I was never a great cook, but I did cook on a regular basis. Proof that I used to cook came when my sons would call and ask me for a recipe. Since I was a budding cook I’ve seen teflon, roasters, slow cookers, electric skillets, and the advent of microwaves. (Kenneth saw that we got one of them!)
Much has changed since I used to cook.
The history of our lives finds its way into our stomachs. I told my sons, “I’m not sure you remember I used to cook. Here’s hoping this spurs some positive memories of cozy times we had as you boys were growing up.”
The kitchen is a fine place to make memories and have a multi sensory experience of togetherness and savory scents. I reminded my sons that society is slowly but surely improving its diet choices. When I was young, food for social occasions meant home-baked and sweet the former of which was fine.
I always thought wearing a fancy apron and humming knowingly helps the flavors along.
But the last few decades have seen me and others emphasizing serving real food at social occasions as opposed to junk–because I indeed believe “You live in your body.” Even my school set a record for serving healthy but tasty food at parties, thus there is less getting wild, sick or sleepy afterwards, and a good time can be had by all–even our bodies.
Finger Foods and Snackin’ Moods
Call them hors’doeurves when you’re all dressed up. Party it up with sausage balls, crab dip (made with carp!), eggs devilled or as egg salad, pea salad or even a baked snazzy dip for royalty with sour creme, creme cheese, and buttered pecans for topping.
First you stuff them (poultry, peppers, mushrooms, etc.) Then you bake and stuff yourselves.
This is the real reason for kitchens.
Meatloaf or meatballs could make a meal magnificent and magical. They made good sandwiches later. I used lots of hamburger meat, for more than just hamburgers, and before Hamburger Helper. Unhelped, they were quite tasty.
One summer we found a lasagna recipe in the newspaper. Jeff latched onto it and became a champion lasagna chef. We all pitched in to help eat it, though.
Skillet suppers helped used leftover stuff in the fridge. We joined a vegetable coop so often had extras at the end of the week which fit well into a skillet. Good with hot bread and hunger.
Chicken fried steak was a Texas tradition, but ours was often made with deer or elk. I always had to make enough so some would be left for supper after everyone would sneak a piece before we sat down to eat. Fix a gravy similar to what you make at Thanksgiving. Jeff has become an excellent gravy cook.
Stew meat, chopped beef, venison, or whatever Lady Luck (or a hunter) brings home. Use chile mix and destroy the evidence! Serve beans separately so Kenneth won’t have to eat them. Then feed the crowd before they are madding.
Hint: Most meals are better with mushrooms and sautéed onions added…
Days of Quiche and Slimmer Poses (to the tune of Days of Wine and Roses): Sing or hum while fixing, and smile and strike a proud pose while eating.
Breakfasts and Brunch
Ask your clock to know the difference between the two. (I always had a hard time with this one. After I found I had low blood sugar I learned to snack before cooking in early mornings.)
When we had company to spend the night, breakfast was always a joyous budget. I love to fix bacon, sausage, fruit, cooked cereal, eggs, etc, then spend an hour or more with company grazing and sipping coffee while catching up on each other’s lives. (Sometimes the sausage was homemade, pushing it into a Pringles can to form the shape.)
Family breakfasts were especially enjoyed when potatoes were included. Fried well-browned potatoes and onions with eggs were usually gone before the burner cooled. I learned I could never make enough. Then leftover mashed potatoes were the makings of potato patties with the addition of six eggs and seasonings. Fry till crispy and they will ask for more.
There is nothing finer than friends or family, food and fine moments to invest in a pot of coffee.
Pancakes, Waffles and French Toast
Get them while they’re hot, or they’ll be gone. Place a big X of bacon slices as you pour the waffle batter and you’ll be hooked. But no pecan halves on Ken’s. For French toast, dip, fry, butter, add toppings, open mouth, smile. Provide several toppings including syrup and much more. Brag for weeks.
Check the thermometer to see if the weather is cold. Oatmeal is good, and Cream of Wheat is great when you swirl chocolate chips and butter just before eating. I like to toss some peanut butter chips on top.
Omlettes Add tidbits from the fridge, including tomatoes, onions and cheese in the center, then sour creme or picante sauce for topping.
Cinnamon Toast Sprinkle bread with butter cinnamon and sugar, broil and Jeff will show up.
Soups and Stews
My cooking represents my general outlook on life–you might call it philosophy in a pan.
Stews and soups are an event, not a recipe. In winter fix often. Start with a base, clean out fridge, chop things that smell OK, discard the rest, take out trash and shine the fridge inside and out while enjoying the aroma and cooking.
Bread: The Staff of Wife
For years I had heard bread was the staff of life, but my upbringing had a slightly different connotation. The lady of the house did the cooking; no doubt I am thrilled that household tasks are now spread more evenly between the genders.
Homemade bread was a special occasion at our house. I always said it was easy enough to get around to often. We gathered to punch it down after the first rising, soaking up the delightful smells of yeast. My recipe didn’t make you knead it, but I promise you need it! Some burned lips have occurred when it was tasted a bit too soon after coming out of the oven, but it was worth it.
Bisquitry on regular days involved drop biscuits but when Aunt Gladys came she rolled out old time biscuits. And cold weather and soups were always perked up with muffins.
Crescent rolls were enjoyed as pigs in a blanket, cheese filled and rolled in sesame seeds, or just out of the oven with butter.
Then Mexican cornbread with whole kernel corn and cheese invaded our taste buds but I was into mild so I avoided jalapeño peppers, preferring sweet ones. December was a great time for red and green bell peppers.
We all loved banana bread and gingerbread and Ken got us started on cranberry bread.
Drinks – Fruit drink made in blender with bananas and peaches, spiced tea, wassail…
Desserts — The Exclamation Point of a Meal
Cookies: p. butter, chocolate chip, sugar. We found a great recipe and story in
Creme Puffs – Beat till you arm hurts mightily.
Cakes – Apples make good food, upside down cake, strawberry shortcake
Cobbler – Especially good with peaches and whipped cream
Pies – Boxton Creme Pie is not pie but is delicious, Easy creme cheese pie crust. Your fingers may never leave your hands as you flute the edges of the crust.
Pudding – My crowning glory. I eventually developed a way to do it in the microwave after many years of using a double boiler. Closest thing to heaven I know.
When you eat dessert, enjoy, then avoid the scales for a week or two:-) It’s not the recipe that counts. It’s the time spent together in and around the kitchen that matters. Enjoy the fine fragrance of food, chat, play games, laugh and make memories.