McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher specializing in the
cuisines of Southeast Asia. Her expertise on the food and culture
of Thailand comes from the three years she spent in the Thai
kingdom as a Peace Corps volunteer. Her first cookbook, Real Thai:
The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking, was published in 1992,
and was followed by The 5 in 10 Pasta and Noodle Cookbook in 1994;
Real Vegetarian Thai in 1996, The Curry Book: Memorable Flavors
and Simply Irresistible Recipes in 1997,
Quick and Easy Thai in 2004; and Quick and Easy Vietnamese in
contributed recipes and feature stories on food and travel to Food
& Wine, Bon Appetit, Cook's Illustrated, FoodArts and newspapers
around the country including the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Los
Angeles Times. She travels around the country teaching cooking
classes and is a frequent television guest chef.
lives in North Carolina with her husband Will and their two
wonderful daughters, who just like their mommy and daddy love to
travel, cook and eat.
To find out more about Nancie, we dispatched our top reporter
to track her down in her natural habitat. After locating her in
the breakfast cereal aisle of the Harris-Teeter supermarket near
her Chapel Hill, NC, home, our intrepid reporter sent us this
Nancie McDermott, food writer and cooking teacher?
are you here?
out of Banana Nut Crunch. My husband and daughters adore me, but
not my sensible taste in breakfast cereal. Also I have to go to
the grocery store while they are at work and at school – they
won’t come with me because they say I take too long.
Shouldn’t the author of numerous Asian cookbooks be breakfasting
on rice porridge with pickled radish or a big steaming bowl of
rice noodles in chili-lime broth?
Absolutely, if it’s a Saturday morning or if I’m waking up in Asia
where I can eat at the morning market. But on a school day, we’ll
be the ones with big bowls of really grainy cereal, preferably
means my husband, our two daughters and me. We have a house with a
screened-in porch, a woodsy backyard, and raised beds for growing
vegetables and herbs. We have hermit crabs, a hamster, and a large
wonderful ever-hungry dog named Gentle Ben.
do you live?
Chapel Hill, a beautiful town in the central Piedmont region of
North Carolina. We met in New York City, moved to Southern
California where both our children were born, and then back here
in 1999 for my husband’s work. I grew up in High Point, NC, and
went to college at UNC here in Chapel Hill. We miss California a
lot, but we back to visit, and we now love living here in my home
state, with my parents and one of my sisters living just an hour
did you learn how to cook?
grandmother. She cooked for her family and the workers on their
dairy farm not far from here. She was famous for her blackberry
rolls and fresh coconut cake. She let me help her in the kitchen,
and in summer we went fishing in the pond, and blackberry picking
along the roadsides. At home I used my mother’s cookbooks to make
casseroles, meatloaf, muffins, rice pudding and pineapple
upside-down cake. Within a few short years I had worked my way to
the top: Making the dessert for my parents’ bridge parties. I’ve
taken many cooking classes along the way, and I’m still learning
from cookbooks, newspaper food sections, food magazines and
television to this day.
do you get all those recipes you put in your books?
to write about classic dishes, food with a story behind it, so I
usually start with homework. It’s like planning a little tiny term
paper. I usually begin at my overflowing bookshelves and then
progress to the public library, gathering a stack of books and
articles with information on the dish. I interview people if I
can, from chefs and home cooks to fellow cooking teachers and food
writers. Then I study what I’ve got, skimming, reading, making
notes, looking at as many different versions of the dish as
write out my first draft, triple-spaced so I can write all over it
as I work, and head for the kitchen with pen in hand. Usually I
cook my way through three to five drafts before I have the crecipe
right and even then I often cook it another time or two, to focus
on variations and substitutions I want to include. A few recipes
have worked out on the first trey, and some have taken ten tries
before I finally get it right.
for the occasional burnt item, draft versions become dinner, and
my husband takes his lunch to work. That’s why I like to test a
number of recipes in a serssion and do the revised versions a few
days later. This intermission keeps my family from turning on me
and refusing to continue serving as my in-house focus group.
for dinner tonight?
or pasta. I get the rice cooker going and then figure out what
kind of curry or stir-fry I can make without going back out to the
store. Or I might put the stockpot on to boil and pick a pasta
from the pantry: Spaghetti? Linguine? Macaroni? Bow-Ties? Rice
Noodles? Instant Ramen? Top sauces for us are garlic and oil;
butter and cheese; pesto from the freezer; tomato sauce from a
jar. I add frozen peas or edamame beans, or chunks of zucchini
just before I drain the pasta, and usually put out a big salad
whether we have pasta or rice.
that reminds me: I need salad greens and frozen tiny peas, and
some half-and-half for tomorrow’s coffee. Gotta go for now…!