“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
Beginning this weekend, our thoughts turn to food—at least, mine do. And, it's impossible not to wax nostalgic during the holidays. We remember dishes cooked by our mothers and grandmothers, in-laws and out-laws. We paw through our recipe boxes for scraps of paper, yellowed and soiled from age and use. Well, maybe you just go to the Food Network's website and look for recipes, but I reach into the recipe box.
My mother and grandmother, aunts and great aunts were great cooks. But they were also always stretched for time, so they were simple cooks—no Joy of Cooking recipes here. Just good food. They didn't pay a whole lot of attention to calories, or fat and sugar content, but none of them were overweight. Also, they often didn't put amounts on their recipes—just assumed any cook would know how much. Sometimes the recipe would say, “until it looks right.” For instance, here's my mother's recipe for Turkey Dressing:
add white bread-crumbled
2 or 3 boiled eggs-chopped
giblets with cooking stock, or chicken broth
1 or 2 Tbsp. Sage
Mix to consistency of cornbread batter
Bake at 350
Bare bones. No frills. So yummy. Never out of a bag, or box. And here's her simple apple bread pudding:
5 or 6 apples Peel & slice apples, place in casserole dish.
3 slices of bread Cut bread into strips, lay over apples.
1 ½ cups sugar Melt butter, add sugar and beaten egg.
1 stick of butter Pour over bread. Bake 45min at 350.
For me, Thanksgiving, more than Christmas, is a time for remembering. For casting back in time through the vehicle of food to great meals and the people who, without actually instructing me, taught me how to cook. When I taste cornbread dressing now, the basis for comparison is always my mother's. I think of her and her meticulous chopping of the celery and onion. If my chopping didn't meet her standards, she re-chopped them.
Over the next few days, I will be sharing some old family recipes. I hope that while you are preparing your Thanksgiving repast, you will remember the cooks in your own family. Speak of them, call their names. This is how we honor our ancestors, and express gratitude for their gifts to us. Our love and appreciation is then incorporated into the food we make and passed along to the next generation.
In the Spirit,