Kate Krukowski Gooding, author of “Black Fly Stew: Wild Maine Recipes,” spent more than 20 years in the business world, including several as the executive director of the Maine Metal Products Association, before turning her attention to cookbooks.
“I was tired of people saying, ‘I’ve never eaten a good game meal,’ so I wrote a cookbook,” said Gooding.
Gooding had already decided that she wanted to try something new when she started writing the first in her “Black Fly Stew” series in 2006, which she self-published through her company, Northern Solstice Publishing, in 2007.
Since then she has written numerous cookbooks, including, “50 Ways to Eat a Beaver” and “Free Range Fish & Lobster,” with Don Gooding, Russ D’Alessio and Kat Stuart, and “Simple Gourmet Lamb: With Side Dishes & Wine Pairings.”
As a child, Gooding’s time was divided between Connecticut and Maine.
“My mom was from Moose River, which is in the Jackman area. My dad was from Hartford,” said Gooding, who spends a lot of time outdoors and knows her way around wild game – her exclusive choice for meat for the past 30 years, as she found that “red meat didn’t taste like it used to.”
After high school Gooding moved to Jackman full time. She put herself through college, earning a degree in communications and marketing, by working at restaurants and catering events and private parties. Gooding, who lived on Mount Desert Island for years and now splits her time between Bridgton and Scarborough, has been an avid cook since she was a girl.
“My parents both worked so I cooked at home for my three brothers and sister,” said Gooding. “My mom was great. She had parties and would do fancy plates for my friends.”
When Gooding was 14, she went on a school trip to Spain and tasted the spice saffron for the first time.
“I had it in paella. I came from a meat-and-potatoes family, so when I tasted it I thought, ‘Wow!’ I’ve been interested in indigenous spices and foods ever since,” said Gooding, who is married and has stepdaughters. “Like turmeric from Belize. The freshness of local products is amazing.”
Gooding said the care of an animal from the woods to table is an important factor in how it tastes and that using spices can make the difference in preparing wild game.
“People often find it too tough or too gamey,” said Gooding. “I’ve been eating beaver for years. It is sweet red meat and will get a gamey taste if left too long, but spices help that. You can be creative with spices in your kitchen.”
Gooding said her readers tend to be tactile learners and want to taste and try new things. They’re also curious about the titles of her books.
“‘Black Fly Stew’ is the name of the cookbook series I published. And I have actually cooked with black flies for Andrew Zimmern – they are tiny little things – aka the ‘Maine State Bird’ in the Jackman neck of the woods,” said Gooding, laughing.
Gooding doesn’t see an end to writing cookbooks.
“I have hundreds of recipes I’m working on now. I’ll be working on one and then go off on a tangent created by different spices I am interested in,” said Gooding. “I went on a wine tour last summer and came across spices I had never heard of.”
Gooding said Susan Vreeland’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” which explores the mood Renoir’s painting of the same name captures, prompted Gooding’s next cookbook, which will be dedicated to her late mother.
“She had 85 great years and really inspired me,” Gooding said of her mom. “The incentive for the cookbook is a return to the family meal.”
Gooding is concerned that families are losing a sense of connection with each other between the demands of everyday life and the intrusion of electronic devices, especially at the dinner table.
“Meal time is an opportunity for family time, for being present with each other. It’s a gift,” said Gooding. “It will be good to be able to make the point in all my books going forward. Life, labor, love is experienced around food and wine. We’re losing that and I want to bring it back.”