The Herald-Mail Cooks - Developing a knack

Second in an occasional series featuring favorite tried and true recipes of Herald-Mail staffers

Second in an occasional series featuring favorite tried and true recipes of Herald-Mail staffers

September 25, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

"That's my palette," says Ric Dugan of the chopping-block-topped island in the center of his Hagerstown kitchen.

He's talking about the place where he creates. A Herald-Mail staff photographer for more than 12 years, Dugan, 43, has won many awards for his images in newsprint.

Artistry also is evident in his cooking.

Does Dugan see any parallels?

Both activities involve being creative, he says.

"Try this. Try that," is how he describes his approach to both.

"A bad picture is like a bad meal," he says. "But if something works, you want to do it again."

Dugan likes to stir-fry. He has good tools. A set of high-quality knives rests in a wooden storage block. Dugan waves a broad-bladed utensil.


"I love it," he says of the knife.

He got tired of the "foot-by-a-foot" portable cutting boards, so he bought the free-standing island, just the right height for his 6-foot-6-inch frame. "I wanted something I didn't have to worry about the cutting surface," he says.

Dugan says he really got into cooking about 12 years ago. He credits his stepdad, Harry Mahannah, with teaching him a thing or two. He says his mom, Jane, also a good cook, stuffs his Christmas stocking with fine food items such as curry powder and balsamic vinegar from Italy. The couple gave him a waffle iron one yuletide, and Belgian waffles have become a Ric Dugan specialty.

He's come a long way. About 20 years ago, Dugan's repertoire consisted mainly of macaroni and cheese or canned spaghetti with ground beef.

He figured he'd have to learn to cook - or starve - and really got into it.

His skill behind the camera lens developed earlier.

Dugan grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa. He became interested in photography during his senior year in high school when a friend, who had a basement darkroom, loaned him his 35 mm camera.

"I liked seeing the prints develop in the tray," he says. "That was really cool."

He started his newspaper career answering phones part time in the sports department of his hometown Ottumwa Courier.

Dugan took some photography and journalism classes while attending University of Northern Iowa, and when a photography job opened at the Courier, he got it and worked there for three years before moving on to a small paper in Fairfield, Iowa.

He left Iowa for Washington, D.C., in 1986. "I wanted to photograph the president," he says.

He's photographed four of them.

"I actually like seeing my work published," Dugan says and adds he doesn't care if his name is on the photo.

A Ric Dugan photo taken Sept. 11, 2001, captured a woman in a local department store watching a row of televisions, all tuned to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Although his name is not with the photo, the image was published in "What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001 - In Words, Pictures, and Video" by CBS News.

"I see something different every day," is what Dugan likes about his work.

There's also variety in Dugan's kitchen.

"I like to grill," Dugan says.

He likes to grill rib-eye or New York strip steaks, but doesn't just throw the meat on the grill. "I've got to have a little funk put in it," he says.


His key lime pie is often requested.

Where does he get his ideas for his recipes?

With a grin, Dugan points to his head. But he says he likes to watch TV cooking shows on television, particularly Emeril Lagasse. Otherwise, he watches sports - "golf, golf, golf."

Not surprisingly, presentation - the arrangement of the food, the way the food looks on the plate - is important to Dugan. He gets some ideas from dining at "nice restaurants."

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