In response to EAC’s ‘February is Food Month’ prompt, community member Treena Brunelle responded with a buffet all her own of tempting dishes, beautifully photographed. Along with Treena’s images (click to enlarge!), we present a little Q&A with the chef.

EAC: How did you get started cooking?

Treena: I have always enjoyed cooking as a little girl growing up. I used to cook with my mother often and love watching her in the kitchen as she also had a joy of cooking.

Have you always cooked? 
Yes always, but more so over the past year since the pandemic. 

Butternut Squash ravioli with roasted red pepper and a garlic cream sauce

What role does cooking (and photographing/sharing your creations) have in your life now (pandemic era)?
Cooking plays a very important role in my life. When there is something on my mind and the world seems heavy or anytime I need an escape from life you can usually find me doing one of three things: cooking, yoga, and taking pictures—sometimes all three. When I cook I get lost in the entire process of preparing and presenting the foods I love to eat, and as a pescatarian (vegetarian that eats fish and shellfish, no meat), variety is important to me so I learn ways to make meatless options and still keep my recipes packed with flavor. Being able to share that with others is an added bonus and brings me a certain kind of joy that is very rewarding. It eases my mind and my belly.

You’ve shown us Italian, Mexican or Tex-Mex, Passamaquoddy and some ‘Downeast’ cooking. If we were having an in-person International Dinner this year, what do you think you’d bring? (Dish and country/region of origin) Why?
That is a hard one, a toss up between my two favorites, Mexican and Italian cuisine. I would have to go with Italian; the dish would be Manicotti or “Manicot” with ricotta and spinach. The dish is one of my favorites and one that I have mastered. It brings back many memories of the old Italian chef that taught me many years ago how to make this, as well as a few other special dishes, his way.

Mushroom risotto with seared Downeast scallops 

Could you finish by telling us a little about yourself, your ethnic heritage, and your plans/pursuits for 2021, food-wise or otherwise?
I am Passamaquoddy and grew up in Sipayik, the Passamaquoddy Reservation in Perry, Maine. After living away for many years I returned and live currently in the downtown Eastport historic district where I  live to watch the sunrises … I am a yogi,  a proud ‘dog mom,’ a seaglass artist and a photographer. 

Chili over Jasmine rice with homemade baking powder biscuits

Thanks very much to Treena for the inspiring images and cooking back story! We look forward to dining with you at a future International Dinner!