My Mom asked my sister and I last week how it was that we became such good cooks. We both laughed and I jokingly answered that it was because I wanted to eat good food. I wasn’t trying to imply that Mom’s cooking wasn’t good. She’s a good cook. Her “throw togethers” – the crockpots full of god-knows-what that she cobbles together from the fridge and pantry – those are always DEElicious, but as Eliza and I were growing up she had a pretty limited repertoire. She would admit it. She was only 19 when I arrived and hadn’t had too much time on her own to discover food and all the wonderful (and horrible) ways that you can combine ingredients and we lived close to poverty level sometimes so a fully stocked pantry wasn’t really an option. She always did her best to put a full meal on the table and to this day a box of mac n’ cheese mixed with a can of tunafish and a cup of peas is total comfort food for me.
But her question got me to thinking about my cooking. I had Patrick laughing when I brought up one of the meals I used to make weekly when we first moved in together – Shake n’ Bake pork cutlets and diced potatoes, tossed in italian dressing and roasted with a side of frozen corn or peas. Yep, I made it every week. That same first year we were together I got my first subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine. I discovered a bone deep need to make food that tasted as good as the meals on those glossy pages looked. Of course I also discovered that I would need to double my income before I could afford half the ingredients and required cookware for most of the recipes on those glossy pages – and that good looking food does not always taste as good as it looks.
I think I had been interested in food since childhood – I was designated “potato peeler”and “carrot curl maker” at my Nanny’s house until I was promoted to “salad maker/tosser” and “baking dry ingredients sifter”. I wrote before about my Betty Crocker Cookbook for Kids and I started collecting recipes when I was about 12 but I never organized them or really made any of the ones I had collected until that first year we were together.
We lived in Georgia at the time, Athens – home of UGA and the 1996 Women’s Olympic Soccer games, and a year after we moved down I took a quick homesick trip back up to Massachusetts to see my Mom and Sister. While I was there we hit the salvation army and I found these great little metal boxes that would fit 4×6 index cards. i caused a bit of a snafu at the airport when I want home because I had put them in my carry on bag and they x-ray couldn’t see inside them. I was pulled over by security and they went through my bag and pockets, I was terrified, of what I don’t know. This was in 1996 – WAY before all the crazy stuff you have to go through at airports now.
I still have these little boxes and use them all the time, they had happy little divider cards for all sorts of different categories of food. I’m contemplating a recipe clean out soon because they are so full and I’m always adding new bits and pieces. Both boxes are green and for the first few months I had a hard time remembering which box I had put what recipes in until I decided that “Light is for Lunches” and “Dark is for Desserts” I’ve never been confused since. My latest entry, in the salads section, is one of my absolute favorite things that my Mother-in-Law makes and I’ll share it with you to put in your own recipe box.
Copper Carrots or Copper Coins
2 Cups Carrots, sliced and cooked till just done and still firm 2/3 Cup Vinegar
1 Lrg Onion, chopped 1 Cup Sugar
1 Green Pepper, chopper 1/2 Cup oil
1 can Tomato Soup 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
dash of garlic salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients and let marinate for 24 hours. Serve cold. I have found that using rice wine vinegar allows you to cut back the sugar to 1/2 cup without ant appreciable difference in flavor. Enjoy!
Where do you keep you recipes?