I have been so fortunate to meet some amazing people in the tattoo industry, and one of them I really look up to is Debra. She’s been tattooing for longer than I’ve been alive, and her accomplishments in her work and family life are truly impressive. Her demeanor is so sweet and comforting, when she tattooed me at the last SFO convention I felt like we were just old friends having a lunch date! When she told me she would like to contribute to our blog, I was so excited to get more of a glimpse into her life and family, and how she seamlessly balances the two. Deb, thank you for sharing with us; and for doing all you do as a tattooer, wife, mother and grandmother!
Brynne- How long have you been tattooing?
Debra Yarian- I’ve been tattooing for 34 years.
B-You have beautiful large family, with a few of your kids tattooing now! Can you tell us a bit about your family dynamic, and how tattooing has played a role in it?
DY-I love my family and I love tattooing -So my life revolves around the two.
My oldest son was practically born in a tattoo shop and when my second one was born my boss let me bring both of them with me to work. Prior to opening our own shop, Don and I worked opposing shifts at the same shop, six nights a week. We still had four children at home so that way either Don or I , was there to have dinner with them and usually we’d all go out to dinner on our day off.
We’ve owned our own shop for almost five years and that’s really a family affair. Both my husband and I and two of our sons tattoo there and another son has worked the floor, throughout highschool. Initially we had a small “family” room set up for our younger children to come to after school, a place for them to do homework, watch tv and play. We’ve since changed that to a third station for my older son. Now though, with the extra responsibilities of owning our shop and additional time spent there , we wind up either having to prepare meals ahead of time or going out to dinner. Often a few nights a week.
B- What is your fondest food related memory?
DY-All of my food related memories are fond ones, ha ha! I love to eat!
Really though, I grew up in NYC and neither of my parent’s were great cooks, just simple meal preparers. But fortunately we had so many great restaurants in our neighborhood. On our one city block there was an Italian restaurant, a Chinese take out, a pizza place, a German Deli, A confectionary, 4 candy stores w soda fountains , a bakery, a fruit and vegetable store , a butcher shop, a small supermarket as well as two bar and grills. One of the bars was a stereotypical NY Neighborhood bar, and at the time The legal drinking age was still 18. I looked older than my age and I hate to say it but by the time I was 16-17 I had a tab at the bar. As I said it was just a typical neighborhood bar , tile floors, long wooden bar , a juke box- but at the back there were swinging doors, and through the doors there was a beautiful and charming little gourmet restaurant. The owner was a classically trained chef and had worked as a pastry chef at the Waldorf Astoria. I remember it was very small with mismatched antique furniture, with white linen table cloths, with candles and fresh flowers on each table. So, I had left school early and was working two jobs, as a waitress and coffee wagon lady during the week and as a cocktail waitress on the weekends. I was probably making more money then than I do now! Anyway, a girlfriend and I would have dinner there every week . It was my first solo dining experiences, without my parents and remember feeling grown up and sophisticated.
The menu would change, but I remember their chilled cream of cucumber soup, simple salad – dressed w Green Goddess ; parsley, tarragon, chives and sour cream, Quiche Lorraine, Coq au vin. The dinner would typically cost us about $50 , which in retrospect seems astronomical- but it was the whole experience. The setting, the candle light, the aroma. And the chef would come out of the kitchen and visit with each table. Every week he’d bring something special from the kitchen for us to try. Each fall, the restaurant would close for one night a week and for four or five weeks they would have cooking classes- where they would teach you how to prepare a five course meal and then you got to sit down and eat it.My friend and I took the course-figuring it would save us money and we’d learn how to prepare some of the dishes we love. I learned how to make delicious desserts, my favorites being Trifle Chantilly- multiple thin layers of sponge cake sprnkled with Grand Marnier, apricot preserves, toasted almonds and fresh whipped cream , and Pears Celestine – a fresh pear stuffed with a mixture of whipped cream cheese and walnuts in syrup ,then dipped in dark chocolate and chilled. The best!
Unfortunately, I no longer have the exact recipes because I lent them to a chef , that I was tattooing, in Florida about 25 yrs ago and have since lost touch .
As an adult, of course, some of my fondest food memories are eating with Don. I had spent the decade, previous to our marriage -dieting and when we first fell in love ,we ate!
The first dinner I made for Don was linguine with broccoli and walnuts, Don hates walnuts – but I wouldn’t have known. And I love when my whole family is together for a meal- any meal that includes Don and our 5 children, our daughter in law , and now our any 4 grandchildren!
B- How do you and your husband, Don, balance work and cooking at home?
DY-Don is a much better cook and baker than I am, mainly because he’s more organized than I am. However, he works at the shop more than I do – so most nights , I cook.
B- Do you have a favorite restaurant, and what makes it stand out for you?
DY-We live in a small town with only a few restaurants. My favorite is Haute Quarter Grill. It’s about a block from our shop.
The menu always includes Alaskan Halibut or Salmon as well as vegetables, locally grown. I enjoy foods simply prepared and have a fairly unsophisticated palette , so whether or not I enjoy a meal is often dependent on the quality of the ingredients.
B- Do you have any chef clients?
DY-Actually, the first shop I worked in was Upstate New York , a town or two over from Poughkeepsie, where the Culinary Institute of America is -and a few of my first tattoos were of chef hats. I have had a few chefs for clients as well as cooks ( military, commercial fishing boat and NorthSlope./ Oil rig cooks.)
B- Have you noticed any correlation between the tattoo and culinary industry?
DY- What I think is that the dedicated chef is passionate about food and cooking and loves what they do- so often it becomes their life vs their job. Not unlike the dedicated tattooist.
B- Living in Alaska, do you have any unique experience with hunting or preparing food?
DY-A lot of our clients hunt and fish and bring us gifts. Right now in my freezer I have the bounty from my hunter and fishermen clients. There’s probably some salmon, halibut, bear, moose and possibly reindeer in there.
B- How important a role does food play in your family life?
DY- Food is love!!! Ha ha, or at least that’s what I was taught.
When we are happy we eat, when we celebrate we eat , and even when we are sad we eat. I remember when I was grieving over a loss, well meaning friends brought food – especially pastries to try to make me feel better. I gained 15 lbs.
B- Do you have a recipe you’d like to share with our readers?
DY- No one would consider me a great cook. But over the years, all of my children and friends have loved my meatballs. That’s their request for a birthday meal or for me to bring to a party.
*2.5-3 lbs of ground meat; beef, moose or elk, or a mix
( if using moose, elk or bear, they are a leaner meat and you may want to add some ground pork to supplement the fat)
*1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
(Progresso Panko works well)
*tsp garlic powder or finely minced garlic clove
*kosher or sea salt
Mix all ingredients in large mixing bowl
Hand form meat in to golf ball size balls
Sprinkle small amount of olive oil to coat bottom of large saute pan or skillet
Heat oil at med- high and add meatballs
Brown evenly turning with tongs
When brown all around turn to low and cover, till cooked through, about 10-15 minutes
While meatballs are cooking I slice up a bell pepper, a small onion, a tomato and some mushrooms
Saute all ( except tomato) in pan with small amount of olive oil till onions are brown and carmelized.
Using pan lid , drain liquid from around meatballs and return to burner for 5 minutes at low.
Finish with kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
I serve without sauce
With fresh bread and the sauteed vegetable and top with fresh mozzarella cheese