as a teenager i used to spend every day in my upstairs room playing my guitar, and i used to think about what i would say in interviews when i became a famous musician. i knew i would want to talk about the influences i had and the music i listened to “as a kid”. cause, you know… in Rolling Stone magazine that’s what they always talk about.
but i didnt have a lot to work with. growing up as a homeschooler, our media options were often restricted. pop music, television, movies existed; but with me none the wiser.
one album that was approved for family consumption was the Beatles White Album. lucky, right?! around age 11 i would lay on my stomach next to the cd player for hours listening to that. it was life-changing.
but as i’ve become more of a cook, i think about my food influences. about how the dishes i cook got their shape.
my granny was German and a Mennonite, so i learned early how to make zwieback and especially how to eat it. sunday dinners at Granny’s (3 blocks from our house) were often faspa, so we’d eat loads of zwieback with butter and jam, cold cuts, cheeses, coffee, bowls of purpley-red borscht, or maybe cold cherry soup, all on the good china. i could eat zwieback with jam til i was ready to burst.
Granny made the best homemade maple bars. it was crazy how every time she made a batch, all the other kids in the neighborhood would just happen to show up at her house.
i remember making spätzle with Granny in her kitchen, pressing the dough into the water, how the pasta arrived on my plate in uneven, lumpy shapes. i think we just ate it with brown butter and pepper. it was life-changing.
my grandma is a great cook, too. when we were young she and grandpa often watched us when my parents were out of town for the weekend, for example. we’d wake up in the morning and grandma would ask us what we wanted for breakfast. “chocolate waffles, chocolate waffles!” i dont remember what they tasted like, but i remember how much we wanted them. almost black in color, and topped with strawberries and whipped cream. sometimes she made cornmeal pancakes, a real treat. with blueberry syrup.
all the summer events were at grandma and grandpa’s: christmas, the 4th of july, hay hauling. which was the day that all the extended family came and loaded up the baled hay from the pastures onto a truck and then unloaded it into the barn for the winter. it was a hot, appetite-inducing job. we would eat homegrown beef burgers (the ultimate result of all that hay!), grandma’s famous potato salad (just the right amount of mustard), rich bar cookies and best of all, homemade ice cream. and of course feasting at grandma and grandpa’s on holidays has really shaped what i think of as “traditional” when it comes to thanksgiving, etc. you just can’t top grandma’s buttery stuffing. or pecan pie. she did buy cranberry sauce in a can though. ha.
i learned all the essentials from my mom. and i will always be indebted to her. i had so much time to learn because as a home schooled family, we ate three homemade meals a day. we hardly ever went to restaurants. by age 8 or so i was making meals while my mom put her feet up and read a book. i remember being put out by this: why did mom get to rest and relax while i had to work? (my 8-year-old mind couldn’t fathom the amount of work it took for her to raise four kids and teach them all school and run the household. but i’m so thankful for it now.) in her kitchen i learned everything i needed to know: quick breads, yeast doughs, pastry crust. bechamel, roux, de-glazing. dicing, julienning. caramelizing, braising. cakes, meringues (and how to spell them), puddings, mousses. how not to crack a cheesecake, how not to baste a turkey, how not to overcook seafood.
i have a lot to learn, but i get really stoked about cooking! i’m looking forward to sharing some of the things i know with you.