I am cooking today. Real cooking, from scratch, no boxes, cans, or frozen stuff. Just fresh ingredients and spices. Every now and then I get the urge to do this sort of cooking. It is always an all day thing, and I make a huge mess for the Mr. to clean up after. He is the official dishwasher in our home. I cook, he cleans. He says its worth it because he gets to eat delicious food in return. Not sure how delicious it is, but he likes it.
I started cooking simple things when I was around ten years old. By the time I was fourteen, I could make a descent cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I got married at sixteen, and I had to learn to cook even better, so I started collecting cookbooks and recipes. Eventually, I took a year of cooking school to fill time while my boys were in school. I learned to love to cook. I will never be a real chef, but I am a good cook.
Women in my family have always been good cooks. Sometimes in the most difficult situations. My maternal grandmother used to work at a laundry in town. In the evening, she would come home and do her farm chores and then cook on a wood burning stove. She cooked simple things, but we always had biscuits. I don’t know how she did it, but she made the best biscuits ever. (Scones to the British out there.) They were warm, with melted butter and homemade jam, or sometimes served with sausage gravy. Either way, or plain, they were good. My fraternal great grandmother made the best vanilla cookies. She used to let us “help” her bake them, and we got to eat them fresh out of the oven with cold milk. Grownups got coffee instead. Grannie always smelled like vanilla cookies and coffee, two of my favorite aromas to this day.
My mother had to feed a family of six on a shoestring budget. She makes the best goulash, a recipe she got from another Army wife when we lived in Germany. Her potato salad and deviled eggs are beyond merely good, they are in a class all their own. Her biscuits are top of the line too. My husband nearly drools when he knows she is making breakfast because he know biscuits and gravy will be on the table along with sausage and eggs. I grew up on plain food, nothing fancy with odd named ingredients. We ate a lot of vegetables, very little meat (that’s probably why I love it so much), and pasta.
Interestingly enough, none of the women in my family who taught me to cook baked all that much. Dessert wasn’t on the table daily, dessert was a special treat – except for Grannie’s cookies. Learning to bake from scratch was a hit and miss thing for me for years. After cooking school, I got better at it, but we still don’t have dessert on a daily basis. Part of that is because when I bake it barely makes it from the oven to the plate before the Mr. or one of the kids finds it and spreads the word. When our youngest was a teenager, he and his friends would turn up out of nowhere every time I baked brownies. I always made a double batch because I knew that somehow, somewhere, the whole bunch would turn up at the farm in the middle of nowhere within half an hour and power through the brownies and two gallons of milk. I had to hide some for my husband or there would be nothing for him by the time he got home from work. That is one of my happiest memories, all those boys (ten or more) filling my house with laughter and loud noise as they wrestled over “Mom’s Brownies.”
Food is a common denominator in every culture. Feeding guests is a time honored tradition everywhere. We have lived all over the world, and no matter the culture the first thing we are offered is something to drink, followed by an offer for food. In some places refusing is rude, in some it is expected until your host convinces you to eat. The food, no matter where we were, was always amazing. I could eat my weight, and it is considerable, in the rice Florence Kaulu used to bring to our church pot luck meals. I could eat jerked chicken until I couldn’t move. I could eat any traditional Chinese food that Winnie Mak made, and I am downright addicted to Adobo from the Philippines. I love English scones, and Yorkshire pudding – which isn’t a dessert, but a roast beef meal. And bread from Bird’s Bakery on the high street in Debden, England is to die for. Okay, I have an issue with Carbs, so sue me. Food is something we all need, why not enjoy it?
As I age, I cook less, and we tend to eat out more. Lately, however, it has become boring to eat out. The majority of restaurants are chain restaurants, and the food is always the same. I would love to find a mom and pop greasy spoon old fashioned diner, with good food from old recipes. Or a new twist on traditional food, or an honest to goodness old fashioned Southern restaurant that serves fried chicken like we could get back when. And I don’t mean KFC or Popeye’s, I mean pan fried chicken like Grannie used to make on Sunday afternoon. Real food, not the la-di-da meals served in fancy places where you leave as hungry as you were when you walked in. I want something different, or traditional, like they always have on that TV show Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Not bar-b-Que, heaven knows I can get that anywhere in Mississippi or Tennessee, but real food.
One of my soap box issues is how so many younger people simply haven’t a clue how to cook, unless they nuke something in a microwave. Most folks under 30 are clueless when it comes to making a meal from scratch. Teaching a child to cook is a great bonding moment, it is also beneficial to the child because some day they will live alone, or with a partner, and someone needs to know how to feed the family. I regret that I didn’t do more of that with my children and grandchildren. My boys learned enough not to starve or to have to eat cereal every day. My oldest granddaughter is learning how to cook on her own, she too, is collecting cookbooks. I really need to start teaching my great granddaughter more. She loves to “help” me bake now that she is five.
I better go give things a stir, get the bread in the oven, and figure out dessert. No, it isn’t a special occasion, but if one makes a full dinner from scratch, dessert is a must. Bon Appetite!