April 20, 2005

Sandra Lee be damned!

A lot of people complain about what's being passed for recipes these days. Buy a bag of salad that already has the nuts, dried cranberries and salad dressing in other little bags. Take some pre-cooked frozen chicken strips, dump a can of cream of mushroom soup over it and shove the whole mess in the oven. Buy a box of cake mix and add X, Y & Z to it. Newsflash: I have dried rose petals, rose water, and rose preserves, but not even I have rose syrup and rose soda... nor could I tell you where to find that stuff. Isn't she supposed to be making cooking easier for the average housewife? Can you imagine what looks you'd get from the Piggly Wiggly stockboy if you asked him for rose syrup? Damn you, Sandra Lee!

Well, I will confess, the first thing I made for my not-yet husband when we were dating was a chicken, rice, and canned soup concoction. (except I used cream of celery, does that redeem it at all?) Well, how bad could it have been, he still eventually asked me to marry him!

As a kid, we ate what our parents bought. We spread our toast with Country Crock, which isn't even margarine. We ate canned soup, frozen pizza, sticky corn-syrup ice cream, store-brand cookies and ritz crackers.

In my case, we also ate lots of vegetables from our garden. My dad even raised rabbits for food for a while. (we had a large yard, but we did not live on a farm.) Thank heavens my family's Italian and we got good, crusty bread with dinner!

Next step: move on to college, where horrid cafeteria food is supplemented by what you can cook in a hotpot in your dorm: Ramen anyone? Healthy food meant yogurt and rice cakes and granola and air-popped popcorn.

In my case, the first time I experienced how wonderful food could be was when I went on those first business lunches and dinners, when my company picked up the tab. Struggling to make rent and car payments didn't leave much for cloth napkin dining, so I went on as many of those meetings as I could...even blowing off the aforementioned not-yet-husband to go to a business dinner.

I think that this must be similar to what most of my peers in the midwest experienced...except the large garden & rabbits part.

Between college and culinary school, there was a vast open wasteland of about 10 years of frozen entrées, canned veggies, too much takeout, and yes, even cream-of-something-soup casseroles. (Forgive me, Chef, for I have sinned!)

Now, at least, when I'm committing those sins, I'm doing it consciously, out of nostalgia or convenience. I'll never use Country Crock again, but I've got butter, flour, milk and quarts of frozen stock at the ready, so I'm never more than 15 minutes away from cream-of-something-soup, if I really, really need it.

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1 comment:

  1. Tell it!

    We have much the same background, except I was on the west coast. I grew up with cream of mushroom soup in the red n white can being the universal solvent....or maybe mayo was - they were used in equal proportions in my mom's kitchen.

    But at the same time, Dad was catching california spiny lobsters and shooting deer and quail and swapping them for abalone and scallops...so we had a kind of interesting mix like you with your rabbits.

    It was in college that I lived with Stacy, whose mom is a chef and was the first one to point out to me that Popeye's fried shrimp isn't the height of Cajun food. Suddenly we had a parmesan grater and a pepper mill on the table and fresh pasta...it was all new to me.

    I marvel at how Sandra's box cake mix creations are somehow more complicated than just making a cake from scratch (make cake, cut it out with cookie cutters, top it with ice cream and cool whip and melted jam...go figure.

    Love your blog.


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