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Author Katarina Todorovic
Katarina Todorovic Writer
Updated on Jun 21st, 2024
Fact checked by Emma Vince

Life in a Skillet 2024: Food, Family, Culture!

Welcome to our exclusive interview with Maggie Caldwell, the creative force behind the beloved blog "Life in a Skillet." This vibrant corner of the internet is more than just a food blog; it's a rich tapestry of culinary exploration, family tradition, and personal storytelling. Before Maggie found her blogging voice, she embarked on a journey of discovery, both in and out of the kitchen. Her moment of epiphany came while listening to a story on NPR's Morning Edition about Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. Lange challenged her students to capture the essence of their lives through photography, a challenge she herself met with a profoundly personal photograph. This inspired Maggie to view her kitchen not just as a place to cook, but as a canvas for expressing and exploring her life. We invite you to join Delivery Rank as we delve into Maggie’s world, exploring her inspirations, her favorite recipes, and her unique approach to food blogging. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just looking for some heartfelt stories, Maggie's "Life in a Skillet" offers something special for everyone.

You've been the family meal planner and cook for over 20 years. How has your approach to cooking and meal planning evolved over the years?

That’s a great question! My approach to cooking has evolved way more than my meal planning has. I’ve often made resolutions to list out menus for the week and shop around that, but it’s not my organizational style. I don’t usually have meals in my mind more than a few days in advance and depend on a well-stocked pantry and freezer. I know that I’m making green chicken chili tomorrow and pizza the next day; other than that I’ll be winging it.

When our family was at our busiest, with my husband traveling for work often, me going to school, and the boys both in school, I worked on a category system. Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Chicken Wednesday, Thursday Breakfast for Dinner, Pizza Friday, and Sunday leftovers from the week. It was a pretty good framework at the time that I got away from as the kids got older.

My approach to cooking has completely changed over the years. I’ve always been comfortable in the kitchen but wasn’t a very inspired or creative cook for a long time. I had a small handful of recipes either that my mom made, like her beef and bean chili, that I learned from working in restaurants, like pasta con broccoli, and that I picked up from friends along the way, like a simple chicken masala. 

Then a few things converged to set me on a path to become a different kind of home cook. The biggest one was becoming a first-time mom. I started thinking more about good eating habits and started making baby food because gooey meet in jars seemed icky. I  took a nutrition class, which made me super aware of the sugar and sodium content in store-bought foods.  

At the same time, I started to have the opportunity to eat some truly amazing meals at restaurants that inspired me to up my cooking game at home. The first one of those may have been a panko and mustard-crusted salmon poached in butter and served with purple Peruvian potatoes. I still remember that meal! 

I stopped following recipes and started using them as inspiration or as something to customize. I got more creative as I became more competent.

In your blog, you mention the importance of cooking from scratch and bypassing frozen and canned items. What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards you've experienced with this approach?

I grew up eating meals made from scratch. Growing up, my mom didn’t have a big food budget, and she found that it was more cost-effective to purchase the ingredients for entrees than to buy frozen dinners. My dad made waffles most weekend mornings from a well-loved Fannie Farmer cookbook, and mom always had a meat, vegetable, and starch meal ready for dinner. I was fortunate that she gave me a level of comfort in the kitchen. So I didn’t have any real obstacles cooking that way. But along the way I learned that, just like in the rest of life, there has to be balance in all things. I do buy staples like canned tomatoes, garbanzos, refried beans and enchilada sauce, and always have frozen fruits and vegetables on hand. And it’s hard to beat a good box of mac and cheese mix!

Cooking a meal from scratch is a hands-on activity with a tangible outcome. It feels really satisfying to make a dish. The chopping, seasoning, stirring, braising - whatever the steps are, your senses are all involved in the creation of a completed product. It’s even better when you share your dish with family or friends.

But you know, my biggest reward is the one that’s taken the longest time to pay off. My sons are comfortable and confident cooks. They feed themselves thoughtfully and are comfortable making meals for their partners and friends. It’s just the best feeling  to know that I modeled that for them, just like my own mom made me comfortable in a kitchen.  

Your youngest son helped you come up with the name "Life In A Skillet" during a memorable afternoon. Can you share more about that day and how it encapsulates the essence of your blog?

Yes, he did! I do remember that day clearly. It was a foggy afternoon just after Christmas. We took his new skateboard out for a spin along an oceanfront trail. New Year’s resolutions came up, and when he asked if I had any, I told him I wasn’t a fan of making a list, but I was thinking about starting a blog, and he was really encouraging about it. It was fun to brainstorm with him because he definitely got it. He was growing up right there in the kitchen with me making pasta and pizza dough and was the recipient of many culinary experiments. And it wasn’t completely out of the blue for us to be talking about writing. I’d been a freelancer for a while and he’d been involved in a project I’d done with a school environmental group. 

As we talked, my vision for the blog became really clear: to have a food blog that was about more than recipes, that reflected life, my life and interests, through the lens of the kitchen. I don’t remember what other names we tossed around, but in the end I came up with Life in a Skillet. The years have proven that the name was big enough to hold anything I may come up with.

Food seems to play a central role in your life and your blog. Can you discuss how food has become a means of expression and exploration for you and your family?

You’re absolutely right; food has become central to our family life in so many ways!  Shopping, cooking, and eating together is our way of spending quality time with each other. We’ve always loved watching the cooking competitions from the old Iron Chef to Chopped to Top Chef. They were a way for all of us to learn about new flavors, dishes, techniques, and ingredients. 

Then there’s the fact that we live in an area with an abundance of local food. Choosing ingredients and deciding on meals became part of what we do together as a family. When the kids were growing up, we could head out on Saturday mornings for hot corn on the cob at the farmer’s market and then taste some local cheeses. Or we would head to the harbor and buy fresh crab or salmon, or take a drive to a farmstand during the week for fresh artichokes. 

Pizza making is another family activity that started with buying dough balls at a local pizzeria to grill on stones in the barbeque to investing in a big brick gas-fueled backyard pizza oven, making our own dough and sauce, and sometimes even our own mozzarella!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a food blog that is as personal and reflective as "Life In A Skillet"?

Write! And keep writing. Don’t compare yourself to others. Write through any doubts that creep up about the quality of your work. You will only become a better writer and your voice will get stronger by putting down the words. The only blog posts I regret are the ones that remained unwritten. Know that people like writing that comes from the heart.

To read more about Life in a Skillet, please visit https://lifeinaskillet.com/


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We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links.Advertising DisclosureThis is a user-oriented comparison website, and we need to cover hosting and content costs, as well as make a profit. The costs are covered from referral fees from the vendors we feature. Affiliate link compensation does not affect reviews but might affect listicle pages. On these pages, vendors are ranked based on the reviewer’s examination of the service but also taking into account feedback from users and our commercial agreements with service providers. This website tries to cover important meal, coffee and pet food delivery services but we can’t cover all of the solutions that are out there. Information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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