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Meme: The Cook Next Door


First, I apologize to Sarah, and any one who read my comment on her site, for being so tardy with this posting.  I had all the best intentions of having it posted on Tuesday but the day was busy and got away from me.  Wednesday morning I had been working on it for some time when I realized I hadn’t done an incremental save.  As I clicked on save I accidentally hit my cable box with my foot shutting the power off and losing everything! :-(   I decided I shouldn’t go right back to it and decided to try again that afternoon when I returned from an adventure on a 77′ sailboat, which I’ll be writing about in a day or two.  However, we got back to the marina about 2 1/2 hours later than I was expecting (not necessarily a bad thing!) so I barely had time to rush home, change and meet M at our designated spot at the Mariners’ game.  My next plan was to try again when I got home from the game.  Well, the game went into extra innings and we finally beat Oakland 5-4 in the 12th.  Needless to say that got me home pretty late last night and in no shape to write.  So now I’m finally getting to it.  Now where is that “save” button….

Sarah from The Delicious Life has tagged me for another meme working its way around the virtual (and real) world.  This is an interesting one as it gives some insight into how we got to where we are today in the cooking/culinary world.  The meme was started by Nicky, of Delicious Days (Hey, what’s with all of the “Delicious” names?? I feel a little left out!).  Okay, here we go!

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
I started making cookies when I was pretty young but I actually think the first thing I made on my own was fried liverwurst.  :-) I was probably about 7 years old at the time.  My Dad and I were home alone, or actually my younger sisters were probably napping and I don’t think my brother had been born yet, that’s why I know I was 7 or younger.  I have no idea what made me want to cook liverwurst but my Dad humored me.  I sliced it up, cooked it in a little frying pan until it was browned on both sides, then ate it with bread and butter.  It was actually pretty good – I guess that was probably what started me on the path to loving foie gras!

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
Both my Mom and Dad, as well as other family members have all had an influence.  Being the oldest with three other siblings I started helping out with evening dinners, at first doing the simpler things but eventually moving on to handling a large percentage of the dinner while my Mom tended the younger kids.  My Dad used to do many of the holiday meals – I think both because he really enjoys cooking and to give my Mom a break – and so I learned about cooking “big” things (turkeys, hams and rib roasts) and specialty things (stuffing and other items that made up holiday meals) mostly from him.  He also used to do lots of fun things like one year he made my brother a train cake – complete with engine, car and caboose – and one year he made me the most wonderful Creme de Menthe cake – a complex affair that is very decadent.  My parents also supported me whenever I wanted to try new things.  I was maybe 13 when I decided I wanted to learn to bake bread so my Mom got me bread cookbook and made sure there was yeast in the house so I experimented with all kinds of things, even though neither my Mom or Dad ever made it themselves.

In addition, I learned a lot from both of my grandmothers.  Grandma N was a little, Italian lady who made all kinds of wonderful sauces and soups.  The spaghetti sauce I make today is really just a version of hers.  My Grandma W was a meat and potatoes cook and she did everything in a big way – mainly because she had ten children!  She used to make all the bread for her family, although she wasn’t doing that by the time I was born.  She made massive amounts of Christmas cookies, a tradition I carry on today.

Family PicnicDo you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?
Hmmm.  I think photos exist but, unfortunately, I don’t have any of them.  They’d be somewhere in my parents’ albums in Oregon.  I do, however, have this photo of my Mom’s parents, my Dad and I on our way to a picnic.  My younger sister, D, is in the carriage.  I was about 4 1/2 in this picture.  :-)

Mageiricophobia – do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?
Not really, although there are some things I haven’t tried because my perception is that they are difficult.  Over time I try to work those things into my repertoire, if not on a regular basis at least to that I know what they really entail.  My main phobia is that when I have a party that there won’t be enough food so I always make way too much and end up with leftovers up to my ears!  Someday, I’ll get better at that….

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?
As a precursor to Sam’s Utensibility event, I’ll say that I love my big, red Kitchenaid mixer.  I actually have two – started with a smaller version and then upgraded to the big-boy but haven’t yet been able to part with the original…

I have purchased things that I didn’t care for but I can’t really remember them.  I get rid of things that aren’t useful.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like – and probably no one else!
I make stuff up all the time, based on what’s in the refrigerator at the moment. I’ll put just about anything in scrambled eggs or on crostini…  I still like liverwurst – and I don’t know anyone else who buys it but I do every now and then.  More often now I just buy a bunch of chicken liver, sauté it and eat it up.  I’m sure there are other odd things but they’ve become normal to me now.  If I was making them this moment it might occur to me they were a little odd.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?
This is kind of tough but I’ll say bread, cheese, wine.  I could probably live the rest of my life on those three items.  Well, except during tomato season, oh and strawberry season, oh and…  No, really bread cheese and wine are probably the very basics that play a major role in my personal cuisine.

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!

Three people to pass it on to
This is the hardest question!  Let’s see, how about:

  1. Unknown permalink
    23-Jun-2005 12:06 pm

    Great post! I didn\’t know you had an Italian grandmother. We may be cousins!Buon apetito!Sal

  2. Sylvie permalink
    23-Jun-2005 6:14 pm

    Thank you very much B. It will take me a couple of days to post but I am looking forward to it.

  3. Culinary permalink
    23-Jun-2005 8:00 pm

    Looking forward to it, Sylvie! I\’ll be checking up to see what you come up with ~ :-) Sal, I\’m sure we are and that would explain a lot, wouldn\’t it!?! :-) My grandfather was born in Italy and moved to the US when he was a toddler. My grandma and her younger sister were born in the US but all of their older siblings (I think 9 of them) were born in Italy. Both families lived in New York in the Italian community. My Mom had many relatives who only spoke Italian. During WWII my grandparents moved to the west coast – my Mom was 9 – and that was their first real break from the community. The Italian half is the biggest influence in most of my cooking, eating drinking and the German half (my Dad\’s family) is the biggest influence in my (sometimes too) organized life. All in all I\’m probably lucky it turned out that way instead of vice-versa! :-) ~ B

  4. Unknown permalink
    01-Jul-2005 6:19 pm

    Hey B!We\’ve finally put up our meme answers over at: for the tag!–Mrs D & Chopper DavePS: Sometimes we\’d eat 10 cent ramen on nights when Dave was eating foie gras that day at culinary school. How\’s that for incongruity!

  5. Culinary permalink
    02-Jul-2005 6:47 am

    Mrs. D, I checked out your entry and it\’s great, as always! Thanks for joining in!~ B

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