Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Y Not

I joined the YMCA this morning. After two trips to swim in the pool, paying a la carte, I figured the payoff would come in no time if I just keep it up. Laps.

Remember the Y as a kid? Friday night swims before pizza, or in my case an unfortunate hotdog dinner before a swim; pool parties, the way voices echo as though you’re in a cave. The familiar and strangely comforting smell of chlorine. I’m still working on New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe this is one. After swimming on New Year’s Day, I thought what a feat to swim every day of the new year, 365 days in a row! Already I’ve missed two. Or is that three? Not bad for a just-back-to-the-water gal who used laps to recover from a divorce. It’s been years now since I welcomed a pool back into my life.

The smell of chlorine is still a comfort. I still get that kick in the gut when another swimmer passes me—and I urge my legs to kick faster, my arms to reach further, faster.

Then there’s the locker room banter: “I was very modest,” says the voice of an older woman (in her 70’s?) as I slip out of my workout clothes and into my swimsuit, a fading purple two-piece that will do for now. (It has a skirt.) I can’t see her; I can only hear her. “That’s the way it was in my age—almost to the point where it’s ridiculous.” She adds: “I’m trying to get over it.”

Pre-Swim/Workout Banana Peanut Butter Shake

Before taking to the pool or working out in the morning, I love to sip this energizing shake. Actually, I’d exercise just to drink it. The idea and recipe came from Sarah (I’ll try to find her last name!), a young spunky trainer formerly of Focus Fitness in Boston. I usually drink it about a half hour before my activity or, if I’m crunched for time, en route to the workout.


1 ripe banana, preferably frozen (frozen is great because it tastes like a milk shake)

8 ounces soymilk

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon or more of cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla, optional


Break apart the banana and put pieces into a blender. Add soymilk, peanut butter and cinnamon. I usually put little over a teaspoon of cinnamon in. Add vanilla, if you’d like. It makes it slightly sweeter.

Blend until smooth.