Doesn't that look yummy? I can only assure you that it was. This is not an original recipe, nor was it out of a cookbook. This recipe was a gift. The things I make, and I cook and bake a lot, mostly do not originate with me. Oh occasionally I have an idea that works out, but my best stuff, the things I tend to make over and again come from elsewhere.
A lot of my recipes are from relatives long since past. And unfortunately I cannot ask them any quesitons about it anymore. So those are trial and error. Back in the olden times, before computers, recipes were written down on paper and any change that I make, I write down on their recipe. Actually back before that, they weren't written down and just repeated so many times that it was memorized. Mine, thankfully, are written down. There is something about seeing the handwriting, that faded blue ink on paper now stained with molasses or butter (I am a messy cook) that gives me a wonderful feeling of connectedness to the person who gave it to me.
I have recipes from my paternal grandmother and great grandmother written in their exquisite pensmanship with their own curious abbreviations. I also have a lot of recipes from my maternal grandmother. Her handwritting was not pretty but the results are amazing. My daugthers-in-law have provided me with some incredible recipes too. An old friend from college has shared with me as well as my best friend, back in Colorado. I cherish these not only because they are terrific recipes, but because they were gifts from people I care about. When I am making their particular brand of concoction, I am thinking of them.
I love old cookbooks. have a very old copy of the "Philadelphia Cook Book" which has wonderful things in it like Charlotte Russe and specific directions for making your own sausage. The book itself is somewhat the worse for wear so I'm reluctant to use it much anyore. The front cover has fallen off and the pages are becoming tattered. But I can't throw it away. I have another very old cookbook. This one is in better shape even though it was published in 1885. "The Farm and Household Cyclopaedia" is a treasure. It's not just a cookbookthough there is a section on "Cooking Recipes". The ingredients are by pound, by quart and often describes the amount of butter you require by comparing it to a particular type of fowl's egg. "Butter the size of a ducks egg". Seriously. It's awesome. And also has a section on keeping bees, making your own fertilizer, building your own home and making your own Bay Rum (which if you do not know is a man's cologne, not something to drink.) In short, this book has every bit of information you might require to survive in rural 1885.
When I first married, I couldn't cook at all. Sad, but true. Thank goodness, one of my wedding presents was a copy of "The Joy of Cooking". I started reading on the first page of the preface and read the entire way through, as if it were a novel. I was panicked, I will confess. It seemed overwhelming and impossible. And for awhile, I threw away more meals that we ate. But eventually, something inside me clicked and I understood the differernce between braising and sautee-ing. "The Joy of Cooking" is a terrific cookbook for a beginning amateur. It's very detailed, it has definitions, and hints. It still wasn't enough. No matter how much information you think you are giving to a non-cooker, you need to give more. Ideally, the teacher should be right there beside you in the kitchen explaining as you go.
Number 3 son and his wife used to have a food blog. He wrote restaurant reviews and she had her recipes. It was a very time consuming project for her because she had photographs for each step of the process. While I appreciate how arduous the task for her, as a loyal fan and cook, I even more appreciated the literal step by step text and photos. It helps immeasurably to look at that photo and then look into your bowl or pan and say "Hmmm that doesn't look right" or " exactly perfect!" or sometimes, "close enough".
At one time Tim gave me a subscription to the Food and Wine cookbooks. The photographs are so beautiful. But when I read the recipes, I was dismayed. By that time, I considered myself a seasoned cook, but it wasn't so much the preparation as the ingredients. Usually it was because it was product that I knew we didn't care for or in a combination that did not sound at all appetizing. Occasionaly though, there was something listed that I had no idea what was. Anytime I have to do a google-search to understand what a particular ingredient is, odds are good I am not going to prepare that recipe. Or maybe the photograph looked appetizing and the ingredients list sounded good, but I couldn't find some of them. When you live in a small town, you can't get too fancyschmancy with your recipes.
I am a simple girl. I don't care much for pretentious food. I have a peasant's palate. I like my food simple, recognizable and yummy. I do not want to have to develope a taste for something. I either like it or I don't. And I do not want to have to buy a special tool or machine to make it either because I'm cheap. Ok I'm frugal. (Tim hates it when I say I'm cheap). I have all the basic cookware and I'm fairly creative when it comes to making do. How often am I going to use a fish poacher?
One of the food channel stars, Alton Brown, of (amoung other things) "Good Eats", advocates for no uni-tasker tools in his kitchen. I'm with you, Alton. My kitchen is not huge, though I am lucky to have a lovely big pantry, but I have no need or desire for any tool, any pot or pan, that does not do double duty.
Tonight I'm roasting a chicken. The weather is a tad cool for Florida and I'm thinking a nice fat roasted birdie is a terrific idea. Since I'm heating up the oven anyway, maybe I will bake some potatoes too. Already I"m thinking ahead to what else I can make with the leftover chicken. I'm considering one night, chicken fajita's and another night, chicken pot pie. See that's how cooks see the world. What's in my pantry dictates what I'm fixing for dinner. It's not what do I need to make a special trip to the store for, but what can I make with what I have. Cooks and bakers are creative and resourceful souls. It's a lot of work and a lot of mess but it's worthwhile because what we make, we prepare with love for the people we love.
What are you having for dinner tonight?
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.