Chuck and Marsha Albritton with a Pizzasalada

Chuck and Marsha Albritton with a Pizzasalada fresh from their outdoor pizza oven.

HUDSON, Ill. — Fresh ingredients from local farms and gardens bring the flavor and texture to Marsha Albritton’s cooking. Combined with their home’s pretty Lake Bloomington view, summer dining here is delicious.

Marsha’s taste for fresh meals started when she was growing up on a crop and cattle farm in Cropsey in central Illinois, watching her grandmother make food from their garden’s bounty. Her grandmother also canned and froze the wealth of the season to last throughout the year.

“She was a good role model,” Marsha says.

Those instincts mesh perfectly with Marsha’s love of Italian foods, which also emphasize fresh products. She and husband, Chuck, traveled to Italy for their 25th anniversary and have gone back more than 15 times, sampling wonderful food and gathering ideas of what to make at home.

“She has the ability to find great restaurants,” Chuck says.

She helps him choose what to order, and they switch plates to enjoy at least two different things.

“I wonder how they did this?” she asks herself over restaurant meals. “I likely do have more photos of food of my phone than of my grandchildren.”

No doubt she is proud of her grandchildren — with photos of them in her kitchen — and she says her adult children are both good cooks, too.

Her brother, Jim Koehl, who continues the farming tradition in rural Fairbury in McLean County, called Marsha “a very talented gourmet cook.” The whole family has an appreciation for good food, she says.

Many get to appreciate the Albrittons’ skills, as they will donate Italian dinners to auctions for their favorite charities. The auction winner gets the meal made fresh for them and served lakeside at the couple’s home.

One of their favorite things to serve is pizza. Their outdoor pizza oven heats to 900 degrees and bakes a perfect pizza in about a minute. Marsha makes the dough from scratch and enjoys adding a variety of toppings. Chuck is the grill master. He says his specialty is usually cleanup duties, but when it comes to pizza, he’s the cook.

“The first summer we made 200 pizzas,” she says.

They also have “traveling dinners” along the lake with their neighbors. Several different households make different dishes on a summer evening with transportation between them by pontoon boat.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.