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I’ve always been a stalwart summer cook. A love of baking combined with an abundance of beautiful produce from several incredible farmers’ markets has kept my stove cranked, and, to be honest, this is the first year I’ve had air conditioning. Somehow, I never minded the sweat.

I grew up surrounded by farmers. My grandparents (on my mother’s and father’s side) were former tobacco farmers, and when I was little I remember walking past the tobacco barn, smelling the rich, sweet smell of the tobacco as it cured. But you can’t eat tobacco. Well, I suppose you could (ick), but even in the tobacco-belt of North Carolina I never knew anyone to actually eat it.

In 2009, I was fortunate enough to spend six months in the beautiful Loire Valley in France. For a food-lover, this experience was absolutely intoxicating. On nearly every street corner there was a small boulangerie or patîsserie, and each time the doors opened the warm, yeasty aroma of fresh bread and pastries billowed past.

First, cats are amazing. They have this utterly animal quality that dogs lack. To me it seems that dogs, who usually try to please their humans, are often simply an extension of their owners, making them very...well...human. Cats, on the other hand, will pretty much do as they please, such as eat your shamrock plant when you aren't looking even after many squirts with the spray bottle.

There are lots of little amazing discoveries you make when you cook for a living.

Like how adding a little vinegar to pie dough makes for a flakier crust.

Or how to mince a clove of garlic most efficiently.

Or that a little lemon juice makes almost everything better.

I haven’t talked much about my garden this year. Truth is, I’m afraid to jinx it. I started out nursing kale and leek seedlings under homemade grow-lights, not really knowing what I was doing. I’m still not sure.