I enjoy cooking. That said, you will never mistake my food with that of the talented chefs in the tri-state area. My culinary training consists of an 8th grade home economics class that back in 1977 was required of all students. The truth is my family and I agree that I am more of a short order cook than chef. I do not measure as often as I should, and I alter recipes on the fly.
Cooking is emotional for me; It relaxes me, allows me to be creative but most importantly cooking allows me to create memories with my family.
Growing up on a farm, I saw my mother and grandmother do all the cooking. I was too busy being a kid to ever offer to help or even pay attention to what they were making. I do however recall many family gatherings that centered around the food they prepared. At some point subconsciously I connected specific foods with specific memories. Fried sunfish with potato salad, sweet corn and BLT’s and wild raspberry custard pie are just examples that instantly take me back 40 years.
My hope is that through my cooking I can facilitate that same opportunity for my family. To create memories of specific family events by the food they enjoyed at the time.
There is no better example of that for me than Christmas Eve dinner. It’s my favorite gathering of the year. I have had the same set menu for 20 years. Wild rice soup, ham, spinach gratin, buttermilk mashed potatoes with gravy, corn and a cranberry jello salad. Our home in the days leading up to Christmas Eve has distinct aromas like sautéed onions, rosemary and citrus that are unique to that menu. The food is hearty, tasty and consistent. Again, think short order cook, not Michelin Chef!
I am, however, very protective of my Christmas Eve menu. I will not make the soup, gratin or cranberry salad for any other occasion. I have said no to my mother in law more than once when she asks me to make the cranberry salad for Thanksgiving and the wild rice soup would also be delicious on those crisp fall nights. I resist because I want to wrap my family’s memory of Christmas Eve dinner with the specific scents and tastes of that meal. A memory that hopefully they too can recall 40 years from now.
I encourage you to think about the memories you have of food growing up and to do your part to ensure that those memories continue for the next generation.