


What’s special about food and cooking for you?

One of the reasons that I enjoy cooking is that I enjoy eating food that tastes good. And I know that my family has favorite meals or dishes and one of the ways I show my love for them is cooking something that makes them happy and tastes good too. Family dinners and holiday dinners were always special times for me growing up and I am trying to carry on that tradition with my own family.

I enjoy both cooking and baking. I feel that making a pie crust is a dying art. I know that Pillsbury makes a good crust but homemade tastes so much better. I am always looking for new recipes but I feel that many recipes just can’t be improved.

Leslie and I, and our husbands, have enjoyed many special times around a table, here, there or at a restaurant. Food is a great way to relax, relate, discuss, commiserate and have fun together with friends and family. And food that tastes great is a bonus.

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