both speed, convenience
with deliciousness and the
joy of creation
Seem to writing a lot about food lately.
But then it is the season.
Thanksgiving on the way.
Below 75 degree weather.
All adds up to comfort food.
It is that time of year.
And a new documentary is being released on November 12.
A new documentary on Julia Child.
Says co-director Julie Cohen, “Julia changed the way Americans thought about food, fully and completely, from the idea that the goal shouldn’t just be about speed and convenience, but deliciousness and the joy of creation.”
In a review of Julia in the Guardian, Charles Bramesco writes, ” . . . she arrived not a moment too soon, lighting up a gustatory dark age of Jell-O molds, mayonnaise-based “salads” and tinned pineapples.
I grew up in that gustatory dark age.
I grew up in that era of Jell-O molds, mayonnaise-based “salads” and tinned pineapples.
When I started making my own Thanksgiving dinners I figured that what was missing was the Jello mold from my childhood.
So started my families’ tradition of the a ring of strawberry Jello filled with strawberries, blueberries and clementine’s and covered with non-dairy whipped topping slowly melting on the Thanksgiving table.
Imagine our surprise when a guest to our table, born and raised in the South, took one look and yelled, “CONGEALED SALAD! HOW COOL IS THAT!”
Congealed Salad is now an expected part of the holiday meal.
My parents either got engaged or ‘reached an understanding’ before my Dad left to go to Europe for World War 2.
While my Dad was overseas my Mom thought about their future life together.
Even though her Mom, my Grandma Hendrickson, was acknowledged far a wide as a great cook, my Mom signed up for free cooking classes sponsored by the General Electric company.
The General Electric company wanted folks to buy their new electric ovens and stoves so what better way to make folks need them then to teach them how to use them.
According to a history of these classes I found online, the classes were in theaters where attendees watched meals being created on stage.
Attendee’s received souvenir recipe booklets to take home and study while wishing for a new electric ovem.
I think some of those recipes stayed in my Mom’s repertoire forever.
I knew we were having oven baked chicken when early in the afternoon I would hear my Mom flatten a big bag of potatoes chips with a rolling pin to create the crispy coating that the chicken would be dredged in before going into the baking pan.
Another item that from this era that lasted was my Mom’s famous Candlestick salad.
Lay a piece of lettuce on a salad plate.
Put one ring of sliced canned pineapple on the lettuce.
Take a banana and slice into two halves.
Slice the very tip off the banana halves off so that both ends are flat.
Slice a bright red maraschino cherry in half.
Stand one of the banana halves in the center of the pineapple ring.
Place a half cherry on the tip of the banana.
Drizzle whipped cream over the banana-cherry and serve.
Maybe I was sheltered or something but it wasn’t until I served this to my almost-son-in-laws and they fell out of their chairs laughing over the sexual innuendo comments they all made that I came to see this salad in an entirely different light.
DO NOT MIS UNDERSTAND ME.
My Mom was a great cook.
She embraced speed and convenience, with deliciousness and the joy of creation.
By the time I showed up, my Mom was cooking for 10 people (counting herself) everyday.
And three more kids were on the way.
All I am saying is that I grew up in the 1960’s of home cooking.
I sure don’t remember much complaining.
Well, okay, beef chunks wasn’t anybody’s favorite but there it is.
It was also a Dutch household.
Go online and you won’t find a lot of cookbooks of favorite dutch recipes.
Keep in mind the dutch hard candy, babbelaars.
One year when I was working at WZZM13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I wrote an anchor toss for the noon show to set up a live shot for our coverage of the Tulip Festival over in Holland, Michigan.
I said something along the lines of the Tulips are bright, the shoes are made of wood and the babbelaars are sweet …
The anchor read over her script and came to me and said, “BA BABEL LA lers?? HA WHA????”
I pronounced it BA BA LAARS and told her to trust me.
She said it on air but she wasn’t real comfortable with it.
On the other hand she was never real comfortable working with me since the time I was standing in the studio during the countdown to going live and I caught her eye and did the pulling-the-thumb-off-my-finger trick and she screamed as the show started.
The babbelaar is one of the best known Dutch candies.
And what is in it?
The are pretty good, trust me.
Reading now Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Though Food, I marvel over his families dedication to their cultural food history.
It must be a great thing, food wise, to have been italian.
We had spaghetti often.
And occasionally we would order a pizza as a late night treat but never for dinner.
Lunch was often SpaghettiOs or Chef Boyardee ravioli or my favorite, beef-a-roni.
All out of cans.
At the same time, my Mom watched The French Chef.
She would watch and laugh and laugh.
Her regular comment was along the lines that there had to be someone under the counter out of camera sweeping stuff out of way.
I think she would watch these things being created and then translate the recipe into feeding 10 or 12 people and that chip coated chicken looked much more realistic.
I would watch with my Mom.
I had an odd fascination with food.
A fascination with the concept of fine dining.
Once I took it upon myself to set the table for Sunday dinner.
I got out everything I could think of.
Salad forks and plates, folded napkins, butter knives and glasses for milk and water.
There was little room on our huge family table for food.
My Mom was sweet and commented how nice the table the looked.
My sisters demanded that I do all the extra dishes.
I loved reading about food as well.
The Hornblower Novels are about a British Naval Officer in the Napoleonic wars by CS Forester are a series of 11 novels.
In each novel, at least once, Forester will have a scene where a meal is described in great detail.
I read and reread all those scenes.
Jim Harrison’s romance with food, (See his essay, A Really Big Lunch) is an undercurrent in all of his writing.
And I enjoyed watched the French Chef with my Mom.
We would look at each and shake our heads or look at each other and say, wonder what that taste’s like.
The odd thing is that she often let ME try something we saw on the show.
Saturday was the big grocery day for my Mom.
I think she went every other day for various things but Saturday was the big day.
This was in the era of home milk delivery and with the size of our family, 10 half gallon cardboard cartons were delivered 3 days a week along with a stop for one last gallon after church on Sunday.
Somehow in the middle of this logistical nightmare of feeding everyone my Mom listened to my questions about cooking.
I was taught how to make scramble eggs of course and my favorite molasses cookies.
And every once in awhile, after watching something on the French Chef that caught our attention, my mom would pick up a few extra ingredients and we would make a Saturday lunch.
I remember a version of chicken cacciatore and a chicken breast in apple cider dish and Veal Scaloppini Marsala.
How did she find the time and energy to indulge this is beyond me.
What my brothers and sisters thought about this is also beyond me.
I was a little bit nuts so maybe they just included this as part the deal that I came with.
Speed and convenience, but deliciousness and the joy of creation.
That was my Mom.
I would watch her make pie.
She would get out her rolling cloth.
Lard, flour, salt and water and blueberries and then like a conjurers trick, now you see it, now you don’t, there was pie.
She cooked for all of us.
She cooked with me.
And we watched Julia Child together.