When I first met Margaret Roach, it was during her days as Editorial Director at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She was always dressed to the nines and perfectly manicured. Little did I know we'd become friends under different circumstances: trading cooking and gardening tips and sharing an affinity toward dirty hands across the blogosphere, plus an occasional lunch. A few weeks ago, as summer began to wind down, I had the pleasure of visiting her at home in the Berkshires.
I arrived to a perfect late-summer garden, exploding with potatoes, tomatoes, green beans galore, various kinds of greens, onions, garlic, summer squash, and plenty of herbs.
Inside, in her kitchen, Margaret's cooking style reflects her gardening style: varied, fun, sometimes a lot of the same thing over and over, but done differently each time. A vegetarian since college, she told me she mostly makes "simple fare with fresh things" - a wonderful description of what, to me, is healthy and delicious cooking: frittatas, pizzas, pastas, and burritos for all three meals. For dessert, clafoutis or flans with pumpkin if winter squash are ready.
"Sometimes I make a frittata and a pizza and some greens (salad or cooked) and eat a bit of everything. That is fun. And leaves me leftovers of various kinds. I eat a lot of mismatched food, and I love it."
The kitchen itself is small but effective; it achieves all of Margaret's goals without any fuss or pretension. I was ready for just a bit more fuss coming from a former Martha Stewart executive but I couldn't find even a touch. She has a modest induction stove, a simple metal sink, a microwave and a refrigerator that refreshingly is not built in. You enter and feel at home.
In addition to all the fresh (or formerly fresh, now frozen or dried) foods around, what makes the kitchen so inviting is the little humorous touches, like words spelled out in blocks, and the way the room is lit with little lamps. We've talked about lighting a kitchen with lamps before — here and here — and the way Margaret uses lights in her home is a perfect example of how small lamps with character light so much better than bright overhead fixtures.
What is the most treasured item in your kitchen?
My nursery-school diploma from Miss McCarthy's Nursery School, on the wall beside the sink. (Food-wise, probably a giant Victorian ironstone tureen of my grandmother's.)
What thing that you grow (to eat) could you simply not do without?
Could not do without the tomatoes (almost had to this year!), because they are base of soup, sauces, casseroles, etc. for a vegetarian like me.
What was the biggest challenge in your garden this year?
Tomato diseases were a real test in this ultra-wet year; nonstop rain in late May through early July was like nothing I have ever seen, hard to work around. So the rain, I guess, is the real answer.
What boomed the most in your garden this year?
Greens and especially crucifers (aka Brassicas) loved all the rain. Maybe all the bugs that usually eat them drowned? Kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts really boomed.
• Shandell's, the creative home of Susan Schneiderm the local Berkshire lamp doctor who fixed up Margaret's orphaned lamps from TriBeCa.
• Johnny's Seeds, one of Margaret's favorite sources for vegetable seeds.
Visit Margaret Online:
• A Way to Garden, Margaret's site for gardening information and inspiration.
• Margaret's Tomato Junk recipe
• More cooking posts from Margaret
(All images by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan for TheKitchn.com except Margaret's tractor portrait by Erica Berger)