Tag Archives: Alice Waters

A Cook/Book That Changed My Life

23 Mar

I grew up eating wonderful food. Both my parents were excellent cooks. Mom cooked most of the meals, but Dad was also very adept in the kitchen. Mom, in fact, said it was my father who taught her how to cook, after they were married, as she had little desire or use for cooking until she became a wife and it was forced upon her. Thankfully, she came to enjoy cooking immensely and was one hell of a great cook.

Both my grandmothers — my maternal Grandmother, “Honey” and my paternal grandmother, “Maw-Maw”, the pronunciation of which is difficult to get on paper — were also incredible cooks. I’m not sure my maternal grandfather, “Papa”, ever cooked, though like his grandson he sure enjoyed eating. Dad’s dad, “Paw-Paw”, also didn’t cook much but when he did, he shined. Among other things, he made a terrific and rather intense squirrel gumbo. Just watch out for the buckshot in the meat…

Our meals tended to be comprised of rich, heavy food. Deep dark gumbos, thickly layered casseroles, braised meats, vegetables laden with butter and cream. Eating vegetables light meant broiled or sauteed only in butter, minus cheese and/or cream. Dad’s side of the family tree is Cajun so we ate a lot of white rice, as opposed to potatoes and bread. To this day there are few things in the world better to me than white rice ladled with pan drippings from roasted meats. We ate loads of Tex-Mex as well. This was good food in the best sense of the word. It wasn’t the healthiest food, however, evidenced most effectively by my Dad’s sudden death, mid-sentence to my mom, of a heart attack at age 54.

I was 24 years old when Dad died. Blessed with his same genes, I realized I needed to at least try to eat healthier. Working post-college for ten years as a waiter in a terrific steak house didn’t make eating healthy easy. (Just wait for the waiting tables blog. Just you wait.) Besides, I didn’t really know how to eat healthy, or rather, how to eat healthy and still have the food taste good. This probably seems strange now but if you’re over 30, you might remember how different our thinking about food was at the time. Only ‘hippies’ were interested in farmer’s markets and organic produce.  We were still being told margarine was healthier than butter, for goodness sakes! Much of what we were told and taught about food for years now seems insane, so it might be hard to remember how blinded we were. For me, a bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo made with one stick of butter rather than two sticks of butter, and a slight cutting back on the cream, was healthy cooking.

One afternoon driving to the steakhouse, however, I heard a woman being interviewed on NPR about her new cookbook…

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Throw Me A Chicken Leg, I’ll Be Fine.

28 Feb

Few things in life are more enjoyable than a good meal with good friends. To sit around a table adorned with food and wine, shared by people with whom you are supremely comfortable, is one of life’s great pleasures. I should know. I am blessed with wonderful friends who prize these times as much as I. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t need to be planned. Some of my happiest times have been around the food table.

One such evening in the backyard, a few of us were having a particularly raucous time. It was a balmy Southern California night, a hint of warm Santa Ana in the air, the night sky dark and clear. I don’t remember the specific foods we ate, it wasn’t that kind of meal, though the dinner was good. What I remember most was the warm glow I felt, not just from the wind, not only from the wine. Sara, Brian, Chad and Claire made life wonderful as we joked, talked, laughed and countered each other late into the night.

At some point, the conversation wandered to the TV show Lost, which, when the show was airing, tended to happen if I was around for I was and remain a fanatic for the show. (Loved the finale, btw. Loved. It. I am in that half of ‘Lost Fandom’ and I feel sorry for and rather above the complainers.) Most of us were watching Lost so we all had our say about those poor people on the island. I then made a simple, honest comment that caused a huge eruption.

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