Dorothy (aka Dotty) Mayle is, in no particular order, a teacher, entrepreneur, wife, community volunteer, and mother.
She’s also a fantastic cook who could easily work for an organization that feeds 100 people because when Mayle cooks, she cooks quantity. In fact, everything about Mayle is on overload, from her schedule to her pantry to her giant blue binder of recipes. That three-inch binder has more pages than it was designed to hold; the corners and binding are beginning to fray. Mayle flops the binder onto the table, and opens up about its origins.
“Growing up, I only ate Vietnamese food. Then I married Jay and we began to play that stupid game that everybody plays about what to eat,” she says. Jay kept requesting American classics that Mayle had heard of but never eaten, let alone made herself.
“So I started collecting all these recipes and then I think maybe as a wedding gift, somebody gave me a subscription to a Martha Stewart magazine and I’d pore through those,” she says. After trying each new recipe, the family would vote whether or not it should stay; as the "stay" recipes grew, the binder happened. It has an index organized by dish and date cooked.
Having recipes all in one place and organized by type (soup, salad, etc.) is helpful when the fridge is filled with odds and ends. Cookware and spices should also be organized, if there’s space. Set out ingredients ahead of time (this is called a mise en place), so you aren’t scrambling to find the next element while burning what’s already in the pan.
Another great tip: use anyone in the house old enough to handle a kitchen tool. “My dad worked third shift at GM,” she says. “My mom had her shop open until six, so he was the main person who cooked. I was basically his sous chef. My favorite thing was to mince and chop the garlic because we needed that for every dish.”
Generational knowledge can be passed on during during these times; family stories can be shared along with kitchen skills. “He’s basically the one who taught me how to cook, because my mom was busy working until six. Boom, the lights would turn off, the last customer would go, and then she would come in for dinner,” Mayle says. “I think it was just maybe forced Americanization—planning around everyone’s work schedule, right?”
Check out this Ly Wonton Soup Recipe 2.0.