Why I Cook

Dedicated to Mary Ann Satterfield, our first Hero in the Kitchen, for bringing together this wonderful community of Kitchen Heroes and giving me reason to always continue cooking (and teaching).

  • By Jess Dang
  • March 2, 2015

Two weeks ago, I received an email from the son of one our first Kitchen Heroes. It read:

“Hi Jess, I wanted to thank you for sending my mom, Mary Ann Satterfield, the card and the [Kitchen Heroes] t-shirt. My mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June, and died in November. Your t-shirt was one of the bright spots of her last month.”

I’m so appreciative that Wade reached out to me, but I also felt so saddened by the news. It had been on my to-do list to check in on Mary Ann, as I hadn’t heard from her in awhile, and now it was too late.

Mary Ann was an incredibly special community member to me.

She was the first Kitchen Hero to be featured on our blog and kinda gave birth to this whole community.

She was one of the best surprises about starting Cook Smarts. I had a very specific idea about who would use our meal plan service, and Mary Ann – a 75 year old widow who never learned to cook and and self-admittedly hated cooking – was not quite it.

However, she found out about Cook Smarts from her local paper – the Journal Star in Lincoln, Nebraska – and decided to give us a try and also started emailing with me.

I learned a lot about Mary Ann from our email exchanges.

She was funny, honest, and forthcoming with the details of her life. I felt like we were old friends, rather than strangers brought together by the internet.

She talked about her late husband and three children constantly and clearly loved her family and missed her husband dearly.

She was resilient. Even after the passing of her husband in 2011 and her mother a year later, she said, “I’m [still] full of hope — blooming and growing — even at my age.” I think it was this attitude that brought us together in the kitchen.

She had a summer house in Estes Park, Colorado and invited me up there, guaranteeing I’d have my own room and bathroom. Sadly, she also lost this home during the floods in 2013 and had to be helicoptered out and lost all her belongings there, including her car and all her kitchen goods. We had some sad emails during that time.

Mary Ann thanked me often for teaching her how to cook and helping her not hate cooking.

However, I’m not sure if I thanked her enough. Even though she’s no longer physically here, I hope I can still express my gratitude in this post.

Mary Ann came into my life during an especially challenging, stressful time, but her emails gave me so much hope.

For anyone that has started a business, you know how scary and hard the beginning is.

When I launched our meal plan service in May of 2013, it was like crickets. There were barely any customers, expenses far outweighed revenue, and I was filled with so much doubt.

But my exchanges with Mary Ann made me feel like I should push on. If our service could make a difference in her life, surely it could for others too.

So thank you Mary Ann (pictured in the middle picture of the first row) for bringing together this wonderful community of Kitchen Heroes and giving me reason to always continue cooking (and teaching).

You can read more about Mary Ann in her obit, and if you haven’t, please do share why you cook with us below in the comments. We hope we can always make your time in the kitchen a little simpler and happier.


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