Cooks at Home - Carol Figgatt

By Kaye Warr / Photography By Peter Acker | November 24, 2015
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Carol sharing a meal with one of “The Spice Girls” Pam Holladay

Carol Figgatt (Greenwood)

I’m driving through Sarasota’s arterial flow of traffic on Tamiami Trail passing Sarasota Memorial Hospital on my right when a jolt of recognition pulls my focus. Leaning up against the light pole outside the hospital, looking for all the world like Joan of Arc in scrubs, is the statuesque figure of Carol Figgatt (Greenwood).

Face upturned to the early fall sunshine, russet hair piled atop her head and fastened with something convenient (A pen? A chopstick?) she has one long leg braced behind her, one graceful hand wrapped around a clear container of coffee, and her eyes are closed in supplication—she’s having a moment and I feel almost voyeuristic in the few seconds that it takes for the vision of her to be replaced by more mundane scenery as I’m buoyed along on auto-pilot.

I’ve known Carol, peripherally, for many years. She is the mother of one of Sarasota’s most talented young chefs, Chelsea Erickson, who happens to be a close friend of my brother, Gordon, and his wife, Jessica. I didn’t realize that Carol is an ER nurse. I had always assumed, based on her elegantly bohemian persona, that she must be either artist or artist’s muse. Carol is the youngest of six children—all brothers except for Laurel, less than a year her senior. Laurel has the same covetable bone structure and easy laugh but her hair is a shade closer to auburn. The siblings were born and raised on Siesta Key and their mother, Ruth, is credited with Carol’s love for cooking.

“Our mother couldn’t boil water until she discovered Julia Child, then she was hooked.” I’m learning this family history that reads like a Maeve Binchy novel as I’m perched on a stool in Carol’s open plan kitchen, snacking on olives and sun-dried tomatoes, sipping a damn fine glass of red wine. Laurel and Carol exchange easy familial banter while dishing on family lore with obvious mutual regard.

Carol and her husband, Tim, share a beautiful home filled with eclectic and arresting artwork, whimsical objets d’art, and incredible furniture such as the stunning dining table lovingly crafted by Tim that Carol regularly garnishes with exceptional meals such as the one we’re about to have bestowed upon us. I don’t mean to wax poetic (read: gush), but if you had tasted the Thai Chicken with nectarines, bok choy, angel hair pasta, and a side of Asian cucumbers that I sampled you’d forgive my fangirl adulation.

Carol doesn’t follow recipes anymore unless she’s determined to try something particularly complex—even then she approaches the recipe more as vague outline than as blueprint. Just over eight years ago Carol and her sister decided to start the kind of book club that they wanted to be a part of: a cook club. Once a month or so the sisters and their friends, Pam Holladay and Ellen Burgess, get together under the apt moniker “The Spice Girls” and treat their husbands to the fruits (and vegetables) of their kitchen collaboration. The most popular theme for these sessions is known simply as “WTF” or “What the Food?”

The ladies are each assigned to bring a protein, vegetable, starch, or secret ingredient of their choosing, and the combinations that have resulted from this random gathering are amongst the convivial gang’s most memorable meals. As Julia Child herself was known to say, “You are the boss in the kitchen; you can do whatever you want.”

When The Spice Girls get together, one just knows that, somehow, somewhere, Julia is smiling.

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