What makes a person want to cook so passionately? Is it an artistic expression in a different medium? I really don't know the answer to that question. However, I do know that for me it is a creative outlet and one that I feel compelled to express daily. It's not so much a desire but more like a need. I crave cooking just as others crave chocolate and different types of food. I often find myself daydreaming about recipes and their components and how to execute them. I study and collect cookbooks as many of you do. In fact, I've been known to sit and read them like others read novels. I love to please those around me and most often I accomplish this with home cooked food. My family have their favorites of course and I know what they are, just like I know the back of my own hand. I also know my way around a kitchen, and I can cook for two or forty-eight people without blinking an eye!

I'm a transplanted southerner who has generational roots in Mississippi and Louisiana; I was born in Virginia and raised in Tennessee. I'm very proud of my heritage as my family can tell you. I'm a true southern girl currently living in both the Cayman Islands and upstate New York. I love both places and I have relished learning about the different cultures, heritages, people and food. I have adopted some of the cooking methods from the melting pot of these regions, but I must be honest and tell you that my cooking will always reflect my southern upbringing and to me that is comfort within itself. You will see some of the southern dishes in this cookbook that have been some of my favorites for a very long time.

Our summers are spent in a cottage that is almost 100 years old and located on a lake in the very picturesque foothills of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. This cottage happens to proudly showcase my very favorite kitchen and to me it's heaven on earth. I'm at peace in "My Cottage Kitchen" because of the wealth of wonderful family and friends that gather in this sacred room over food and drink made from loving recipes that have been passed down through generations and aspiring new ones. I like to think that people bond over food and lifetime memories are created each time we sit at the communal table together.

Our summers are just a quick blur by the time September rolls around but we know how to squeeze in the last days of an ever-fleeing New York season. We are experts at cramming a multitude of visiting guest into every available date! The time is passed by enjoying all of the summer activities you can imagine but better yet the time spent on the dock laughing and catching up with each other is cherished. We are the luckiest people on earth with the abounding love of friends, family and the truly scenic landscape of the countryside. Our good fortune is teamed with the beauty of the rolling hills, mountains, rivers, dairy farms, corn farms, apple orchards and so much more. Our summers are coveted since our winters are long, cold and snowy. We relish every precious moment between Memorial Day and Labor Day and as beautiful as our autumn is, it comes very quickly!

My wish would be that you are grateful each time you share a meal with family and friends, for your blessings are having a bountiful table and the fellowship of people that you love the most. I feel so truly thankful to be living in a free country with a beautiful family, great friends, an abundance of food and the ability to share my good fortune with others. May God bless each of you.

Your friend,
Tracy Maines