Thursday, July 26, 2007

Behind the apron

I have decided I want to write at times about the foodie side of me. Rather than coming up with some dazzling post title each time, I'm just going to call it Behind the apron. For those other dear bloggers who have made an attempt to put Coffee Tea Books & Me in a certain links category, I offer my profound apologies.

Now she's mixing her recipe blog with her book- tea- coffee- homeschool whatever blog? Yeah, kind of ...except all recipes will continue to be put on the recipe blog.

Let's just say this falls under the, uh... the "me" part. Yes, that is what it is. "Me" is the equivalent of "all other required duties" in a job description. :)

So what led to this longing to wax poetic about food, the preparation of food, the shopping for food, etc.? Part of it was the "going back to my food roots" recently as I'm trying to eat healthier, in season, somewhat locally, etc. The other part, the actual spark, was picking up a copy of Food & Wine magazine on the free rack at the library. As I skimmed through it, I realized it not only had a good article by one of my favorite chefs, Jacque Pepin (who writes for the magazine), but it had "favorite recipes" of some well known chefs. There was one by Nigella Lawson that I knew I wanted to try soon.

For me, Heaven on earth is the farmer's market, in autumn, music being played on the street corner, flowers in all the autumnal colors displayed by mom and pop vendors, the honey man sitting behind his small table, hundreds of apples just waiting to be inspected, and the cool air making me want to head for the kitchen immediately when I arrive home (I am not much of a summer cook, unfortunately).

When I am not in a hurry, I enjoy the process of preparing a meal. I find comfort in the slicing and the chopping, in the grating and the stirring. I think of the reactions by my family (or friends) as they taste the final outcome. I feel like an artist in the midst of a great creation. It doesn't matter if it's all gone in a few minutes.

I didn't get interested in gourmet cooking for any elitist reason. On the contrary, at the time (in the 1970s), the cooking shows on PBS were just beginning and I enjoyed relaxing by watching them. I began to notice a difference between those recipes and what I saw in women's magazines (or even in high school home ec class). They used real food and not the "mix a can of this with a can of that" cooking that was popular at the time. I also noticed most of the recipes were not difficult, they just took time and patience (and sometimes not even that, some were quick and easy).

Bon Appetit became my magazine of choice and I remember many evenings reading it from cover to cover. I rarely had time to attempt anything too complex but this particular magazine was known for providing home cook friendly recipes. If I became obsessed with anything, it was the need to have good quality cooking and baking equipment. I still feel that way, only now I usually need to look for it at garage sales and thrift stores (I just recently found a fabulous Wolfgang Puck omelet pan for $1.99 at Goodwill!).

I lost interest in gourmet cooking when it began to change. Instead of the fabulous meals made with real food, they got into that foo-foo "make it a small work of art on the plate" era. If I tried to serve it at my house, my family would have eaten it but then called out for pizza as the portions also tended to be small.

Instead, I would talk recipes with friends and family (and there was still Jacque and Julia on TV). When the familiar typed envelope arrived in the mail from my mother-in-law, there were often a couple 3 x 5 cards included with her latest "finds" or the occasional family favorite I had requested. It was mostly over the discussion of food and recipes that she and I had something in common. Today it is my daughter and I who will spend a half an hour in conversation about recipes, whole foods, Trader Joes (wishing they would build one in my town), healthy choices, and decadent cheats.

There is something sacramental about food, its' preparation, the family history told through (and during) our meals, the passing on of our culture as we celebrate special days...religious and secular... For what makes us unique as a family or a nation if often found in the kitchen and on the dining room table. So I hope you will humor as I will continue from time to time to wax poetic one of God's greatest gifts.


Susie said...

Hi Brenda,
I found myself nodding in agreement with many statements you made on this post. I love creating good food for my family and friends. (from a party of 2 to 50 or more!)
Great pans, utensils, wonderful recipes, farmer's markets, and local produce stands all are key ingredients for inspiring me..
I also yearn for a Trader Joe's in our town. We now travel at least 20 miles to our nearest one!

Anonymous said...

I love real food from real ingredients. But I can't stand foo-foo food. That will be my new name for it. I hope that foo-foo food will be a passing phase! Joy

Isabella in the 21st Century said...

Your dead right about there being something sacramental about food. The way to a a good table is to understand that food is a gift, a joy and a beauty. It's such a great way to bring families and friends together. I'm looking forward to reading some more of these posts!

Tealady Tammy said...

i love creating food for tea time and dear family and friends although I am not the best cook in the world. I enjoy sitting down for the conversation that goes with the food as well,.
blessings on your weekend

Jenny said...

Loved this post! I especially liked your foo-foo comment and agree wholeheartedly.