Joy of Cooking

In 2017 it was reported that for the first time Americans spent more money eating out that at home.  I am not sure if that means they also eat more meals out or not since dining out can be more expensive.  Surveys report that we also eat more meals today somewhere other than at a dinner table than ever before, be it a plate on our lap in front of the TV, or on a breakfast bar reading our emails.  I get it because when I worked the corporate life we too ate out or picked up carry out often because it was easier than getting home late and making something to eat.  I enjoyed cooking but it was restricted to free time, mostly weekends that I tried to pack everything else into as well.   Now that I am retired I find myself discovering once again the joy of cooking.

 

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I love to use the chef’s knife and chop.   It is one of those things I find relaxing.

 

I am experimenting with new and old recipes.  I am pulling cards out of the recipe box my grandma wrote for me in her handwriting all those years ago. I am looking at my collection of cookbooks and browsing them for something new to make.   Of course, we can not exclude the recipe apps and Google.   Some of what I am cooking is Midwestern comfort food, some dishes reflect the different places we have lived, other meals are ethnic foods from around the world,  some dishes are healthy, other times what I make is just for special occasion splurging,  some are fully from scratch and sometimes it will be a store box or can that I doctor up.

I invite you along on this journey as I share some of what I make.  Sometimes it will be a recipe, other times just a photo of the dish, or the dinner table.   I hope you enjoy and are inspired.

 

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I like to measure out everything now, as a way to make sure I have all the ingredients before I start.   I did not do that before, but now I am not likely to drop everything and run to town to the grocery to get a missing ingredient so has become an important step

 

 

 

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My Taste Treat

Last weekend we joined friends at a restaurant that featured cuisine from countries that you might have found if you traveled the silk road. All menu items were served tapas style/size;  each item a size to allow four people to each have a couple of bites.

It was  a great time.   The conversation and laughter flowed freely.      It was made better by the fact that we were all willing to try things that we had not had before, or  would not normally have ordered.   It was a free for all taste treat.  No holds barred.

We tried three wines, and settled on a favorite and then ordered a  bottle for our dining accompaniment. We started with three items that may have been more  along the appetizer line.   Unanimously we agreed that we liked our humus to be heavier on the garlic.   That was the worst thing we said about anything all night long.    It was doubly fun in that each round we picked 3 or 4 things we had not yet tried on the menu.   When we were done we had tried 14 different menu items.     At no time did anyone speak up and say I don’t think I would like that.   We ordered  and let the chips fall where they may.

I am not traditionally a fish eater.   Yet I ate and enjoyed three fish dishes.   For me the item that I will remember as a taste treat was the Tuna Tartare.  It was also the dish I was most unsure of, almost to the point that I wanted to speak up against it when it was ordered.   I am so glad I did not.   I loved it.   I would gladly order it again!

It was a reminder to me about  my life.   You don’t know until you try!  Limiting yourself you can miss out on some life’s best experiences.   Amazing how a dinner can dish up a life lesson.

Expand Your Palate – Expand Your World

An icon of the 60’s family dinner.

I grew up in America’s breadbasket, and most of what I ate in my formative years  could be defined as a  classic white Wonder bread world.    Illinois was prime farmland, and I grew up in the middle of it.   My family ate the things that were grown in the our garden.  Our garden was big and contained largely common things like corn,tomatoes, and beans.   It also contain a few not so common things at the time such as …kale…cauliflower…beets.     My parents bought their pork and beef from the local meat lockers.   It allowed our family to have extravagances like steak.   But we also ate some not common things because nothing was wasted, such as  the heart, liver and things like pudding meat.  (I am not sure today what pudding meat was even was made up of, and I probably don’t want to know.)

My family also were hunter-gathers.  We ate wild asparagus that we cut from along fence rows, my dad remember the location year to year from his time driving the milk truck.   I never knew morel mushrooms were a delicacy.   We used to go out and bring home empty feed sacks full each spring.    My mom would freeze them and put them on pot roast in the winter.  (That  seems almost obscene knowing what they sell for today).   The men in the family  hunted, as a result we ate all sorts of small game.   Our family fished and occasionally ran bank poles.  It meant we ate blue gills, sunnies, bullheads, catfish and turtle that came from the local rivers, creeks and backwaters.

My mom was a town girl, but here wasn’t a thing that she would not try to make.   It was the days before the internet so she was at the mercy of friends, family, cookbooks and the recipes reported in the newspaper. If something bombed she would look for a new recipe for the next time.  Some of them years later as an adult I  confess they were not anything I would want to repeat.  (No disrespect intend Mother).

What this did do, was set me up so that as an adult I would have an open mind about trying new foods.  Eating my mother’s forays into the less than common cuts of meat and veggies, I learned that I may not like someone one or two ways, but there were just as likely five or six ways to prepare it that were worthy of repeating often.  It served me well when I moved to the city.  In the city,   I was always wanting to try new ethnic restaurants.   I did not want eat just at Italian, Chinese and Mexican restaurants. Even in the more common cuisines,  I did not want an Americanized menu.     I ate food from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Greece, Turkey,  Morocco, Viet Nam, India and other countries I had never heard of.   I often  had to go home and look up to see where many of the countries were on a map.   I wanted to learn more about the culture of country where the food I was eating came from.    I quickly learned like the US there were many regional flavors within a country, so eating at different restaurants yielded different menus.

I may never travel the world, but I have gotten to experience the cuisines of the world through my palate.   It will never be the same as going to these countries, but I have used it as an opportunity to travel in my mind.   Expanding my palate has expanded my world.