Adventures in Cooking

About

Hello, friend, and welcome. I’m Eva Kosmas Flores, and I’d love to tell you a story.

 

“You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made…Even after you eat it, it stays with you – always.” – Julia Child

 

Eva Kosmas Flores

 

A Life of Adventure

I was born in Portland, Oregon—a small city nestled in the valley of the cascade mountain range with a river running through it.  I was raised in a household where home-cooked food was the norm. This was, in part, because my parents owned and operated a Greek deli in Portland, Oregon for over 30 years. My father is from a small island called Aegina, where his father, my papou, started as a shoemaker and eventually became a landowner and pistachio farmer. My yiayia helped tend the farm and raise 8 children in a two-room house with no running water. Grit, determination, and an overall sense of sassiness are important traits in Greek people, and that’s very evident in my family. While my mother is not Greek, she completely embraced the Greek culture upon marrying my father. And, with her being one hell of a cook, the Greek culture embraced her back.

“My mother is the warmest person you will ever meet…

…and her cooking reflects that. She worked full time at the deli while we were growing up, but still got up early to make dinner from scratch every single day. Some of my earliest memories are of her pulling up a chair to let me stand in front of the stove so I could reach the pot. I loved helping her stir, and when she started to let me sprinkle in seasonings, I was over the moon. The way a pinch of something could completely transform the flavor of a dish seemed magical to me. I was hooked.

Eva Kosmas Flores

“the more I learned about gardening, and the more fascinated I became…”

Both my parents are avid gardeners, and I was lucky to be able to eat fresh produce from our yard year-round growing up. They used the tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden for the Greek salads at the deli, before “farm-to-table” was a blip on the trend radar. They also had a giant compost heap in the backyard that consisted of rotting old bits of vegetables and plants, which our neighbors didn’t really understand. When my father wasn’t working at the deli he would usually be out in the garden, and I’d teeter my tiny self out to spend time with him. The more time I spent with him out there, the more I learned about gardening, and the more fascinated I became.

I was amazed that a little seed smaller than a lady bug could give you dozens of pounds of tomatoes in a matter of months, and all you had to do was give it soil and water. This was the beginning of another addiction that would see me through ripping out the entire front lawn of my first home and filling it with tomatoes. Again, the neighbors didn’t really understand.

“I started helping out with small things at the family restaurant…”

Along with being in the kitchen with my mother and in the garden with my father, I also spent a lot of time with both of them at the deli. My parents didn’t really trust daycare, so I spent my time outside of school playing and lending a hand at the restaurant. My siblings and I would build forts out of paper towels in the aisles of the small grocery section, and we had a special table in the back where we’d play with our little action figures and dolls. I started helping out with small things at the restaurant, like cleaning tables, and eventually began lending a hand with prep work.

My father was, and still is, a perfectionist with food. He borders on OCD when it comes to the correct way to cut a cucumber, so being in that environment taught me to take extra care with food and instilled the importance of precision. He had to make the same dishes over and over again for the restaurant, so being consistent and exact was very important for him as a cook. My mother, though, would make up our dinners every morning based on what we had from the garden and what she felt like preparing. Her cooking style was much more relaxed and adventurous.

About Eva Kosmas Flores

“I loved to chronicle everything through my camera…”

It stayed that way for a long time, with me helping at the deli on weekends and during summer and winter break, watching my mom whip up delicious meals in our kitchen at home, and lending a hand in the garden. And then at the age of fifteen I picked up my first film camera, and another addiction began. I loved to chronicle everything through my camera, and that led me to pursue filmmaking at university. During the first years of college, I had limited access to a kitchen due to dorm life. And even once I had my own apartment, finding the time and energy to cook between school and three jobs was difficult, to say the least.

“After college, I was briefly employed, then unemployed. Or fired, you could say…

…I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in May 2009, right as the economy tanked. I studied film production, was living in Los Angeles, and was completely unable to find entry-level work in the entertainment industry that would pay my rent. So, I took the first job I could get. I was a receptionist at a plastic surgeon’s office in Beverly Hills for about 6 months, and it was the worst experience of my life. The office manager was a psychopath (this is not a term I’m using lightly, she passed the psychopath test with flying colors), the pay was just enough to make rent, and I would leave work every day burnt out from having been verbally abused and berated, with barely enough energy left to make a half-hearted attempt at dinner.

“The wake-up call I needed to get the hell out of there…”

The final straw was when the doctor called me into his office and made me stand there as he nitpicked the grammar of an email I had written, and, with mocking disbelief, said “you went to college?” Now—I’d allowed myself to be called many terrible things at that job because I needed the money (people who have been in situations like these know the pain of choosing between self-respect and a paycheck).

And after a while, I kind of started to believe them. But the one thing I did know was that I was smart. They could tear down my looks, my organizational abilities, my phone skills (“try to sound more chipper!”), but the one thing I was certain of was my intelligence. And his callous questioning of it was the wake-up call I needed to get the hell out of there. When I was called in to see the office manager later that afternoon, I was ready to call it quits. But, in a twist of fate, they fired me.

“It was a blessing and a curse…”

That was the first and only time I’ve been fired from a job. It wasn’t because of my performance; the patients loved me and I kept everything very organized and punctual. It was because I finally stood up for myself that afternoon when I walked out of the doctor’s office and back to my desk while he was still talking to me, and they wanted someone who would be even more of a doormat than I’d been. It was a blessing and a curse. I didn’t get the satisfaction of telling them to go f*ck to themselves, but I did get unemployment benefits that would pay nearly the same amount as that crappy job.

And so began my 6-month unemployment streak. I had no idea if I’d ever find a job (and given the economic situation at the time, not finding one seemed like a very real possibility), or what kind of job it would be. But even the anxiety of unemployment was a million times better than staying there. Working environments like that are toxic to the human condition and start to eat away at the core of who you are. I was lucky to get out when I did.

“I did it because I loved food…”

So, my tango with unemployment began. And with all this extra time on my hands, I poured myself into what I loved most: Cooking. I started cooking ALL. THE. TIME. I made whatever I could with the meager grocery budget I had. And that’s when I started my blog. I didn’t do it because I wanted to showcase my photography. (You can look at old photos as proof. I shot shrimp at night time using flash! It was terrible.) I didn’t do it because I wanted to find a way to monetize and make money. (Sponsored posts weren’t a thing back then.) I did it because I loved food and wanted to share that love with as many people as possible. And I still do.

About Eva Kosmas Flores

“Six months into my unemployment, I was hired as a page at NBCUniversal…”

…yes, like Kenneth from 30 Rock, but the west coast version. I gave tours of the Burbank lot, worked on the Tonight Show, and was later hired as a Production Coordinator in NBC’s Television Production department. I wanted to be a producer at the time, so I eventually got a job as a Line Producer’s Assistant on a sitcom. During the few years that this all occurred, I was throwing myself into my ‘dream job’ full time on the weekdays and working all weekend long on the blog—cooking, shooting, and writing. This non-stop cycle went on for several years.

“And then, my dream job wasn’t my dream job anymore…”

I realized I didn’t really care about shooting schedules and viewership and budgets and producer’s egos. Those weekends of cooking and writing became a life raft keeping me afloat in a seemingly endless flow of monotonous, pointless days. All I looked forward to were those two glimmering days a week spent in the kitchen and on my computer nerding out with other foodies, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I wasn’t happy with my job, but couldn’t afford to quit and didn’t have the time to apply elsewhere. And then the universe dropped me the least subtle hint, ever, when the sitcom I was working on was cancelled.

About Eva Kosmas Flores
“I knew it was time to move on”

I found a transitional tech support job within the entertainment industry that had a much healthier work environment, and paid well enough to allow me to save up and take the leap into full-time freelancing after several months. I’ll always be indebted to that last job for helping me heal the emotional wounds that working on a TV show under another Machiavellian boss inflicted. Everyone there was so kind and supportive, even with my food work on the side. It was hard to leave simply because I liked the people so much, but I knew it was time to move on. So I made the leap to freelancing full-time.

“A whole lot of adventure”

A lot has happened since then. I married my longtime partner, Jeremy. We bought a house and moved back to Portland, Oregon. I wrote my first cookbook, Adventures in Chicken. We adopted two dogs, then seven chickens, then a hive of bees.  I co-founded Secret Supper in 2014 and I started First We Eat, where I teach online courses in food photography, share my Lightroom presets, and host travel-based food photography workshops. I wrote my dream book, First We Eat. And then we bought the Wind River Homestead, 29-acres of clear-cut forest along the Columbia River Gorge that we’re restoring week by week. It’s been a whole lot of adventure.

About Eva Kosmas Flores
“make your passion a part of your life”

I’m so lucky to be able to lead this life. I’ve worked really hard to make it happen, but some amount of luck is always involved. But I think when you do what you’re passionate about, you have luck on your side. When you care about your work—the sort of work that gives you purpose and joy and warmth—it seeps into you, leaks out into the world, and starts to attract all the good things. Good people, good opportunities, good choices.

I know that most people aren’t able to pursue their passions full time, and that’s okay. But try to make your passion some part of your life. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a week, little by little, it will make each week brighter than the last. It might take you somewhere, and it might not, but at least you’ll be happy. And in the end that’s all that matters.

I hope that my passion and love for food comes through on each page of my online home, and that it inspires you to eat seasonally, source locally, and get your hands dirty in the best possible way. Life’s too short, friends! In the words of Julia Child, “Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”