Why We Cook, with Holly and Natalie from The Modern Proper

The popular bloggers share how they balance time with their growing families, what they love about the Pacific Northwest, and how they're on a mission to reinvent the idea of hospitality.

While walking a trail in the Pacific Northwest, two friends dreamed up an idea for blog. Their mission: to reinvent the idea of hospitality for the modern homemaker. At The Modern Proper, Holly and Natalie set out to inspire both seasoned cooks and novices alike, sharing recipes and entertaining ideas to change the way people think about gathering around food. Here they share how they’ve made their dream a reality.

Courtesy The Modern Proper

Taste of Home: Where are you from, and what’s your favorite regional dish?

The Modern Proper: We’re lucky enough to called the Pacific Northwest home. We are a rare find in that we are both originally from the Portland, Oregon, area. We loved it enough that we’ve both decided to call this place our “forever home.”

And because we’re Pacific Northwesterners through and through, for us there is nothing better than wild-caught fresh salmon. We love how versatile and easy it is to work with, which is why we have so many salmon recipes on our blog. Bonus: It’s extremely healthy and our kids love it!

(Psst, Holly and Natalie, check out our best recipes from Oregon, and let us know which are your favorites!)

Courtesy The Modern Proper

TOH: How did you decide to start a blog together?

TMP: It was while on one of our many trail walks, splashing through streams and hunting for blackberries with our then four children, that The Modern Proper was born. We found ourselves having our hundredth-something conversation about what we could make with what we’d foraged when the topic shifted towards blogging. We both shared stories of our past solo-blogging failures and decided that if we worked together, we’d find our aspirations much easier to attain. With our shared love for food, hosting, creating and gathering people, we set out to make The Modern Proper.

TOH: What does hospitality mean to you?

TMP: To us, hospitality is opening up your home and table no matter how humble those things may be. It’s creating a space for loved ones to feel welcome and loved. It’s cooking a simple or elaborate meal that tells someone “you have value.”

TOH: How did you pick up your amazing cooking skills?

TMP: Both of us share a similar background in cooking. Neither of us are formally trained, but both have been passionate about entertaining for as long as we’ve had homes to do so in. That, combined with our shared love for good food both local and international, inspired us to start sharing some recipes from our own kitchens.

(Interested in learning to develop your own recipes, just like Holly and Natalie? Check out this expert advice for learning how to write an original recipe!)

Coconut Rice Salmon BowlCourtesy The Modern Proper

TOH: Do you have any dinnertime rituals?

TMP: Between the two of us, we have six children and two wonderfully supportive husbands. We both embrace family dinners in our own homes, and because our kids are still young enough to not have social lives, family meals a daily occurrence. Now that they are getting older we love finding ways for them to help prep even if that’s as simple as stirring the pot of soup or chopping a cucumber. Many hands makes light work and we have many, many hands in our homes!

(These family-friendly dinners come together in just 30 minutes—perfect for busy nights with lots of hungry kiddos to satisfy!)

TOH: What’s your secret weapon in the kitchen?

TMP: Good knives are everything. (Here are the four types of kitchen knives every home cook should own.) If you don’t own at least one good knife run, don’t walk to a kitchen supply store and treat yourself! We like both German and Japanese knives, but the Japanese ones are probably our favorite. We’ve also added a proper knife sharpener to our collection this year. Keeping our knives sharp makes our cooking adventures so much more efficient.

TOH: What’s your favorite thing to cook or bake at home?

TMP: For Holly, it’s curry, and for Natalie, it’s beef stew. While our kids are young we are constantly trying to find meals that we know they’ll eat without complaining. These two meals are family favorites that are guaranteed clean bowls every single time.

TOH: What’s your favorite part about cooking? The “why” of why you cook!

TMP: We both love that every time we create a recipe it’s something new. No matter how skilled you are in the kitchen or how many recipes you know there is still so much more to learn! Cooking really never gets boring.

Next up: Why I Cook, with The Cookie Rookie’s Becky Hardin

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Originally Published in Taste of Home

Rachel Seis
As deputy editor for Taste of Home magazine, Rachel has her hand in everything you see from cover to cover, from writing and editing articles to taste-testing recipes to ensuring every issue is packed with fun and fabulous content. She'll roll up her sleeves to try any new recipe in the kitchen—from spicy Thai dishes (her favorite!) to classic Southern comfort food (OK...also her favorite). When she's not busy thinking of her next meal, Rachel can be found practicing yoga, going for a run, exploring National Parks and traveling to new-to-her cities across the country.