At the age of 14, Melanie F. started making Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family -- because she suspected she could do a better job than her elders. That youthful arrogance was tempered by some culinary fiascoes, but the enthusiasm that underlay her early experimentation in the kitchen never died. It was stoked by an equal passion for gardening. With freshly harvested veggies and fruits, even ho-hum dishes became treats for the palate. The next phase of her education also began in the garden, as she learned how to prolong the harvest by turning basil into freezable pesto, wineberries into jam, apples into apple butter and tomatoes into tomato paste.
A from-scratch cook with a knack for peasant fare from a variety of cultures, Melanie F. tries to understand the "whys" in cooking: the antibiotic properties of certain spices; the cholesterol-damping effects of Mediterranean cuisine; the relationship between processing and strength levels of onion and garlic.
For food retailers, she has written background pieces exploring the history behind aspects of Mediterranean cuisine, the steps in curing olives and the health benefits of olive oil. For online magazines, she has written about the history of Polish holiday dishes, complete with her own unique recipes. Her online articles also include features about wild edibles -- identifying them and coming up with innovative ways of incorporating them in dishes.