Melissa Ownby was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1966 but moved to Rolla, Missouri in 1968 when her dad got a professorship at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The family then moved to Germany for a year when Melissa was eight, and she learned to speak German fluently.
With six brothers and sisters, Melissa’s mom had a lot of mouths to feed. During leaner times she had to resort to growing her own vegetables, using powdered milk and TVP (texturized vegetable protein), but still managed to make delicious dinners thanks to her degree in home economics. Everyone helped with the chores, and Melissa liked to help with the cooking. Living far from relatives, Melissa’s parents created a new family, celebrating holidays with a couple of other families and inviting Mormon missionaries for dinner every week.
Melissa was a “band geek” and played the flute in a marching band. Her senior year she marched in the Orange Bowl Parade. After graduating high school, Melissa was offered a full scholarship to Brigham Young University and University of Missouri at Columbia (Mizzou). She left her decision up to the fates; Mizzou was to play against BYU in football, and she decided that whichever university won the game, that’s where she’d go. BYU won, so that’s where she went. She met her husband-to-be, Bill Kelly, at BYU in the fall of 1985 after he had just returned from a mission.
Upon Bill’s graduation, they moved back to Rolla and Melissa finished her degree in engineering in 1989. Bill landed a coveted position with a Charlotte newspaper, so the day after Melissa’s graduation they moved to North Carolina. Melissa worked for an environmental clean-up organization but left to give birth to her son Alex after seven months. In 1991, they moved to Boston so Bill could get his graduate degree at Harvard. They both worked part-time and had their second child, Dillon, in 1992. Melissa cleaned houses so she could bring her kids along. She learned a lot about cooking while getting dinner started for her clients using their recipes. Melissa also cooked for her family daily, and Bill would help by making the bread.
They moved back to Oregon (Bill grew up in northwest Portland) in 1993. Melissa learned even more about cooking from the Kelly family matriarch, Bill’s mother Phyllis, who’d host dinners for 30 on a regular basis. Melissa and Bill finally put down roots in northeast Portland where they found community in their neighborhood, church and extended family (the Kelly clan). In 1995, their daughter Katie was born, and in 1997 their son Connor was born at home (Melissa always wanted to have a home birth, and found the support system in Portland). Eventually Phyllis wanted to downsize, so Bill and Melissa decided to buy Bill’s childhood home. Melissa is very involved in her church and volunteers in many ways, including running the youth group and teaching and playing music for Sunday school. Now that her kids are older, Melissa is returning to the flute and just joined a flute choir. And it seems Melisa’s love of cooking has been passed onto her children, each liking to make certain dishes. Her son Alex even asked her for some recipes that he could make for his friends back at school. What goes around comes around!
Pink Grapefruit, Goat Cheese & Walnut Salad
with mesclun greens & red onions tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette
Jalapeno Popper Panini
spicy! roasted fresh jalapeño peppers on grilled country bread with cream cheese, green onions, garlic, monterey jack & cheddar cheese, served with pasta salad
Guinness Beef Stew
natural beef slow-cooked with guinness stout, onions, carrots & herbs, served with colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage)
Chicken Tiki Masala
grilled yogurt & indian spice-marinated chicken breasts cooked in an aromatic sauce of onions, tomatoes, spices & cream, served with basmati rice with peas
Coconut Flan Banana Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting
moist banana cake filled with fresh bananas and vanilla pastry cream,
topped with a chocolate fudge frosting, dark chocolate sauce & whipped cream