We met Nanci McDermott (Thailand 1975-78) years ago when she was living in California and had published her first book on Thai cooking. She is now ‘back home’ in North Carolina, and doing ‘home coming.’This is an article about Nanci that appeared this last Wednesday in The Charlotte Observer and written by Andrea Weigl:
Nancie McDermott wants you to bake pies. But she doesn’t insist on a homemade pie crust. Her recipes don’t assume you own a Kitchen Aid standing mixer. Your pies do not have to turn out as pretty as the pictures in her latest cookbook, “Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan.”
“I would like to be the enemy of perfectionism,” McDermott says. “There’s so much of that in food.”
Rather, she says, “let the beautiful thing inspire you, not intimidate you.”
This is the 10th book from McDermott, 58, of Chapel Hill, whose previous books include “Southern Cakes” and “Real Thai,” along with a series of cookbooks with quick-and-easy recipes. She’ll have two signing in Charlotte in December. Over lunch at Twisted Noodles, a Thai restaurant in Durham, McDermott told how being a Peace Corps volunteer led her to become a food writer.
Born in Burlington, raised in High Point, McDermott graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, wanting anything but an ordinary life. So she volunteered for the Peace Corps and was sent to Thailand. She loved to eat the Thai food and later regretted not learning how to cook it. After three years, she returned to North Carolina, got her teaching certificate and ended up teaching English and social studies in High Point.
She longed to cook the food she had eaten in Thailand. There were no nearby Thai restaurants at the time but there was an Asian grocery store in Greensboro. With the help of a few cookbooks, McDermott figured out how to make chicken coconut soup and other Thai specialties.
By 1981, McDermott was ready for a change. “I wasn’t meeting any boys,” she says, laughing.
So she moved to New York, where she met her future husband while standing in line for a movie. Living with friends, working for a caterer, McDermott says she had Chinatown and Thai restaurants to further her Thai cooking education.
In the mid-1980s, her husband’s graduate work took them to Southern California, where she was a short drive away from Orange County’s Little Saigon. There were Thai restaurants, cafes and Asian grocery stores with not only dried ingredients but fresh ingredients.
She started teaching at cooking schools all over Southern California. After taking a food writing class, she started writing for newspapers and magazines.
“Real Thai,” her book devoted to the country cooking of Thailand, was published in 1992 and is still in print. She followed that book with seven others devoted to Asian cooking, from curries to stir fries.
In 1999, McDermott and her family moved back to North Carolina. Since then, she has turned her love of Southern desserts into a pair of cookbooks.
[For those in the Charlotte area, Nanci will be signing books on December 2, (7 pm) at the SouthPark Mall on Brclay Downs Drive and on December 4 (9:30 am to noon) at the Annual Holiday Bazasar, Christ Church Providence Road.]