With it being Thanksgiving, I thought it only appropriate to share stories of food, family and cooking in this months blog.
My cooking style is one I adopted from growing up in a kitchen where three full meals were prepared daily by my mother. Meals sufficient for twelve mouths with occasional leftovers. As soon as one meal was over, she was planning the next. Nothing was ever thrown away or waisted, but rather reused in another dish for the next days menu.
She could create three full meals with chicken alone. An art form and style of cooking that can only be acquired by having grown up either impoverished (where you had to make due with what little was had) and or, blessed like my siblings and I, to have grown up in a household with a creative cook that made us gourmet meals every day with what ingredients she had available. She would part and cook up chicken for one meal, accompanied by at least two sides and always bread. All the bones and skin from the carcass would then be simmered on the stove the following day to create bone broth for a soup with dumplings. The remaining morsels of meat scraped off of the carcass, including the skin, was usually enough to add al little to a chicken soup as well as perhaps a chicken pot pie. The bones then were given to the dogs and cats (not encouraged today, but our animals never suffered for it); all stomachs were full and content.
As head chef for not only my family, but all that visit our cafe, I bring that same cooking style to my very large table. Each stew, soup and meal is created based on what is available in season or grown on our farm as well as what needs to be used on any given day. I love having customers comment on the quality of the stew or soup and that it brings back memories of childhood.
Two weeks ago, I had a gentleman call out chef over the front counter. Upon turning around to acknowledge him, he wanted to not only let me know that the turkey vegetable stew was the best he had ever had. He then continued to say that during lunch he asked his wife why she couldn’t make soup like that. With an uplifted brow and a smile, my response was that it would be impossible for myself and or his wife to duplicate this stew as the leftovers in my refrigerator change daily. However, with any soup, the key is to always start with good broth and good ingredients; fresh or left over. I then asked him what his wife’s answer was to his question. He said he couldn’t repeat the answer in front of all the people looking on, but that he was going home with several extra quarts for his freezer.
As much as I would love to call most of my creations, “Clean out the Fridge” meals, I am not sure they would be big sellers and even harder to convince others to try.
Like myself, I remind my children how lucky they are to always have food available whenever they want or need it. Always encouraging them to be independent and creative with making their own meals, harvesting ingredients as well as the importance of mixing up several ingredients to create different dishes; paying attention to food color variations. Otherwise, my sons plates would be filled with mashed potatoes, bread, gravy and turkey. Not that the choice of food is bad, but your eyes need to be visually stimulated as well for proper digestion to occur. I never know if any of the information we share about food is absorbed in their brains and or even heard, but then months later it comes back.
A few months ago, my boys had a friend over after school to visit and play. As usual, they went to the refrigerator to help themselves to snacks, encouraged their friend to do the same, and asked if I could cook them up egg sandwiches. A few weeks later, the mother of the friend felt she needed to let me know that upon her sons return home the evening during their dinner conversation, he requested that they get a refrigerator like the Varney boys (according to him it was huge and full of everything they needed) talked of variety on the plate and wondered if, like the Varney boys, they too could get their own chef?
The only difference between my mother and I, is that I wear a chefs hat and jacket and she wore a colorful apron; one that adorns my bakery today in her memory and a reminder to waist not and make due with what is available to me.
Until next time, appreciate the landscape that grows our food and be happy that there are people who are there to harvest it.
Also, be brave and creative in using your leftovers after Thanksgiving. If you don’t have a chefs hat to please your children, bandanas also work.