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Alan Eastep

Alan Eastep in Sedona, AZI've gone back and tried to think of when I began to cook.  I recall it was about the 5th or 6th grade.  My family and me lived in Vienna, Virginia.  I remember helping mother bake a cake.  OK, it was a Duncan Hines cake.  During high school, by this time, we moved back to Pennsylvania.  Our home was in Willow Grove.  I started baking turkey for Thanksgiving.  Then I began fixing the ham for Easter.

In my cooking, the major influence was Pennsylvania Dutch.  My grandfather Eastep was Scots-Irish background.  His mother (my great-grandmother) was of German ancestry.  I know the Eastep's immigrated through Maryland and up to central Pennsylvania.  My grandmother Eastep was a Showalter and her family came from Adams County.  Everyone seemed to move to Blair County a few years after the Civil War.

On my mother's side, my grandfather Baker was of German heritage.  My grandmother Baker was a Butt.  Her family lived in north central Pennsylvania and my grandfather came from Waterside in north Bedford County.  My grandparents, except for Grandma Baker, lived in a 15-mile radius of each other, not to far from Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, in an area knows as Morrison Cove.  My grandmother Baker came from Houtzdale, PA, which is in Clearfield County.  I always said I was 7/8 German from my great-grandparents. 

My Grandfather Baker died when my mother was very young.  For the most part, my Grandmother Baker lived in Williamsburg, PA most of the years my mother grew up.  My mother was about two years behind my father in school.  The current population of Williamsburg, PA is 1500 people and I believe it has held steady for the past 75 years.  It was not until after World War Two, that they started to date each other.

For the first nine years of my life, we lived around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Then we moved to the Philadelphia area for about 2-1/2 years.  Then we had an adventure to Metro Washington, DC (Vienna, VA) before moving back to the Philadelphia area for my high school years.  We always used that big label of Pennsylvania Dutch, however, we were of German ancestry and it influenced our cooking.

I had thought of going to cooking school after high school.  However, history was my love and I decided I would go to college to become a college history professor.  Besides, at that time being a chef was not highly regarded.  After my first year in college, I knew being a college history professor was not for me.  The main reason, my college professors was so boring and uninspiring. 

About this time, an important person hit the TV screen that greatly influenced my cooking life.  Sorry Julia, it was Graham Kerr's "The Galloping Gourmet."  He opened the whole world of cooking to me instead of my standard Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  Cooking with wine was a hoot.  My parents drank liquor socially.  Even in high school, I learned to make Manhattans for my parents.  I had already decided that I did not want to drink but I enjoyed making drinks for my parents and cooking with wine.

Making a cooking career was never in my cards.  However, I enjoyed cooking and learning new cooking methods.  I would see recipes on TV or read them in papers.  After making them, I worked a finding ways to make them different or more to my taste. 

I moved to Arizona and Southwest cooking became important to me.  I began only eating Tostadas (shredded lettuce, beans on a flat taco shell).  I did not like my food hot (spicy).  Then it became fun to mix my Pennsylvania Dutch recipes with some southwestern spices.  Now, I do not care for my food to be fire engine hot, but it does need to have some heat.

For a long time I toyed with the idea of doing a cooking book.  I became a computer geek and worked as an Information Technology expert for several companies.  On the side, I wrote a back road travel book.  When I got interested in the Internet, I decided to do a back roads website.  I thought, it would be a good idea to add some picnic recipes on the back roads website.  Funny thing happened, the picnic recipes became the attraction to the site.  Then I decided to split the two and make a separate picnic, tailgate, and backyard party website.  The rest is history.  I even worked in a cafe to help with my cooking skills.

Come an' Get It
Alan Eastep


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