This is a Love Story

“I will persevere if only for LOVE and FOOD”.

This is me. I’m the author. I develop all the recipes on this blog, and I like to drink coffee from a Tweety Bird Cup. Feast your eyes while you can. My kids will break this cup soon.

I’m a real mom with real challenges, real hopes, real struggles, real tragedies and real dreams.  I’m from a small town in Oregon; Florence.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  It’s the one that’s famous for blowing up the whale.  I married a man from that same small town.  Actually, he was friends with my brother.  The first time I met my husband I was seven-years-old.  My brother, (who was fourteen) brought some guy over.  I remember running through the room and making faces at him.  I said to myself, “That’s the tallest, skinniest guy I ever saw in my life”.  I didn’t see him again until I was 18 and he was 25 and we met at a wedding.  Truth be told, the only reason I went to that wedding was for the food.  But that’s the story of my life, I guess. 

I won a pie-eating contest once. It was chocolate cream pie, and I won by a landslide. My kids think this is by far, the most remarkable feat I’ve ever achieved. Maybe they are right.

Of course, they don’t know about the time I went stage-diving at a punk concert on a bet. I had so much fun that I went twice (or maybe four times). I won myself two funnel cakes that night and I ate them both on the spot. They were covered in powdered sugar. I’ll get around to telling my kids this story….one day, when I really need to pull a coup.

Will travel for food.  Will work for food. Will put up with military life FOR FOOD. 

In 1996, I married the “tallest skinniest guy I ever saw in my life”, only by then I was a lot taller (I was 21) and he was not-at-all skinny. He was quite muscular by then (meow, I know!), because he was a Marine Corps Lieutenant.  We now have a son who is pretty tall and lanky. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of him and I think he’s my husband from long ago, or my brother.  My brother died from suicide in 2001, and sometimes I think he chose that tall skinny guy to be my protector.  Sometimes I think my brother must be watching over us. Sometimes I feel that if I can build a family culture of kindness, acceptance and compassion, my children will be spared the heartbreak my brother endured.

My husband is our protector; and protect us, he does.  He’s still in The Marine Corps, but he’s a Colonel now.  He’s such a protector that when we adopted a German Shepherd I named him “Colonel Junior”, just so everyone knows that when Big Colonel is not around, Colonel Junior in ON PATROL.  Indeed, there are a lot of people to watch over now.  We have seven kids!  And they are wonderful.  They are funny, interesting, and complete individuals.  They are the greatest joy of my life.

The Vavich Family. 2016. Okinawa, Japan.

Yes, the house is chaos – but the good kind of chaos. It’s the blanket-fort, Christmas morning, pizza-party kind of chaos that makes you smile and think “this is what it’s all about”.

I’ve studied food and culture all around the world, if only to keep my own sanity in the midst of war, struggle, and great uncertainty.  My story is of food, but it’s also a story of mental health. Now that mental health is being talked about more, I finally feel that I can start to reveal more about my own struggles. I’ve suffered with anxiety since I was four-years-old. I know now that’s its not that uncommon and that talking about it will only help myself and others. In the wake of veteran PTSD, and the tragic suicides my military community is facing, maybe it’s time we all start to talk about it a lot more.

Cooking and exploring the delights of the culinary world has been my great coping mechanism. I can easily accept that traveling has also been part of my healthy coping mechanisms. Truth is, I don’t really want to move anymore.  I want a farm with animals. I want quiet and normalcy and predictably. I will persevere however, if only for the possibility of adventure, and for LOVE of my husband and exploration of FOOD.  And maybe there is more work for me to do, after all. All I know, is that through my travels, I have found that most people only want three things: safety, health, and a good life for their children. I have found that if I talk about FOOD and FAMILY, I can find common ground with just about anyone. I have cooked with women all around the world. They have held my babies as we chopped, stirred and tasted. I have listened, learned and grown richer because of my food studies. I have brought what I’ve learned home to my family, and in so much, we have adopted a global culture in our own home – which gives me great hope.

A photo from my cake business years. Poplar Grove Plantation, Wilmington, North Carolina. 2008. These are the “Heirloom Cakes” I developed. Historical American Cakes, reformulated for today’s kitchen. I was pregnant with my fifth child in this photo. I never published these recipes or photos, because what-do-you-know, we moved again, and again (and again and again and again), and had more babies. But ya never know what might happen in the future!

Over the last 23 years, I have studied food and culture in France, England, Switzerland, Morocco, Greece, Italy, New Orleans, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Okinawa, Japan, The Carolinas, and most recently Kentucky, where I live with my children.  My children and I evacuated from North Carolina to Kentucky during Hurricane Florence (Sept 2018).  We decided to stay for the year, as I’m severely allergic to mold.  After years of suffering from mold-related illnesses, I now refuse to live in any military base housing because of mold, disrepair and third-party negligence. In a nutshell, I defected – hard. Like “Bye Felicia”. Because women who win pie-eating contests and (repeatedly) jump off a stage into a mosh pit of extremely spike-d individuals, and then go to do “wreckless” things with their bodies like birth seven children ….. SURELY do not conform to soothe the status-quo.  Especially when the health of herself and her children are at stake. And frankly, being sick from mold and put-upon by a broken housing system (again!) would have been devastating for my mental health. I’ve bent-over backwards enough in my life, and for much better causes. Six months post-hurricane, my “defecting” is the smartest, boldest decision I’ve ever made. I speak freely about here to embolden my readers to ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELVES and never wait for permission (from imaginary seats of power) to do what is right for yourself and the people who depend on you.

My husband is still fulfilling his obligations in North Carolina, but he visits often.  We will reunite as a family in June of 2019 and we will move to Stuttgart, Germany.  There, the food adventures will continue, and life will go on.

We won’t be living on base.

Every year on the day-before-Thanksgiving, I make a pie with each of my children. It’s one of our treasured FAMILY TRADITIONS.

I’m currently working on several books, and I produce a weekly podcast about food, family, self-care and how to facilitate a strong FAMILY CULTURE in your own home.  I tackle a lot of tough topics like “screen time”, “mom shaming”, and “how to predator-proof your family”.

I produce a live, interactive cooking show on facebook.  It’s garnered over 200,000 views since it’s start in 2016.  I’m on hiatus from my cooking show now, but I’ll start it up again in Germany.  Colonel Junior (The German Shepherd) has agreed to translate for our German audience.  Yes, I’m kidding.  But my animals do frequent my cooking show, much to the chagrin of “animals shouldn’t be in the kitchen” people.  Watching people freak out over a hamster or a guinea pig in the kitchen is an endless source of entertainment for me.  

Here in Kentucky, I’ve been busy building an entire “Home Management Mentorship” program.  It’s an online, interactive, 8 week program for mothers everywhere.  It’s in it’s first Beta Testing session, and it’s already helping people.  It will be open to the public in 2020.

Other than that, I’m a Star Trek nerd.  Once my husband took me to a Star Trek convention, even though he just about died from mortification and angst.  Like, I thought his whole body would dissolve by sheer churning of hydrochloride.  He was in agony.  But even in his angst he was kind and loving towards me.  I knew then he was a keeper.   Sometimes when I’m watching Star Trek and he’s reading some war book, I’ll start schooling him on the strategic war fighting of the Star Ship Enterprise, and how he should do what Captain Picard did in the battle of blah blah blah.  It always catches him off guard because he thinks I’m serious.  It never gets old.  

 I’m a classical vocalist and I sing in seven different languages (eight if you count Klingon).  I never really wanted the singing career, though. I wanted the large, bustling Catholic family, and the protective husband who adores me, and all the pets.  Like EVERY pet.  Which show up at our house like magic. Street dogs and cats and hamsters and baby squirrels.  And I act like I have NO IDEA where they came from.  And my husband loves them anyway. 

This blog is a daily account of the goings-on of my kitchen, of my travels, of my epic love for my family, the epic food I cook for my husband, the food I enjoy, my oases of cooking and music, the pets I adopt and of the FAMILY TRADITIONS that keep my household strong. 

This blog is a love story…..

And like all love stories, this blog is messy, unedited, and a great showcase of misused punctuation and run-on sentences.  But like all true love; it’s real and honest, and the best I can give.  

This is a real life love story.  

Thank you for being here,

Shannon Vavich 

P.S. I’m maddeningly prolific on social media.  So follow me if you can stomach it.  Icons are right under header (at the top of the blog).