LaCreta Holland

Hi, I’m LaCreta Holland.   I’m a wife, mother of four, grandmother of one cute girl and lover of cooking good food.

I experienced a variety of food in my youth.  I grew up in St. Louis, MO with the cooking influences of the south, like chicken and dumplings, from my southern grandmother. My love of Mexican food started with my mother bringing bottles of hot sauce home from family vacations to California to make her own Mexican food, since my parents loved it so much from their college days in LA—years before Taco Bell set up shop anywhere west of Denver.  While in college in Utah, I loved the Navajo Tacos served in the student union cafe.  I still get a thrill whenever I am traveling west, searching for that PERFECT burrito!

After college, I lived in Washington, DC which opened my eyes to all the fantastic international food offerings there.   Szechuan orange beef from Chinatown was a revelation and friends from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam extended my taste experience even further.  After marriage and the arrival of our fourth child, our family moved to Lerici, Italy and it was there that my interest in cooking and skills really took off.

lerici

Italians insist on fresh fruits and vegetables – blunt words from customers were not uncommon to the seller if the vegetables or fruit were less than perfect.  Also, Italians eat food in season – I learned that when I made the faux pas of asking in the grocery store for broccoli in July (a cool weather vegetable).  They care a great about the quality of ingredients and then do wonderful, often simple things, with time tested recipes and a cultivated sense of culinary art to guide them.  I tried to imitate that and then develop my own style, sometimes blending Mediterranean with other cuisines.   There is no better smell in the world than olive oil heating in a pan on the stove with a bit of garlic and onion, waiting for something to be added. Moving to Italy not only taught me more about cooking, but helped our family to be closer. Sharing a meal with family is so important to Italians; nothing gets in the way of that sacred time– meals are not rushed or eaten on the run as is so common in our culture.

The Holland family at the top of Mt. Douglas, Victoria, British Columbia — August 2010

Now, living in State College, I have the wonderful opportunity to cook fresh meals in Happy Valley, with ingredients from local farmers markets, grocery stores and health food stores that abound.  I can use fresh meat for a cookout from the Penn State meat lab or whip up the thickest whipped cream for a dessert with Meyer Dairy cream.

Happy Valley Learn to Cook is a great place to get recipes, local food information and find out what’s cooking in my cooking classes in State College.