August 2009: Family food

August 2009: Family food

No surprise: Lynsie Steele, who owns the Waynesboro-based gourmet ice cream business Perfect Flavor, is a foodie. She owns four copies of Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking—including one signed by Child. “I cried when Colin gave it to me,” she says.

That would be Colin Steele, Lynsie’s husband. Their shared passion for food would be evident to any visitor walking into the kitchen of their Albemarle house, even if the Steeles themselves were not in the room. But then, they’re very often in the room. They’ve made their mark on it through hours and hours of cooking there, and through a recent renovation that brought in bright Mediterranean colors and an updated look.

The pair met several years ago at Greenberry’s, where Lynsie worked and Colin was a customer. Even though they “never exchanged more than 10 words,” as Colin says, they noticed each other—Lynsie could feel Colin’s presence whenever he walked in, even when her back was turned.

Eventually, she left to start her business. Six months later, some friends invited her to a party, at the home of someone she didn’t know. That someone turned out to be Colin. And in a fleeting moment during the party, standing in the kitchen, they fell in love. “We started talking and it was like no one else existed,” says Lynsie. “It was like the world fell away at that moment,” Colin adds. Later, Lynsie was reaching to put crackers away in one of Colin’s cabinets and “had this flash of doing that motion hundreds and thousands of times my whole life.”

Now, the pair are weaving a life together and with Colin’s two children, 13-year-old Nick and 10-year-old Kate. “Our kitchen is the beating heart of our home,” says Colin. “We do all of our cooking, eating, and socializing here; we have our fights, we make our plans.”—Erika Howsare

Lynsie: “Our relationship started in the kitchen and it’s grown in the kitchen. Our first batch of ice cream was in here.”

Colin: “We catered our own engagement party. When we got married we had Lynsie’s friend Ingrid, who’s an amazing chef, cater it for us out of this kitchen. We got married at our house. It’s a really important house to us.

“The house was built in ‘66 when the kitchen was a different place culturally. It was all closed off. There were salmon-colored countertops and the rest was stark off-white. We knocked out [a former wall that’s now a breakfast bar] and got rid of the closet. There’s tons of soapstone all over the property so [making countertops out of it] was the first thing we did. I love it. You can beat the hell out of it, put hot pans on it…”

Lynsie: “My favorite part is a different knob for every door.”

Colin: “We pulled the cabinets down and painted them. I did the lighting. We got a nice stove and put in gas—a propane tank.”

Lynsie: “We don’t have a microwave. It’s not 30-minute meals. On a life level, we have trouble hearing people say ‘I don’t have time to cook.’ We both have demanding full-time jobs but we cook from scratch. If we have mac’n’cheese it’s all from scratch. Not only is it better for us health-wise but it’s a great education for the kids. We share responsibility really equally about cooking. The kids are in here and they’re like, ‘What can I do to help?’ They can make things that a lot of adults can’t make; they can make bread better than me. They can whip up a salad dressing, roast vegetables, chop an onion the right way. If we sleep in on the weekend we hear pots banging and they’re making breakfast.

“People ask us [if we’ll expand the kitchen]. But I think it’s the perfect size. All the drawers are full; everything has its place. We do need a bigger fridge, though. We get excited and cook for 10. We’re trying to get better about using leftovers.

“This was the family life I did not have growing up because my mother never cooked. We had frozen dinners, fast food. I used to watch ’50s sitcoms and wish it was like that. Here I am in 2009 and I’ve recreated that ’50s sitcom. My idea of a home and a family is good smells coming out of the house. Colin wanted the same thing—having a family in this environment where your existence revolves around food.”