Hello!  I’m Jennifer Elkin, a New York native who believes strongly that you should “do what you are passionate about.” 

My passions are family, friends, food, wine, and travel! To me, an interesting conversation or delicious food with great people is my way of enjoying life.

I look forward to sharing my passions with you through my blog, “Me and My Traveling Hat,” and my wish is that you will benefit from what I share with you! I have traveled to 43 states and eight countries with my family, sometimes with friends and at times solo.

I love to cook and eat, perhaps because I am a 2nd generation Sicilian; frankly; I love food!

I grew up on 80 acres of apple orchards in upstate New York that my grandparents had bought in the late 1940s. We were surrounded by a big family with frequent gatherings, whether the occasion was a Sunday afternoon or a holiday!

My mom, Uncle Dom, Grandmother Jennie, Aunt Catherine, and Papa – my Grandfather
My dad on the tractor waving and my Uncle standing next to the tractor in our apple orchard.

When I say “surrounded by family,” I literally mean “surrounded by family!” To the left of our home was my maternal grandparent’s home, and to the right of our house lived an aunt and uncle and three cousins.  Around the corner was another aunt and uncle, with two more cousins. Down the street was my dad’s family…many of whom still live there today, over 80 years.

My parents met when my dad’s tractor ran out of gas while farming my mom’s family’s apple orchards

There was always a lot of people cooking in the kitchen, and a long line of tables stretched from the dining area into the living room.  The tables were always overflowing with food and wine, while all the kids were running around!

A usual Sunday Dinner or a Holiday Dinner at our Grandparents

I was introduced to red wine at an early age because my grandfather loved putting peaches in the wine, and I have really great memories of eating them! Hence my love for wine!

As a child, some of my fondest memories are about sitting around the table, talking and laughing, or helping my grandparents pick vegetables from the garden or grapes off the vine to make wine.

My Grandmother Jennie and My Grandfather Papa

I remember afternoons helping my grandmother pick dandelions so she could cook them for us for lunch. Also, I remember the fun of picking wild strawberries and blackberries with my cousins…no need for washing them: we would just pop them in our mouth, pure bliss!

I would play baseball on the front lawn with all my cousins, climb apple trees in the summer, catch lightning bugs, play hide and seek, and eat lots of BBQ with roasted marshmallows.

In the winter, my older cousins, my siblings, and I would go sled riding or build tunnels in the piles of deep snow that was pushed to the end of our long driveway by the man who plowed snow in our area.

When I was barely a teen, we moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in the late 1960s. This is where I fell in LOVE with the beach, fish, and seafood!  I was introduced to some of the freshest fish to be caught when living there.

Me on Ft. Lauderdale Beach back in the 1970s

Later in my life, I moved back to New York and lived in Manhattan.  It is here that I was introduced to cuisine from all over the world! When Frank Sinatra sings the ‘City that Never Sleeps’, he means you could eat out 24 hours a day! There were many times I would run out in my PJ’s to grab food at all hours, day or night.  The photo below was one of my favorite places in all of NYC. This is where I would go to the opera. One of my favorites was La bohème; it’s also where I saw the Nutcracker a few times, here at Lincoln Center.

Lincoln Center – Metropolitan Opera House
This is my son and I visiting NYC in 2018

I have lived in a few other states also. One location introduced me to regional varieties of foods, like the Midwest, where a salad involves Jello and marshmallows that are green.  As an Italian girl, when asked if I wanted some salad and it wiggled, it was shocking to me: but to each his own. I never got used to that, even after marrying a man from Iowa and having our children there. Let’s just say we still have leafy greens, tomatoes, cheese, and olives when I make a salad.

My husband and I 1994 Visiting Iowa at his Sisters’ Farm

Now that my family and I have lived in North Carolina since 2001, it has given me and my family a chance to travel more. Although my family and I have traveled a lot, I’m not done yet; there is so much more to see, eat and drink!  In many ways, I feel like I’m just beginning! So hold on to the rim of my hat and come along for the ride!

You can contact me at [email protected]