Hola Mi Gente, I’m Mary-Beth Johnson!
Lover of hosting gatherings, and hearty, plentiful food.
My journey with cooking started with my parents: both uniquely gifted in the kitchen. My mother could feed armies for a living, and have every meal cooked in 30 minutes or less—meals of plenty. Meals full of flavor, generational tricks, and mucho corazon.
My Babbo, he’s a meat and sauce master. More scientific in his cooking, he has impeccable instincts when it comes to marinades and meat preparation. He’s also a farmer, and could easily be one of those people that live off the land. I get my love of earthy, rustic flavors from him.
You could say there was never any hope for me to be anything other than what I am: A Food Enthusiast.
Sprinkle in living abroad, and my continual falling in love with my Guatemalan cultural heritage, and you get this space here: a place where there are sometimes homemade pasta recipes, and the next day chuchitos.
You’ll find there are two sides to my wordy self: on the one hand, I very much love a well-planned and curated life. I love research, deep thinking, and social justice. I can also be a free spirit (read: pretty good at watching Netflix and multitasking). I love the organic process of creating meals and spaces that inspire connection, and communicate a deep caring for my people.
I am by no means a trained chef, and by all accounts unashamedly learning. About cooking, photography, blogging and story-telling. But I’ll tell you what, I’d love to have you join me in the process. I promise to never fake it in my attempt to make it, and to share both the curated and messy aspects of my life.
Some things you should know about me…
– I’m allergic to pork + seafood, but I love how both of them photograph so when I see them on insta they make me hungry
– I have a complex mixture of cultures: born to immigrants, raised in the South, and currently rooted in the PNW
– I am always on the hunt for whole-in-the-wall treasure eateries
– I am an incorrigible thrifter, so most of the things in my house were either built by us, refurbished, or thrifted
– I’m obsessed with earrings, but have only had my ears pierced since 2016
– I am most frequently described in emojis by the red dress salsa dancer OR any of the people emojis in the third shade of brown
– I hate coexisting with chipped nail polish
– I am quadrilingual in English, Spanish, and sass in both of those. I am conversational in Italian, and can understand most written and slowly spoken Portuguese and French.
– I only eat two meals on the weekend: brunch & a light snack before bed time.
– I only have a Southern accent when I’m talkin’ about Georgia Football
– I read 5-10 random articles a day from a variety of sources that range from Politico to Food and Wine
– I am on a recent venture to acquire a green thumb. If you see one lying around, please send it to me and my poor plants
– I frequently dance when I cook
My first cuisine love, is Guatemalan cuisine. Both my parents are from that beautiful land of many trees, and my earliest favorite flavors are from there. There’s a sort of heart that goes into Guatemalan cuisine that is hard for me to find outside of it. There’s an intentionality about the use of ingredients (everything gets used), from black beans that are blended, and then refried, to using leftover scraps for egg scrambles. A lot of my comfort foods come from Guatemalan food, and while it isn’t always simple to make, it’s always made with mucho corazon.
My Second food love, is Southern food. Growing up in Georgia spoiled me to the max, and I have a deep, deep love for sky high biscuits + chicken fried steak. There’s a level of elegance to southern food, and I love the idea of Sunday dinner’s and brunches being extraordinary special. That you dress nice, and eat the best there is around. I miss that sometimes; the show and flair of a good Sunday supper.
My first semester of college, I lived some sort of ridiculous dream where I “studied” (using that term reallllly loosely here) in Italy, and fell in love with the freshness of the food, the warmth of the people, and DO I NEED TO SAY ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT IT? Because Italy. Since then, Pasta has become my kryptonite, and I can be frequently found trying out different sauce recipes and homemade pastas. Something else I love about Italian food is the idea of lingering around the table, and eating slowly. Around my own table, I always want the time around to stretch out over good conversation and good food.
In 2013, I traveled to Turkey with a group of friends from college. This was the place where Ben (my husband) and I fell in love, and it was one of the most special places for us. It doesn’t hurt that the food was D E L I C I O U S. Talk about a savory dream–Turkish food is everything I love: fresh meat, endless mezzes, and complex textures and flavors. There’s also something very old world about traditional Turkish dishes, and a sort of magic that comes from knowing those meals have been prepared and perfected over centuries.
Finally, since relocating to the PNW, I’ve fallen in love with the artisanship and creativity that Portland food requires. I don’t think I’ve ever lived somewhere where the way food looks + tastes is more important than in Portland. To add to that, Portland farmers add a high level of craftsmanship to their crops, which makes for fresh, earthy, colorful foods. Walking through farmer’s markets in the summer is one of my favorite things to do to get inspired to cook.
Ben is my husband. You’ll hear his voice on this blog from time to time. He is the reason this beautiful space exists. He created this website for me, and takes care of the hosting, upkeep, and any design changes I ask for. He is my champion, and he is deeply talented when it comes to all things technology. You can find more of his work, here. On the blog he’s the voice of travel/tech organization & is both my personal sou chef and taste tester.
Estel, the lab. Patiently smells all the food I cook. Eagerly awaiting a promotion to taste-tester.