About Charlotte

Name Charlotte McGuinn Freeman
Location Livingston, MT
Email me cmf at livingsmallblog dot com
Real job I edit tech docs for the meeting software unit of Cisco Systems.
Dream job Small farmer and full-time writer of both fiction and non-fiction
Best meal ever Mario Batali comes out most years in the fall to hunt birds with Jim Harrison. I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner every night last year — of the three, it’s a toss-up between the 2-inch thick steaks fiorentina that he brought, or the very plain fresh pasta with an obscene amount of white truffles, but I think I have to go with the white truffles. I’d never tasted anything like that before, and combined with the company (including Harrison’s daughters, who are good friends) it was a spectacular evening.
Favorite fruit I have to pick one? How about the pie cherries that grow in the empty lot down the street from me — I put up about 15 pints of them last summer. They’re great on yogurt in the morning, and I can’t say how many cherry-almond coffee cakes I’ve taken to parties this year.
Favorite vegetable Any kind of cooked greens, especially if they come out of my garden.
Favorite meat Antelope. I shot one myself this year (with a lot of help from my ex-boyfriend the hunting guide). Of all the big game around here, it’s the most delicious.
Vegetable I eat only when I have to be polite I like pretty much everything — didn’t like “hair vegetable” at Chinese New Year a few years ago. It seems to be some sort of fungus.
Favorite dinner growing up Baked leftover spaghetti with meat sauce and lots of cheese on top.
Processed crap I can’t manage to live without I have a secret thing for Kraft Singles.
Most embarassing cooking incident I can’t really think of one — cooking’s always been such a pleasure for me, and I’m not a stickler for recipes so I’m pretty good at fixing errors as they occur.
Most traumatic food experience My grandmother giving me food poisoning not once, but twice as a kid. My brother teased me about it relentlessly. “You knew better than to eat anything when you didn’t see her open the can!”
Attitude about sell-by dates Despite having been poisoned by my grandmother as a kid, I’m pretty sanguine about them. If it smells OK, I figure it probably is OK.
Has your cooking ever made anyone sick? No, but see above.

Food background

My mother liked to cook and taught both my brother and me to cook as kids. Cooking was something we did together on weekends, especially after we went to live with our father when I was in high school. In my early 20s, I went to New York to get a job in publishing and wound up repackaging material from Gourmet and Glamour into cookbooks. I was so poor that cooking was really my only entertainment, and the Union Square Greenmarket was my lifeline — it felt like the only place in the city where there were real people. I wound up leaving the city and moving west, where I spent a couple of years dating various chefs in Telluride, and then went to grad school at UC Davis, ground zero for the California organic food movement.

I now live in Livingston, Montana, where the restaurant options are severely limited. Luckily, all my friends are resourceful people with time on their hands and who have learned to be very good cooks, particularly of Asian food. We’re all pretty involved with food around here — it’s very agricultural, so we can usually source most meat, eggs, and chicken locally, and we even have a terrific new truck farm that just set up in town. And then there are the hunters — most people I know hunt at least one large animal for the freezer every year. I’ve also got a large vegetable garden in my back yard that supplies probably 75% of my veggies, as well as 4 apple trees, 2 plum trees, and a grove of pie cherry trees down the street. Of the many things I’ve loved about living here, the fact that people are so interested in good food is one of the nicest.

Photo: That’s me with my Aunt Molly on the farm that’s been in our family since the 1860s.