From The Mitten To The Kitchen: A Glimpse At What Inspires Gina Ferwerda

Gina Ferwerda

Gina Ferwerda believes “meals are memories.” Her favorite saying reads, “Recipes are simple ingredients and directions. It’s not until you make a memory, that they truly become meals.”

Recipe developer, photographer, and television personality Gina Ferwerda is now the author of her first cookbook, “Meals From the Mitten: Celebrating the Seasons of Michigan.”

The Michigan-based cookbook focuses on all of the fresh and local ingredients grown in the state.

Ferwerda grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, and her passion for food developed early in her life.

"Meals from the Mitten" is slated for release in April.
“Meals from the Mitten” is slated for release in April.

“Both sides of my family have always had a love for cooking. My love of cooking stemmed from my maternal grandparents, they had a large farm near the shores of Lake Michigan,” said Ferwerda. “That is where I learned how to pickle everything and gained my appreciation for American farming families. They grew everything from asparagus, cherries, peaches, and apples. And on my paternal side, they weren’t into commercial farming, but they grew the best gardens and knew how to preserve everything that they grew.”

Although Ferwerda loved her childhood in Michigan, it wasn’t until later in life she realized how fortunate she was.

“Growing up in Michigan was amazing,” she said. “I never knew, until I was older, how fortunate I was to have grown up in an area where we grow so many fruits and vegetables. We, simply, took it for granted growing up.

“But now, I am forever grateful to have grown up near the shores of Lake Michigan. We have the most amazing soil for so many things to thrive here in Michigan. We know it as ‘fertile grounds.’ And those ‘fertile grounds’ have had their impact on my love for culinary arts.”

In 2014, Ferwerda launched the food blog “Boating, Boarding, and Burgers.” She quickly became a well-known food personality and was featured on numerous shows including, “The Rachael Ray Show” and “Good Morning America.”

Soon after starting her successful food blog, Ferwerda realized there weren’t many recipes that highlighted the agricultural commodities found in Michigan.

“My inspiration was based on my own experiences for the past 45 years. The first 20 years of my life was growing up with a family that farmed, and the last 25 years have been all about my life in the Michigan resort tourism business,” Ferwerda, said.

“When I travel outside of Michigan, I realize that there aren’t a lot of people familiar with our vast agricultural commodities and spectacular beaches and sand dunes. And since I had a voice in the food and travel industry that was being heard, I thought it was the perfect time to put that voice to good use. Hence, a Michigan-based cookbook was born.”

The cookbook is arranged seasonally, to emphasize the delicious, homegrown ingredients available at different times throughout the year.

Along with igniting her passion for cooking, her early culinary life inspired a number of recipes found in the book.

“My favorite foods as a child were steak, asparagus, and dill pickles. Of course, I have my quick dill pickle recipe in the book, along with my cowboy ribeye recipe, and about eight asparagus recipes. My other favorites would include pizza and chicken potpie. We would always have pizza on Friday nights growing up and I love Detroit style pizza, it’s my favorite.”

Ferwerda’s love for cooking, family and the great state of Michigan come together perfectly in her debut cookbook.

“Although we have over 300-plus commodities that we grow in our great state, Michigan cuisine is not defined by our kitchen. Our dinner tables are wherever you happen to be, and wherever you can eat with friends and family, be it on top of a snow-capped mountain while skiing, a picnic blanket overlooking Sleeping Bear Dunes, a winery looking over beautiful fall colors, or at a local, craft brewery festival. I cook everywhere I go and use whatever is on hand.”

Ferwerda shared a sneak peak of the many recipes to look forward to in her book.

Here’s the list of her favorites from each chapter:

  • Appy Tails for All Seasons: Michigan Manhattan
  • Spring: Asparagus Crust White Chicken Pizza
  • Burgers & Sammies for Boating Season: Mighty Mac Olive Burger
  • Summer: Cherry-Berry Stuffed French Toast Casserole
  • Trailgating Season: Apple Fritter Dip
  • Fall: Watermelon Radish & Romanesco Salmon Salad
  • Winter: Pappardelle Pepper-Crusted Beef Ragu

 

Most of all, Ferwerda hopes “this book inspires people to compile their family’s recipes, along with special memories to go with them.”

The coffee table-style book is filled with more than 80 signature recipes by Ferwerda and is accompanied by beautiful photography from her, Todd and Brad Reed, and Slow Juke Photography.

The book is tentatively set for release in April. It is currently available for pre-sale on nomnews.com and aims to be on Amazon soon. Upon its official release, it will be available in numerous Michigan retail outlets throughout the state.

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