About Me

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+++Enter At Your Own Risk+++ At the gentle nudging (I said gentle y'all) of a few friends, I have started these blogs in order to share my culinary goings-on and daily misadventures through my own brand of humor (ok, sarcasm). I just write about stuff! At 50, I have learned that living has gotten in the way of life - and I am going to blaze my own personal trail to fun (hopefully)! If it is feminine, great. If it is not, so much the better! Hopefully fun that does not land me in jail............

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Unlikely Inspiration? A work in progress...

Unlikely Inspiration? A work in progress...

Inspiration comes from some likely and equally unlikely places.

No one that knows me now has any inkling that I did not actually cook real food until I was maybe 26 years old – or so.  Prior to that I would cook various odd things such as biscuits, cornbread muffins, beef and green pepper stir-fry, zucchini bread and - uh, that might have been it unless you want to count cooking noodles and adding ketchup or making chocolate/banana milkshakes.  That was real food, but not a meal.  In the military (from mid 1984 until late 1986) I did not have access to a kitchen, only a chow hall and fast-food. While stationed at Darmstadt in then West Germany, I married and gained an apartment with all the usual appliances (although the fridge was SO SMALL as they are in Germany!).  At that point, I only remember cooking hamburger helper and - say it isn't so - Chef BRD.  Kit (then husband) might remember differently and I will update this if he does.

Over the years, I barely ate. Food was not my friend. I did not care for it and could go for days with only
Daughter @ 17
eating very small 'meals.'  Yep, a 'meal' might be a half a can of Chef BRD in a day.  I was THIN.  By ‘thin’ I mean – I had NO relationship with food except pure survival.  Even today, when I cook the things you see posted here, I can only eat small amounts of what I make even though I really like what I cook.  I will not typically make something if it is something I do not eat.  I really only like 2 people enough to cook a food for that I do not like, and one is my daughter.  So, if I attempt to make a dish for anyone that I have no clue how it should taste, you can count yourself special.

At this time I still eat chocolate, cake, Chef BRD, Totino's Pizza Rolls, cake, Coca~Cola, chocolate, grilled cheese, Tv dinners, cake and McD's more than I eat my own food. Yea, I typed chocolate twice and cake three times.  So, I guess I still do not have the best relationship with food.  But, as with things that are important to me, I keep trying.  I never really give up. Did I say I don't give up? Maybe that is why I keep trying to cook and perfect the food/dishes.  I am constantly driven by the hope that I will grow to truly love food like an Italian. Oh, wait, I am not Italian!  LOL English, Irish, Scots, Cherokee...  That English blood might be the problem.  Have you eaten in London?  As a rule, I am not impressed with English food!  I don't think the Brits are known for food. The best London restaurant I ate in – was Italian! I swear I think it was Mafia. If I remember correctly, the door was plain and the entry unmarked in an alley. When you went in, it had a grand entryway complete with a huge staircase down to the tables, washroom attendants, a coat check and etc. Good Food. ☺

My Mother always cooked basic food (don't tell her I said that as it sounds bad…).  It was good food.  
Mom @ 12
Simple, inexpensive, low country food.  She was taught by her mother who I am sure was taught by hers.  I did not really pay that much attention when I was a child but I do remember roasts, stroganoff, mom's canned vegetables and soups, cornbread, rolls, biscuits, chef salads and etc. Dad would cook the hamburgers and steaks on a charcoal grill outside.  I have grown to appreciate that food more today.  My parents always insisted that my brother and I at least TRY the various odd things they came up with.  OK, I am sorry, but I still do not like pork brains – I do not care how you cook them up! I was a picky eater as a child.  I did not like green beans, lima beans, squash, greens, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, cottage cheese, yogurt, vanilla anything.  After awhile they gave up on my eating some foods.  I think they grew tired of watching me sitting there - gagging!  I have since learned to eat all of that except cottage cheese and yogurt. I have to admit though, in the army’s basic training, I ate yogurt because I thought I would starve to death with all the physical activity we had to participate in. I actually ate light bread with butter MASHED onto it. I gained around 30+ pounds in basic training. I suppose part of that was muscle (I like to think so). Four weeks after I arrived in Germany at my permanent duty station, I lost all that plus more. The Army is not known for its food. Duh! 
Dad at about 25?
Mom’s contribution to my need for food perfection was really tweaked by her banana pudding and chocolate pies!
Mmm !

My GrandMa Taylor made the best biscuits and GrandPa Taylor taught me to put butter (from his cow) and honey (from his bees) on them - OMG! Such a tasty memory. GrandMa also made roasts, green beans, no-bake oatmeal cookies, salmon patties (which will end up on here eventually I am sure), cornbread, potatoes, and corn. They grew their own vegetables and apples plus processed their own meats. I did not enjoy the chicken killing, but it was not traumatic for me either – which is rather shocking really.

My GrandMa Garrett cooked cornmeal dusted bluegill fish, fish eggs, cornbread, green beans, corn, potatoes, soft sugar cookies, chicken & dumplings, blackberry & rhubarb cobblers, squirrel, deer, frog legs, pork and etc. GrandPa sure could hunt and fish as well as make a hell of an apple stack cake. GrandPa would probably not be impressed with me saying 'hell.' I remember GrandPa Garrett drying apples in the sun on a table topped with tin roof material and covered with cheese-cloth. I have a photo on the wall of GrandPa long before I was alive, with his rifle, a racoon and what I think was his RedBone hunting dog.  I do not recall eating coon…  ‘Nough said.  They canned their own vegetables and meats. They grew their own vegetables and fruits including grapes, blueberries (which we still pick today), strawberries, melons, peanuts, apples and etc. GrandPa kept potatoes and apples in a root cellar. The underground root cellar is still scary. I was a bit traumatized when I figured out the bacon we had one year - I had named at some point in the recent past. Ooops... Well, PETA can get over it since I did. The smoke house and I did not mind in the end!
Yes! A REAL Root Cellar
So, in all those years, I failed to pay enough attention to my surroundings and learn. What I DID learn from my two sets of GrandParents and my Parents is, however, immeasurable. Now I crave for information and memories. I beg for information from various older family members. I do cook a lot of simple, low country food. Fried everything (okra, green tomatoes, chicken, fish). I've pickle garlic, green tomatoes, carrots and etc. I have learned to make blueberry jelly as well as apple jelly, apple butter, peach butter, pear butter and strawberry jelly. I dry apples, peppers and now tomatoes. I have branched out into various nationalities of food and also cakes and pies. I'm no baker, so I'm still working on cakes and cookies. All I can say about cookies is – a pan is my friend.

The person who actually got my attention when I was younger was one that I did not realize until recently. My cousin Rena. Rena passed away maybe 10+- years ago. When I first remember her, 
I was maybe 7 years old and I think she was already in her 50s or 60s.  I will get to the point. Rena was college educated in home-economics. She cooked, sewed, crafted, created, and etc. When she put food on the table, it was an event. If you finished your plate, she would be upset if you did not go for seconds. She fixed 'fancy' foods. Stir-fry, tarts, torts, fancy cakes, casseroles and etc. She made a simple sandwich meal so fancy and loving. My cousin (her daughter) and I would come back from the pool to fancy pita pocket sandwiches (what, no light-bread?) filled with smoked turkey, lettuce, tomato served up with either potato or pasta salad on the side and chips on the plate. The drink of choice was glass-bottled coke, lemonade or Fresca with ice. Dessert would be some baked good or fresh cut-up fruit. Even my daughter remembers eating at similar 'easy' foods with a side of fresh peaches in cream at Rena's. All this food was served up on red earthenware plates. Her favorite color was red! Rena drank. Rena drank hard alcohol. Only a handful of relatives drink any alcohol in my family even today. Baptists you know. I was amazed that my old cousin drank! I was fascinated by it really.

OK, I am a southern girl. I take a simple story and weave all manner of information into it. Sorry! That will only get worse as I get older.

I guess...

What I eventually learned from Rena was three-fold:
1. Never stop learning - even if it is just in food or art.
2. Take the simple and make it fabulous.
3. Travel all you can manage. The memories may be all you have to hold onto in old age. 

Some ways I tried to live up to my lessons included:
Taking a tray of hot chocolate and small cookies or a tray of drinks, soup and crackers, or of various cheeses out under the tree to the chairs to sit with my daughter. She was maybe 10 at the time I started that. The time-frame gets a little fuzzy now, but, my daughter still seems to remember these times. The presentation would be all fancy, by candle light and cute, almost like a tea party I guess. We did not have much money so our fun food times were simple. There were times when we toasted mini-marshmallows over a burning candle. We had those yard torches burning, roses growing and neighbors watching the odd family. 

In recent years I threw what I call 'gatherings' where I just cooked, cooked and cooked some more around a theme. A pumpkin carving party with friends that included traditional harvest fare. An Italian food gathering with foods I had not tested, but made anyway. That one included 12 people under a dining tent in the rain. The table was made of sawhorses with a supported wood top covered by a huge table cloth and liner (that I had to make to fit such a large ‘table’), china, crystal and candles. Presentation was everything to me. Christmas was a good reason for heavy hors d’oeuvres including mini fried apple pies, hoe-cakes, truffles, sauces, mini Nachitoches meat pies, fried biscuits, cheeses, meats, meatballs, crackers and etc. More china, crystal, Depression glass and candles graced the table. It was a good night. And yes, there were cookies, but not one I tried to make came out – so I had to actually buy those! 

Sometimes I would bring home olives, lox, and crackers. I would chop up onions, lemons and chives and place all this on glass trays along with cream cheese, sour cream and capers in antique china bowls. This is a snack, with candles, in the middle of the day. Relish trays are our friend! Other times I cut up fresh fruits and make fruit cups mixed with a dash of sugar and lemon or lime juice. Always easy, always tasty, always pretty.

In this way I guess I show my love, or luv, for people who truly appreciate the thought and effort that goes into the act. I just want to make the simple things elegant, thoughtful and fun. Don’t get me wrong, I will toss things on the table and move on, but sometimes I just want it to be special. I am afraid I am not so inspired very often of late. It is really a sad state of affairs when that happens...

OK, so I learned from my parents and grandparents to use what you have, make it great, make it last and always share what you have. What I taught my daughter was all that plus - never turn your nose up at the food a person/family offers as you may insult them. Just because it is not what you are used to does not make it less than or better than what you normally eat - it is just different. AND, NEVER take all the food the person has out as it may very well be all they have for a few days, or a week, or.... Take a small amount on your plate, finish it enthusiastically while being gracious and grateful. 

Thank them from your heart!


  1. I forgot that I had subscribed via email to your blog - it popped into my Inbox overnight! Lovely read...I've written similar childhood memories about growing up on the farm my Grandparents homesteaded. Similar memories right down to canning the yearly harvest, growing all the fruits and vegetables and NOT NAMING THE LIVESTOCK!! *L* Kids can't ever resist doing that, though. Farm animal babies are just too cute to resist.

    I want the following: pickled garlic recipe and peach butter recipe.

    I also want to come to one of those festive gatherings - they sound fun!

    Keep writing, chica, as this was enjoyable to read.

    ~ Dawn

  2. Ohhh this was a good post! Everyone in my family is a cook, but a lot of the old school things have been lost in time.

    Eating isn't enjoyable to me anymore with all my stomach issues, but cooking...oh I love to cook for people who can eat. What your post reminded me of was the loss of eating around a table like it used to be. We'd all eat around a table at a family gather or just every night for normal dinner. Now it is fix something and everyone grabs a plate and heads to the living room or some such. Making dinner special even if we don't have a lot...I miss that.

    Love ya Cook! Keep writing!

  3. Hey Y'all! Apparently I am still getting used to maneuvering Blog-ville here!
    Maybe sooner than later I will get a gathering up in the Burg Dawn. The garlic recipe is easy, the peach I will have to find. Mom has the garlic pickle recipe.

    Yea, cooking for just me isn't going to happen!


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