Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Food for Thought

I believe my first experiences in the kitchen involved pie dough cookies and bread.
My mother was born on a self sustaining farm at the beginning of the depression and pies, usually apple made from the fruit of numerous trees dotting the yard were a staple. In fact, pie for breakfast was more common than not.
This carried through my mothers childhood into mine where she would take a day to fill every pie pan we had with sweetness. My brother and dad preferred apple and my favorite was cherry, but there were also apricot and peach pies as well as pear and numerous other combinations of the above. Most of the fruit came from our own orchard when in season. From bottles of preserves that mom put up when not and very rarely from a can from the store.
The crust was always from scratch, flour, oil, salt...I don't recall the rest of the ingredients, I recall it tasting rather bland and almost chalky when I'd sample it uncooked, but it underwent a magical transformation with the addition of cinnamon sugar and the bubbling syrup of cooking fruit.
As mom trimmed the edges off the crusts she would push the scraps over to my brother and I. We would lay them out on a cooking sheet and with her supervision we would brush them with milk then sprinkle them with the cinnamon sugar. They would then go into the oven toward the end of the pie's baking time and emerge all glittering and golden. They were a wonderful treat and never lasted long, I think usually they didn't even get all the way cooled down.

Bread was also made from scratch. I remember mom proofing the dough in a large steel bowl that at the time seemed large enough for me to bathe in.
As she stood and punched the dough, kneading and shaping it I remember her pinching off little balls for me to work as well although more often than not I'd eat most of it. The sweet white bread was always my favorite but the nutty, earthy taste of whole wheat was also good. There was something so comforting in the smell of yeast, and of course the smell of loaf after delicious loaf of fresh baked bread. The first one out hardly had time to be turned out of it's pan before we'd sliced it and slathered it, still steaming with butter that would instantly melt and soak through creating little golden rivers down our hands and arms if we weren't quick enough to catch them with our tongues.

I doubt there is a person out in the world that doesn't have an emotional attachment to food in some way. It is such an intrinsic part of our lives from birth to death.
Most people I talk to have memories of their first cooking experience. Some good, others...not so good.

For me, the essence of food is in the way it make you feel, the memories that it can conjur, the aroma, the texture and of course, the flavor. I want to share with you this little corner of my life. To share my love of creme brulee as I encounter the first sweet crunch of the sugar, the decadent bliss of the cream as it melts over my tongue allowing the vanilla infusion to permeate my senses as well as the fire in my favorite Thai dishes that makes my eyes water and my nose run as I savor the citrus tang of lime leaves and the fresh green flavor of cilantro.
I hope you enjoy this journey as I re-visit old favorites and create new ones. Here is to life well eaten.

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