Like mother-in-law, like daughter-in-law is the cooking incantation swirling from Staci Bowser’s Overland Park kitchen.
Staci has been married to Brad Bowser for nearly 30 years. Their children are Reed, 24; Weston, 23; Randi, 21; and Layne, 19.
Staci’s father-in-law was Dan Henry Bowser, known locally as WDAF-TV’s weatherman Dan Henry until 1992. He was diagnosed with emphysema and died Feb. 28, 2015, at age 89 after 69 years of marriage to his wife, Estyl Bowser.
The illness precipitated regular gatherings around Estyl’s dining room table.
“Staci and Brad have been so considerate of me, both while Dan was living and now that he’s passed,” Estyl says. “Even now we eat together on Mondays and Thursdays, and while the food is great, the bonding with family is exceptional. Staci is like another daughter to me.”
Q: Staci, your relationship with Estyl certainly dispels any stereotypical daughter-in-law/mother-in-law difficulties.
A: Being with Grandma (Estyl) is so easy, especially because she always meets you at the door with a big bear hug. When we come over for dinner, it’s like I’m Ed McMahon bringing her a check for $1 million in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. She is going to be 92 in March but is as sharp and engaging as ever. She is a good cook in her own right, but we enjoy bringing her food, cooking in her kitchen and eating in the dining room.
Sharing dinners together has been a natural extension of love and caring. After Grandpa (Dan) got sick with emphysema three summers ago, that winter Grandma fell and broke her leg. So for the next three months, Brad stayed with Grandpa and took care of night and morning routines. Estyl’s amazing neighbors, friends and extended family brought lunch and came to the house in the afternoon.
After school I would prepare dinner for the entire family so we could all come together after work or school. When Grandma was healed and felt comfortable taking care of Grandpa again, the nightly dinners were to stop. But the first night we were at our home eating dinner without Grandma and Grandpa, the family made a decision to continue dinner at least two times a week — a date which still stands.
Even though Grandpa passed away last February, we are so thankful to have spent so much time with him and get to experience his humor and positive attitude. We are thankful to still have Grandma and that our dinners have continued.
Q: So what is your cooking style?
A: My style of cooking is simple: I cook for my family. I cater to their wants and tastes. We love trying new foods and interesting recipes or crazy new things we have seen on television, in the movies or eaten at restaurants, trying to figure out how to make dishes and altering them to our tastes. While we are happy eating simple food, my daughters and I enjoy complicated recipes like Julia Child’s boned duck in pastry, which we attempted for Randi’s 20th birthday.
I come from a long line of great cooks, and the passion for it has been passed down from many generations. I cook for my family and friends to suit their tastes and needs, to impress them or just to be adventurous. I feel that anyone can cook — it just takes trial and error and a willingness to learn and trust oneself.
I lose myself in cooking, and it is a stress reliever for me. My attitude has always been that anyone could cook, but it seems that to become great at it you have to have a love and passion for it. We all have major cooking fails and successes, and that is what cooking is. You must laugh at the fails, learn from them, and have a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Good-tasting food should be fun and bring pleasure to people with shared time and experiences.
Q: It seems like you’re happiest cooking for those you love.
A: That’s true, but I also like knowing the exact ingredients that are in the foods I serve. I like to use fresh products if at all possible, and only kosher or pink Himalayan salt. I’m not above grating zucchini and carrot into spaghetti sauces, and would hide spinach in foods when the kids were small, so that what they were eating was well-balanced.
When we travel, our family is not used to eating out all the time, and I guess they crave a taste of home. When Layne was in fifth grade, we were visiting the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and she said after several days of eating out, “I can’t wait to get home and eat gourmet food.”
Q: Well, this certainly isn’t your typical, run-of-the-mill potato salad.
A: I’m sharing this recipe because it is one of Grandma’s favorites, and it’s one of the dishes I am usually asked to make for different occasions. The recipe comes from my mother, Bonnie Norton.
I am in the process of writing a personal cookbook for my family and children, and the recipes include personal comments. This is best if it is made a day or two before you serve it and pleases even those who profess to not care for potato salad.
Food is a tie that binds us together — and it doesn’t have to be fancy. Regardless of the food we eat together, we all feel blessed to be able to share something as simple and sustaining as a meal together.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Sen email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Sour Cream Potato Salad
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed clean and diced into 1-inch cubes
3 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
5 green onions, washed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons bottled prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Place potatoes in large pot, cover with water and season with 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are just fork-tender. Drain into a colander placed in the sink and allow potatoes to cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, stir mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, horseradish, parsley, celery seed, pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt together until well combined.
Pour cooled potatoes into a large serving bowl and pour mayonnaise mixture over all. Gently stir to coat potatoes evenly with mixture.
Cover bowl tightly with lid or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until completely chilled.
Can be made up to 2 days in advance of eating.
Per serving, based on 6: 662 calories (71 percent from fat), 55 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 36 milligrams cholesterol, 44 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 1,418 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.