ASHBURN, VA — Yolanda Latimer, the mother of 3-year-old girl who was born premature, has spent the past three months cooking meals in her home “laboratory” to minimize the risk to her daughter, who has chronic lung disease and is immunocompromised. Latimer is now making use of everything she’s learned from her grandmother and father the past 30 years to teach other people how to cook delicious meals at home rather than eating out.
Latimer, who has lived in Ashburn since 2013, is not a trained chef. She’s a corporate recruiter by day who loves to cook, especially when it comes to the safety of her daughter. Her daughter, Savannah — who was born at 23 weeks and 2 days, weighing only 1 pound, 3.9 ounces — turned 3 in May.
Latimer fears that ordering takeout or having meals delivered could put her daughter at risk of infection to the coronavirus.
“By cooking the meals myself, I know who is touching the food prepared for her and my family,” Latimer said of her decision to start cooking every meal from home. Latimer uses a combination of grocery deliveries and visits to the grocery store when delivery isn’t available.
“I sanitize each and every item before bringing in my home. It’s very time-consuming, but it’s what I need to do to keep her safe as best as I can,” she told Patch.
As she neared 100 straight days of cooking, Latimer began to think about what she could do with her passion for cooking.
Last week, Latimer made the leap and started her own business called Londa’s Laboratory, which will offer virtual cooking demonstrations using Zoom and her social media accounts. Her Londa’s Laboratory website will launch Wednesday, when she hits the 100-day mark of no outside-cooked food in the house.
Latimer said it is a goal to create a quarantine cookbook, as well as do Zoom cooking demos and turn her passion into a stream of income.
Along with her 3-year-old, Latimer’s 18-year-old son, who attends the University of Kentucky, has been living at home since the start of the coronavirus crisis. She also has an 8-year-old son who is a rising third grader.
Latimer calls her daughter and 8-year-old son Azariah, who both help out in the kitchen, her “sous chefs.” She bought them aprons to wear when they are in the kitchen. Her eldest son Isaiah has an apron, too, although he does more of the eating than assisting, she joked.
“Isaiah is absolutely thrilled about the fact that I cook all the time,” Latimer said. “He is actually the one who gave me the idea to name my blog ‘Londa’s Laboratory.’ He said to me one day as I was blending something in the blender, ‘Mom, every time I come in here, it’s like this is your lab or something. You’re always making something new.”
Savannah’s chronic lung disease, or CLD, may resolve itself by the age of 5 when her lungs are more developed, or she may always have it in the form of asthma. She also will continue to receive nebulizer treatments, especially during cold and flu season.
Latimer said Savannah has a feisty spirit and was nicknamed “Diva of the Garden” after she was born and was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Savannah has an appetite of an adult and will eat anything, according to Latimer. Because she is a “micro-preemie,” Latimer was told that she may have food aversions due to having so many tubes placed either through her nose or mouth.
“I am happy to report that eating has never been an issue for her. Zero food aversions,” Latimer said.
With her mother’s passion for cooking and her love of food, Savannah won’t have to worry about what’s for dinner anytime soon.
As Savannah grows older, Latimer will get to remind her of a long-ago time when she started making all the family’s meals at home. By the time Savannah heads off to college, though, any memories of the coronavirus hopefully will have long faded and her only memories will be of the wonderful meals and generous portions her mother cooked for her.