For the past two years, we have had the pleasure of publishing Kris Wetherbee’s excellent cooking advice and creative recipes, beautifully illustrated by photos from her husband, Rick. Unfortunately, Kris informed us a few months ago that she no longer has time to continue her column, “Dish D’Lish,” because of other projects.
But she hasn’t left us in the lurch. She recommended her successor, Michael Nolan, and we’re delighted to present his first column, “Great Plates,” in this issue.
Like Kris, Michael is a writer on both gardening and food. Kris and her husband moved from California to Oregon more than 20 years ago, bought 40 acres and became certified organic farmers. With a college education in journalism, Kris forged a career writing magazine articles and books on gardening and food. Michael’s interest in gardening goes back to his childhood. His parents didn’t garden, but one set of grandparents had a garden that took up most of their suburban home’s backyard and another set of grandparents grew plants and vegetables on two acres of their five-acre property. “I was gardening before I could walk,” Michael said.
Not a fan of what he calls the “cooked-to-death and way-too-salty” style of Southern cooking he grew up with, Michael became a self-taught cook by first learning to recreate restaurant dishes at home. It didn’t take long before those basic skills turned into a lifelong passion.
Michael grew up in the Southeast, and moved to Alabama after high school, attending a small college, where he was a music major, studying piano and voice. It was his grandparents in Alabama who had the two-acre garden, growing, freezing and canning so many vegetables that they never had to buy any. It was from them that Michael learned a lot about gardening and also about preserving food.
Michael later enlisted in the Air Force, completing a four-year tour of duty. Even while in the Air Force, Michael said, he continued growing things, even if it was just herbs on a windowsill.
Since leaving the Air Force, he has made a career as a writer and speaker on urban gardening, organic gardening, food and other topics, earning the nickname, the Garden Rockstar.
In the years that followed, he was the principal author of a book called I Garden: Urban Style, and became online editor of The Home Depot Garden Club. Most of his writing focus was on gardening until people started saying to him things like, “OK, I’ve grown this kale, now what do I do with it?”
That propelled him to become more engaged with cooking. He recently published a digital book called Food Camp: Kitchen Survival Skills. Michael describes the book as “survival training for the kitchen impaired.” It is a cooking guide to basic dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, and is the first book in a projected series.
Michael recently moved to a suburb of Atlanta, where he is busy creating a backyard garden. Growing his own food, he says, takes the mystery out of where it came from. “I know the source of my food from the day it sprouted as a seed until it hit my plate.”
In his columns for RV Life, he plans to focus on flavorful dishes that can be prepared fairly quickly. He figures most RVers want to spend most of their time outdoors, not at the stove in their RV kitchen.
As with Kris Wetherbee’s recipes, the emphasis will be on food that is both healthy and tasty. You can find Michael’s first column in this issue on Page 31.