The smell of poppy seed muffins reminds Valerie McKeehan of her grandmother cooking the savory and sweet baked goods. The visual storyteller and artist behind Lily & Val loves the memories that cooking always seems to make her recall and she’s betting others feel similarly. Do you remember the first time your grandmother let you help bake cookies, or that dish your mother makes that takes you back to childhood with every bite, or your dad in charge of the summer clam bake? McKeehan created a cookbook that’s a mix of recipe keeper and journal illustrated with the hand drawn illustrations that have helped McKeehan grow her business. I spoke with McKeehan about her new project, Lily & Val and her favorite dish.
Long Island Pulse: Tell us a bit about a your background?
Valerie McKeehan: I have a marketing and advertising background. Visual storytelling. I actually used to own a small marketing and advertising agency and I was looking for a hobby to escape the stress of my business and one day I randomly picked up a piece of chalk and drew a sign for our kitchen. My husband posted the chalkboard sign online and there was such a great response. I thought I could really get into this. I opened the Lily & Val Etsy shop and started offering prints, cards and other stationary.
Pulse: What was that original sign?
McKeehan: Oh it was kind of cheesy. It said McKeehan’s Café hot coffee served here.
Pulse: From that original sign, how did the idea to create the Keepsake Kitchen Diary come about?
McKeehan: I’ve always leaned towards kitchen themes and the inspiration was really my mom showing me my grandmother’s old notebook. She kept all of her specials in it and my mom was flipping through every page, telling me stories and I thought I wanted to write these down. There needs to be a product that’s a recipe keeper but also a place to record when you had that dish, and what you had with it.
Pulse: Food is all about memories. What’s one of your favorite food related memories?
McKeehan: My grandmother cooking her poppy seed rolls. She always made them for Christmas.
Pulse: How do you hope people use your Keepsake Kitchen Diary?
McKeehan: I hope that they make it their own. Use it as scrapbook. There are hand drawn illustrations on every page. It’s a great way to get the kids involved by having them coloring them. It’s a true DIY cookbook because it’s bound and there’s a table of contents so you can come back again and again.
Pulse: What’s your favorite dish? The one you make again and again?
McKeehan: Butternut squash soup in the fall. It’s a dish that takes me through fall. I bring it to family gatherings, it’s that good.