Serious Eats

In Our Community Corner: Meet Kimberly Pope (aka: 'PoorOldMama')

Each week we talk to a member of the Serious Eats community. This week we chatted with PoorOldMama, a well-traveled educator and mother of three from Connecticut. —The Mgmt.

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Name: Kimberly Pope
Location: Prep School in Connecticut
Occupation: Admissions Officer and Director of an International Scholarship
Website: pomspeaksout.blogspot.com

What is one of your earliest food memories?

I grew up in the 70's so there were a lot of yellow casseroles. They were cooked with Campbell's cream of chicken soup. The most memorable meal was tater tot casserole, a stack of white bread and some iceberg lettuce with French dressing. This, of course, was accompanied with the dreaded large glass of whole milk. There was no leaving the table till that milk was gone.

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Retro Tater Tot Casserole [Photograph: A Zesty Bite]

What is the most memorable bite of food you've ever eaten?

I was 23, in love, skiing in the Italian Alps in the spring. We stopped at one of the little chalets that dot the mountains. We sat outside in the sun and we ate a delicious polenta, egg, and cheese dish. It was outrageous. Ever since then I look in every Northern Italian cookbook and look for a recipe....never have seen it again.

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Dumplings from PoorOldMama's recent trip to Lithuania

If you leave Connecticut where will your last meal be?

My last meal would probably be in our dining hall. When you leave a boarding school it is not like leaving a job. It is leaving your home and all the people you have spent so much time with. Our dining hall tries hard and it would make perfect sense to be able to say goodbye to everyone. I would have the soup and a big spinach salad.

What is your favorite place in the world to eat?

I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I visited Madrid. I travel internationally for my job so it is very exciting to try new food. Korean BBQ, crispy fried eel in Hong Kong, red red in Ghana, everything in Turkey, but when I had jamon iberico in Spain, my life changed. It is like ham heroin. It was so bad I had to stop myself from taking some from someone's leftover room service in the hotel hallway. It was like I needed jamon rehab.

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Jamon Iberico [Photograph: Su-Lin]

Will you tell us about what you love to cook most?

It's more that I love to cook most for those I love most. I love to say to one of my kids, "I will make you whatever you want for dinner' and then cook it and make them happy. I also am like a Korean mother and make things that are "healthy for you". Right now I am a juicing fiend in an attempt to build immunity and fend off the flu. Sometimes those juices can look nasty!

I really love to cook big family dinners that make the house smell good all day. Some of my favorites? Burrito bowls, Moroccan meatballs, roasted lemon chicken with capers and olives...

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Sadly, I love McDonalds. Sometimes, I just drive thru between meals for a double cheeseburger-- no onions no pickles. I always throw the trash away before I get home so no one knows. My people are haters on the fast food.

Is there something that you've eaten recently that you can't stop thinking about?

I had the garlic prawns at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. Three of us went to the restaurant. We all had notes about what we wanted to eat. All of us had the prawns on our lists. They were shockingly good. I plan to go back and order two orders just for me alone!

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[Photograph: Zoe Ley]

Is there anything you hate eating?

I don't like sandwiches. I always want hot food. Having spent most of my life living at boarding schools I always have the option of hot food. I whine over the summer when BigMan tries to feed me sandwiches.

Is there a special dish that you would consider your signature?

Not really but we do a great Chinese Hot Pot for Christmas. We make it a real adventure. Our whole family goes out to a huge Asian market nearby and go up and down every aisle. We pick the main parts of the meal but we also choose all kinds of juices. We then spend lots of time in the candy aisle--all different kinds of Pocky, Hi-Chew, those panda nummies.... The best part is spending hours eating and enjoying each other's company. Everyone looks forward to this evening.

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PoorOldMama's Christmas Hot Pot Feast

If you could eat or cook a meal with anyone who would it be and why?

This is actually one of my interview questions and I would fail myself for my answer---my husband. Even though we work together and eat all of our meals together I just always feel like I want to spend more time with him. I think time together is precious and he just makes me laugh and feel great. We love all kinds of food, trying new food and new restaurants so it would be perfect.

P.S. I get scared when students answer Hitler, which is a pretty common answer. The other frequent answer is Michelangelo.

What would your last bite be?

My last bit would be that damn illusive Italian polenta, cheese and egg dish! It would be the perfect last bite!

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