On Family and Food: Meet Our New Food Editor, Kristy Locklin
To Kristy, culinary enjoyment is all relative.
I come from a long line of great cooks.
For generations, the women on my mom’s side of the family have helmed their respective kitchens with joy, grace and ease. Grandma Wano lived above the old Jenny Lee Bakery, so every visit to her McKees Rocks apartment started with Cinnamon Swirl Bread aromatherapy.
Bucking health food fads in favor of calories, carbohydrates and lots of red wine, she created big, Pittsburgh-style feasts that could feed Franco’s Italian Army for at least two days.
If I ever end up on Death Row, my last meal will include her signature rigatoni and meatballs, a big garden salad, two Mancini’s Bakery rolls with real butter and a thick slab of homemade rum cake.
Although I am not currently behind bars, I’m still incapable of preparing this spread by myself because I inherited my other grandma’s culinary skills, which means I know how to use a can opener and preheat the oven.
Dinners at Grandma Graver’s North Side home usually consisted of frozen pizza, some kind of bubbling casserole or SpaghettiOs. Each one of these entrees arrived with a stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum for dessert.
Despite the lack of gourmet fare, I still enjoyed sitting at her dining room table below a massive painting of “The Last Supper.” I knew the cuisine wasn’t on par with the Wano clan’s, but there was just as much talking and laughing going on. It’s amazing we managed to spoon any canned pasta into our mouths.
From an early age, I realized meals are so much more than the food on our plate; connection is the main course. But, because I’m always hungry and have the culinary know-how of your average frat boy on a budget, I prefer to eat at restaurants.
Dining out has always been a thrill for me, starting with trips to McDonald’s when I was just a wee glutton. In fact, my first word was “arches,” and I spent an inordinate amount of time in the playroom climbing around inside the fiberglass head of Mayor McCheese.
When my mom got remarried, my stepdad’s epicurean tastes inspired me to upgrade from Big Macs to Tessaro’s burgers. During a trip to the Bloomfield institution in the 1990s, I was allowed to order the filet mignon. One bite of that perfectly cooked piece of beef turned me into a bona fide foodie.
As a journalist with nearly 20 years of experience under my elastic waistband, I’ve enjoyed picking the brains of local chefs for advice and watching Pittsburgh’s culinary scene boom. Even when the pandemic took a big, wet bite out of the industry, restaurant owners stepped up and became professional pivoters, doing whatever they could to keep patrons fed and happy.
I don’t think my gastronomic shortcomings make me less qualified to write about food; on the contrary, I know good grub when I taste it. My career path makes me want to make better choices in the kitchen and prepare meals that my daughter will remember rather than ridicule.
I used the COVID downtime to stock my cupboards with essentials (hello, air fryer!) and watch YouTube cooking tutorials. I have a notebook filled with kitchen tricks and recipes I’ve picked up from family friends and pros over the years. The murky stew that is my cooking is slowly turning into something edible, thanks to their expertise.
And while I’m not fluent in the universal love language that is making a meal, I’m ready and willing to learn.
So, hungry readers, I encourage you to bypass that chain eatery on your next night out in favor of a local mom-and-pop establishment.
Maybe I’ll see you there.