Friday, August 12, 2005

A foodie in search of a country

This week, I made a ginger cream and red currant tart for my family, which no one really liked. Granted, it wasn't the best tart I've ever made. The crust was a bit crumbly and I stupidly used sea salt instead of regular table salt (note to self: don't bake late at night) so it was a bit more pungent than usual. But, their general dislike of the tart was not because of my baking failures but the mix of flavors (the sweet crust, gingery cream, and tart berries). We had just had a dinner of stir-fry made with canned beef! (not my cooking, my mom's) I realized what a food outsider (except for my brother and marginally, one sister) I am in my family. My foodie friends who have children tell me how their kids are always pleading with them to make food from a box, and I'm sure this will be my fate should I ever have children.

So, I've been thinking about what generated my interest in food. I thought it might be fun to complete, as Tara suggested, the food survey from Chocolate and Zucchini. Here are my responses. Tara and Sarah (and anyone else who wants to join in) I hope to hear yours.

What is your first memory of baking/ cooking on your own?
I can't remember! I remember making some frothy Tang shake one day when I was home sick from school (a recipe that I think came from Reader's Digest). Most likely, my first independent cooking experience was making these peanut butter treats my mom taught us how to make so we wouldn't bug her for sweets. They were pretty tasty. The recipe: Mix together equal parts dry milk, peanut butter, and honey (or jam). Form into small balls, roll in powdered sugar, and chill (if you can wait that long!) Yum, yum.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
I can credit my mother with teaching me how to read a recipe. My brother deserves much credit for sparking my interest in food. My friend Carmen taught me how to chop an onion in my hand and how to taste for salt. My happiest cooking memories are being with her in her kitchen making rice and peas, curry chicken, salt cod. These days, I get a lot of instruction and inspiration from Marcella Hazan's cookbooks and www.epicurious.com

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world? Sadly, no.

Mageiricophobia—do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat? My favorite dessert is Bananas Foster, and I'd love to make it at home, but I'm deathly afraid of flambe-ing (how do you make that a noun?)

What is your most valued or used kitchen gadget and/or what was the biggest letdown? My George Foreman grill. I can hear the sniggering already, but it's truly fabulous. Oh, and my new ice cream maker. My biggest disappointment was my stovetop espresso maker. It made the coffee taste tinny.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/ dishes you really like—and probably no one else! Can't think of any--maybe marshmallow peeps and chocolate? Although they now make chocolate eggs with peeps inside, so I'm not the only one.

What are the three foods or dishes you simply don’t want to live without? Bread and ice cream. Not sure about #3--everything else seems to fit there.

Your favorite ice-cream?All kinds. Maybe mint chocolate chip. Right now, Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy

You will probably never eat: I think I'll try anything once.

A common ingredient you just can’t bring yourself to stomach: Velveeta cheese (it's common in these parts). At my parents' house:canned beef.

Which one culture’s food would you most like to sample on its home turf? Italian--obvious, but true.

Any signs that your passion for food is going slightly over the edge and may need intervention? Recently, I'd made so much ice cream in my new machine that I had three partially eaten batches in my freezer--couldn't eat one before I made another.

Any embarrassing eating habits? Maybe the marshmallow peeps. The fact that I can (and usually do) eat a pint of ice cream in one go.

Who would you want to come into your kitchen to cookd dinner for you? Marcella Hazan, Thomas Keller, Carmen.

Who’s your favorite food writer?Not sure about a favorite writer, but one of my favorite descriptions of food is Pearl Buck's musings on rice in The Good Earth

2 Comments:

Blogger tara said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one whose interest in food actually didn't come from home. Every time my mom calls and asks what I'm cooking, the answer invariably makes her shudder. :) Everyone in my family thinks I eat "weird" food. It seems like every food writer I've ever read has the obligatory essay about learning to cook from their wonderful Italian mother, etc. etc. No, I grew up on Wonder Bread, so I'm not sure how to explain it...

Anyway, I'll save the rest of my thoughts on this for when I fill out the questionnaire.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

My dad loves to eat and will try anything, and he appreciates greasy fried potatoes and onions as much as gourmet fare. As I was growing up, my mom was a utilitarian cook who made dinner because she was supposed to, but never particularly enjoyed it; she wonders how my interest in cooking developed, because it certainly didn't come from her, she says!

Yes, I'll fill out the questionnaire, and I'm interested in having Ed do so as well!

2:04 PM  

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