There are few things better than sharing good food with good people. Many of my happiest memories include a shared meal, and I’d reckon that many of yours do as well. I was raised in a family that appreciated food and took pleasure in all aspects of it. Growing, cooking, seasoning and experimenting with it. This was before the days of the farm-to-table movement. Those were the backyard garden – to – dinner plate days.
My mother and grandmother grew all sorts of vegetables and knew countless ways to use up the harvest. Part of the fun was playing around in the kitchen with a “let’s just see what happens” attitude. While most of the time we made delightful discoveries like battered and fried squash blossoms or potato peels dusted with rice flour and roasted til crispy, there was the occasional let down. My Grandma once tried to make jelly out of some bruised crabapples – not the best idea!
My family also really placed an emphasis on quality and often shopped at various ethnic stores. It was always an adventure! I remember going to the Chinese grocery while my mom picked out live crabs and fresh fish. The Italian butcher shop for lamb. The Halal shop for goat meat. The Indian store for spices and tea. The European bakery for butter cookies. We grew most of our vegetables, and what we didn’t grow, we bought fresh. My mom never followed recipes, and our meals were based entirely on whether the food was both fresh AND cheap. Fresh food tastes better. Food is cheaper when it is in season. In this way, I learned to love seasonal, local foods.
I’ve kept this sense of “let’s just see what happens” in my kitchen. I’ve discovered that if you start with good ingredients – garden fresh veggies, herbs, and fresh meat, that even a simple meal can feel indulgent. I love the adventure that accompanies buying unfamiliar vegetables and trying to figure out what to do with them. I also love scratch cooking – both for the taste and for the sense of accomplishment!