Food as it fits into life

Today was the big huge grocery shop day. When one opens the frig and it is full of nothing to eat, it is time. I love the process of making the list and then figuring out where to go and in what order.

Today I decided to start out at Wal-Mart. Wait, wait. Listen. That is where my newly adopted long-haired chihuahua’s favorite “bones” are sold according to her foster mom, Sarah Ry. Dream Bones in peanut butter. As well as the baby gate. Gypsy spent the majority of her short one year of life in a kennel. If we need to leave her home during the day, she needs to be in a special place–but not that kennel except at night. So I bought a baby gate.

For your added knowledge of my day, should you need to know–I did go to Sam’s for a few things and the liquor store. To Barlow’s HyVee grocery. To Andy’s Liquor. To Fareway grocery. And Target, of course. What is a trip to Rochester without going to Target.

That was a couple of days ago. Last evening John and I took a drive in the convertible and decided to leave Gypsy home. She was all tucked into our bathroom with one door closed and the other with the baby gate. Blankets. Toys, Water. A new peanut butter Dream Bone. We got home after dark and parked the car in the tuck-under garage. There she was at the top of the stairs SO happy to see us. Wiggle. Wiggle. Wag. Wag. Good thing that damn baby gate only cost me ten bucks!

Back to the food.

Now I know I am a bit of a food snob. Like many of us. I have a ton of cookbooks. Why, I am not sure. I should just get rid of most of them because I pretty much only use three now.

My mother has many talents. Really. Cooking has never been one of them. Nor does she especially care about food–being a 50’s mother with five kids to feed. Her mantra was to get us fed as quickly and cheaply as possible and clean the place up. I say this because I did not learn to appreciate food or cooking from her. It came much later and over a long period of time.

As I have said before, my life has been a series of phases. One phase was Craig when I was in my early and mid 20’s. I so wanted to be the domestic diva but had no idea what that was. So I tried my hand with cooking. It was really fun and not especially hard. I still believe if you can read, you can cook. I cooked lots of fragrant stews and chicken a thousand different ways.  Creamy soups. Hearty soups.  Casseroles and potatoes and vegetables of all varieties. We ate very well. Recipes are not always planned for two people. We invited friends and family over often. Then, they started to drop in unexpectedly, knowing full well that they wouldn’t go home hungry. For the first and only time in my life, I gained a pile of weight. But it fell off and then some during Craig’s terrible illness and the ensuing demise of our relationship. But I digress.

During the next phase, the transplant coordinator/single woman about town/I can do anything phase, several women friends who all liked to cook but had no one to cook FOR joined together and formed a Gourmet Club. We met every month. We had few rules except that we would make a date for next month before leaving this month’s dinner. And the hostess would plan the menu with recipes we have never done before, be responsible for main course , and make assignments to the others. What fun! We made all kinds of wild imaginative things. Stuffed squab. Rolled pork roast. Pumpkin soup. Chestnut salad. Lots and lots of wine. (Maybe too much wine sometimes. Once we ended up in a swimming pool in various stages of dress–or should I say UNdress.) I really learned to read recipes and know what it would turn out like. The few failures were just about as fun as the successes. One was a gorgeous almond soup, cold, with green grapes. Imagine bitter almond sludge.

My favorite cookbook at that time was the New American Cuisine. I lost it somewhere between Seattle and Minnesota. It is out of print. I still mourn its loss in my life. There was a sausage stuffed chicken recipe I would love to have in my kitchen right today. After roasting the whole chicken, it was refrigerated and then cut in half through the breastbone and back. Like for a picnic. Gorgeous. And then there is a cold pasta with the stems of broccoli sliced. I mean the part most of us throw out! It was wonderful.

IMG_0064A few years later, the  Silver Palate cookbooks became my very most favorite. They were wild. They were crazy. They were from New York. They put together ingredients I had never heard of or even ones I knew in all new and imaginative ways. I poured over recipes. I would go to bed at night with a Silver Palate book and imagined… Granted. It was expensive and I ended up with lots of ingredients and spices in my cupboards that I couldn’t figure out what to do with. Low cholesterol, not so much.  Portion control, UM, no. But the taste was AMAZING! Rich. Flavorful. Their chili would feed an army. And that army would be happy, happy, happy. Poultry recipes taken to a whole new fabulous. I learned about seasonings and marinades. Hints and suggestions. This would be great with that… So many unbelievable recipes. I still make black bean soup after Christmas and Easter hams have been picked over. Thick. Black. Red sweet peppers.  A dollop of sour cream and a titch of sherry. SIGH! I have some in my freezer right now. Waiting for it to be less than 89 degrees outside.

It was quite a few years later that I fell in love with the next cookbook.

This phase is within the Mantorville ones–and there have been a few. Liz, my mother and I were at an outdoor boutique outside of Medford, MN. I picked up this cookbook, IMG_0056The Complete Guide of Country Cooking by Taste of Home 1998. It is also out of print and my copy is starting to fall apart. This is a no-kidding, no fail cookbook. It is so well-tested that there are no DOGS in there. Simple. Great. Imaginative but real. If I could ask Taste of Home anything, it would be to reissue this cookbook. I would buy one for all my foody friends. Like Cauliflower Au Gratin–garlicy, creamy, ham, swiss cheese crusty over it all. Or maybe Asparagus Pasta–buttery, crushed red pepper, garlic. Or the homemade eggnog and sugar cookies at Christmas. Perfect.

For a time I liked the Southern Living cookbooks–but they are more for company or weird stuff not found with Betty Crocker. NOW I am in love with the 2011 (not so much the 2012) Annual Recipes from Better Homes and Garden. IMG_0065Bacon Laced Chocolate Cake. Fresh Corn Salad. Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Roasted Tomato-Bread Toss. Turkey, Pear, Provolone Salad. Tonight we are having Lime-cilantro marinated chicken breasts with blistered beans. Sigh.

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