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Comfort Foods
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 1:52 am    Post subject: Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! Reply with quote

Oh my God, Rainey.......Marcia Adams...

I have had a love affair with this woman since I heard her, on a rainy Saturday afternoon on NPR, years and years ago.

I can't even recall which show she was on; all I know, is that time stopped when I heard her Siren Song about heirloom recipes and the next day, I ran to Barnes & Noble to pick up her latest book: HEIRLOOM RECIPES.

I devoured that book; I have read it...I mean...really, really READ it, so many times, that it's almost biblical how I can quote it. I also have so many 3M flag-tags in the pages, that the top of the book looks like a Cardinal bird.

It was published in 1994 and I've since bought any book the woman writes because she speaks not only to me, but for me, with the forgotten foods of our past.

Her is the first paragraph from the dust jacket:

"Like a family album or patchwork quilt that is handed down with love to successive generations, cherished recipes can also provide a special link to earlier times. In the tradition of Heartland and the award-winning Cooking from Quilt Country, Marcia Adams brings together more than 250 home-grown recipes from around the United States, plus a handful of new favorites that she predicts will stand the test of time. Journeying from her home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to all four corners of the nation, Marcia has ferreted out the deliciously nostalgic foods that we remember so fondly.

Visiting church socials, country roadhouses, historical restorations, libraries in towns large and small, as well as the kitchens of some of the nation's finest cooks, Marcia sends "postcards from the road", a delightful travelogue that helps the reader understand how and why our food traditions came into being---and how they are being kept alive today. Her observations shed fascinating light on how the settling of our country and the ongoing influx of immigrants, who bring with them the cooking traditions of their diversified ancestral heritages, have left an indelible stamp on our culture."

I phoned up Directory Assistance after having read the book and got her address in Fort Wayne...and wrote her a "love letter" about her book. Three weeks later, I got the nicest, hand written letter back from her, saying how touched she was that her book "found such a receptive home". I cherish that letter and have it in that cookbook.

More than Martha, more than Ina or Emeril or any other cook, Marcia is the one that ignited my passion to explore MY genetic heritage and past, through the use and cooking of my heirloom recipes.
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dairy_Queen wrote:
In a way, it's Ethnic Cleansing, via the cookbooks.


An interesting analogy, this Ethnic Cleansing. It also happened during the 1950s and '60s when food makers decided the homemakers needed help in the kitchen and all kinds of frozen, prepared, and convienence foods were invented. My mother didn't keep any of the ethnic (Austro-Hungarian) recipes nor did her mother. But, my Italian grandmother cooked pure, unadulterated Italian.

My Italian grandmother had a very simple cooking style. She had few ingredients in the frig and cupboards: home-made salami, blocks of Parmesian cheese, bread, butter, chicken stock for risotta, beans, and pasta. Luches at Italian gramdma were two slices of bread, a slice of cheese, and slices of salami. Breakfast was toast with unsalted butter. They never had boxed cereal. Though she did have oatmeal, I think. I don't remember having any condiments. Supper was either: spaghetti, ravioli, or risotta with usually chicken or meatballs. They never had a barbecue, and they new nothing of hotdogs or burgers cooked at home. My grandfather did have a tiny, backyard garden where he grew mostly types of Italian greens -- they tasted bitter to me. For snacks we had ice-cream sandwitches, and those big 2-pound bags of vanilla, or chocolate cookies. My grandfather always had a bowl of gramcrackers with milk before bed. Oh, and grandma made big chocolate cakes and chocolate pies.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm so glad to see that you agree, Sarape. And you're bang on with nailing the 50's and 60's as our most recent episode of cleansing.

I'm an anomoly, and I know it. While hundreds of thousands of Boomer kids were subjected to TV dinners and instant mixes for food, courtesy of their well-meaning parents, I was living with my Grandparents, who were born in the 1800's. So, I completely avoided that eraser-effect from my memory of the dishes of my heritage.

Kids were eating Chef Boyardee and I was eating freshly caught sunfish with asparagus and boiled red potatoes with butter and dill. Kids were eating Swanson's Polynesian TV dinners and I was eating stewed rhubard, roasted fresh-killed chicken with mashed parsnips.

My Grandmother was Finnish, My Grandfather was Swedish and on my father's side, it was English and Chippewa, from the days of the Fur Trade. Everything was about the SEASON of food, eating what was being raised at the moment, or in Winter, eating what you put aside.

Tastes that most people despise today are relished with lip-smacking goodness from me: molasses, salted and smoked fish, rhubarb, etc.

Even though most American's think that they have such a Designer palette today (I'm not talking about the people on this board, which are different from the Average Joe), it basically boils down to jalepenos, chipoltes, balsamic vinegar, fish sauce and hot sauce.

This is all fine and good if your ancestry is Hispanic or Asian but what the heck! Where's the German, Northern Italian, Russian, Irish, Scottish, Dutch, Swiss and African recipes???

Aside from this board, how many people do you know have had spaetzle? Or borscht? Or Fruit soup? To the Average American walking the street, they'd rather go a day without Starbucks than eat any of this blissfully simple food.

We've lost the taste for sweet and sour, unless it's Gummy Worms. We've lost the taste for pure apple sauce, unless it's brown as mud with cinnamon and corn syrup/sugar. And egg custard is only served on top of a Heineman's sweet roll.

Sarape wrote:
My Italian grandmother had a very simple cooking style. She had few ingredients in the frig and cupboards: home-made salami, blocks of Parmesian cheese, bread, butter, chicken stock for risotta, beans, and pasta. Luches at Italian gramdma were two slices of bread, a slice of cheese, and slices of salami. Breakfast was toast with unsalted butter. They never had boxed cereal. Though she did have oatmeal, I think. I don't remember having any condiments. Supper was either: spaghetti, ravioli, or risotta with usually chicken or meatballs. They never had a barbecue, and they new nothing of hotdogs or burgers cooked at home. My grandfather did have a tiny, backyard garden where he grew mostly types of Italian greens -- they tasted bitter to me. For snacks we had ice-cream sandwitches, and those big 2-pound bags of vanilla, or chocolate cookies. My grandfather always had a bowl of gramcrackers with milk before bed. Oh, and grandma made big chocolate cakes and chocolate pies.


I fully believe that it was the pure simplicity of food, well done and without preservatives, that allowed our Grandpma's, Oma's and other old relatives to live to their advances old ages.

These are things that I never tasted until I moved away from home, as it just wasn't in our cuisine: Mashed potatoes and gravy: we had boiled potatoes with butter and dill. Any pasta (called spaghetti in the old days) at all! What Scandinavian do YOU know who made pasta dishes?! Bagels: we heard about them, but thought they were just hard, tough donuts! Pizza: again, not Scandinavian. Anything barbecued!!! My first taste of grilled burgers was when I went to Uni, at 18. Deep fried ANYTHING!!! Never had it as a child, never had it while growing up. Why deep fry when you can have broiled or baked?

I know that most of you won't believe any of the above, but, again, I was lving in an ethnically pure environment, representative of an earlier time. There wasn't a single fast food restaurant ANYWHERE where we lived, in Northern Minnesota. I think the first McDonald's made it to our side of the Mississippi River in the 1970's. There were no Pizza Huts, no Taco Bells...there were just small restaurants where you could get the freshest fish, with butter or tartar sauce, steak, or chicken.

Dessert, when I was a kid was seasonal. When it was berry picking time, dessert was the Berry d' Jeur, with fresh cream on top. Maybe a teaspoon of sugar for the Old Folks. Stewed prunes, steamed or baked apples. Angle Food cake followed by Pound Cake, to use up the yolks. Served with whipped cream and berries. And pie, loads and loads of pie, again, served from what was growing outside or canned.

I love cooking and eating and to me, it's always an adventure to find another Thai, Indian or Mexican restaurant. But, I mourn the loss of simple tastes, and the simple pleasures that went with it.

Not everything tastes better with Balsamic vinegar tossed on top of it!
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you have it in you to write a book on this Ethnic Cleansing of our cooking and eating habits? It wouldn't be a pure cookbook, though you'd want in include ideas for dishes. It would be more a cooking-eating-living philosophy book related to both our local (seasonal ingredients) and ethnic background. You may want to have a Northern Italian write a chapter on their traditions, a German write another chapter, et cetera. Of course, you have the background for the Scandinavian style. And you have the writing talent for the rest of the infrastructure of the book.

Now, has it been done already a hundred times? As I heard on NPR this morning on the drive in to work: 175,000 books (titles) were puplished in 2003.

Well, I'm sure you've thought of this as one activity when you retire and your partner has that baby.

An ecumenical title like: Simple, Ethnic Cooking and Living Guide to Happiness.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sarape, you are a genius! I love the idea of having different authors do the various styles of food. In a million years of sleep, I couldn't have come up with this! I already know who would do the Italian section; dear friends of mine in their 50's who are South Side Chicagoans and cook Italian, classic Italian, for virtually every meal.

I'm going to have to have a good 'think' about this now. And the title is wonderful;it's clear, warm, and succinct. If this comes off, I'll give you credit on the inside pages!

Speaking earlier on Comfort Grilled Cheeses, a fellow foodie sent me this link about grilled cheese. Big yawn, right? Far from it! This woman has actually written a book, entitled Great Grilled Cheese and from this link you can print out 4 recipes: from Apple, Ham and Cheddar on Sourdough to Ricotta and Marmalade with Chocolate Sauce.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/29/earlyshow/living/recipes/printable646322.shtml

Too bad I already ate before I got this link; oh well, there's always tomorrow!
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Lady Amalthea



Joined: 18 Dec 2004
Posts: 136
Location: New York City

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dairy_Queen wrote:
I'm an anomoly, and I know it.

I love cooking and eating and to me, it's always an adventure to find another Thai, Indian or Mexican restaurant. But, I mourn the loss of simple tastes, and the simple pleasures that went with it.


I do agree with you. But perhaps I'm an anomaly as well. My mom never worked (except at home), so I grew up with homemade dinners almost every night. While she would sometimes try new things, the usual was whatever looked good at market with some herbs or just fresh olive oil (especially drizzled on fish). Now that my partner and I are living together and I'm cooking almost every ngiht, I'm following the same kinds of rules--pick a nice-looking fish or meat and cook it simply with garlic and whatever herbs are in the house, then some vegetables. Don't get me wrong; I also like to *experiment.* But, especially on weeknights, it's easier to make simpler foods.

As for foods from other cultures, my family's Jewish and one of my favorite things that my mom makes is her mother's fried cauliflower (called grandma's fried cauliflower). And (pardon the shameless plug) she wrote a cookbook of family Jewish recipes from around the world--The Gefilte Variations. So (at least while she was testing) I ate lots of family foods.

Of course, my grandmother (who was a wonderful cook) was influenced by her Italian and Irish neighbors, but "borrowing" flavors and tips from other cultures is always fun. Otherwise we'd never have tomato sauce on our Italian pasta! Or ravioli (or kreplach) made with wonton wrappers (a family favorite).

In terms of restaurants for other cultures, I've always thought of Russian and Jewish food as being so simple you're not really gonna go out for it, except to a deli for pastrami or a late-night diner for perogis and blinis. But, my partner just told me, his family always goes out for matzoh ball soup (he's Chinese) as a special treat, so I guess I'm wrong...

Back to comfort foods, he says Congee, a Chinese rice porridge. My mom also always made me pastina when I was sick (which her grandmother used to make her). It's like little pastas (my favorite were alphabets or star shapes) cooked in butter and milk.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know a woman who teaches Childcare classes at the local community college. She always tells her students that they have a special responsibility to cook with children because she says that they have so little exposure to it at home anymore. It's not just, she says, that no one makes them real cookies, no one makes dinner from real food ingredients anymore. We're in a major metropolitan area and I fear what she says is true. Restaurants are always packed any day of the week, any time of the day. Grocery stores, in addition to all the frozen meals, have "meat cases" full of entrées that just need to be popped in the microwave and special bags into which you pop a salad from their salad bar + a rotisserie chicken from the deli. Meanwhile, no one gets home from work before 8PM.

If kids are missing cooking they're missing a world of learning from fractions, catalysts, coordination, logical sequencing, sensory education, deferred gratification, social & cooperative behavior and who knows all of what else!!!

Meanwhile, the story of Lady Amalthea's husband getting matzo ball soup from a deli reminds me of when one of my girls brought a friend home for dinner one day. I think they were middle school age. We were having matzo ball soup (my son called it "beachball soup" when he was little). I think my daughter's friend was more or less afraid of it. It was "Jewish" food, she'd never had it and she was genuinely intimidated by the unfamililar. Spaghetti was her idea of "ethnic" food. I was stunned! Matzo ball soup is comfort food fergodssake! -- hardly exotic or challenging! My own kids had grown up eating Thai, Indian, MIddle Eastern, Mexican, Jewish, Greek, whatever, in fact, we had the opportunity to try.

Dairy_Queen and Sarape's conversation reminds me that we lose something when the unique special regional favorites give way to the inevitability of national restaurant chains bulldozing the national palate but we also lose when we narrow our experience not to take advantage of all the world has to offer. And to do as much of it as we can in our own kitchens and schools. My oldest daughter is now 27. Recently she was telling me about a memory she had of making tamales with her friends in preschool. After all these years, she is able to tell me now, in a way she wasn't able to when she was younger, what that experience meant to her! That young children today are missing these experiences is a tragedy! It breaks my heart!
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also regarding matzo ball soup, Marilyn Monroe is reported to have asked at a dinner party when served matzo ball soup, "Do you eat any other parts of the matzo?" Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey and Lady Amalthea: I could have hit the "quote" button and highlighted both of your entire texts. It's gratifying that others here have spent such quality time thinking about what we're losing. And by "we", I mean humanity.

At another site, where a thread was started on Comfort Food, the topic went on for 10 pages! What it broke down to, if you analysed the results was A) Cereals in any form: cornmeal mush, oatmeal, cold cereal and B) the ubiquitous grilled cheese or a variation of it.

Looking backwards in human history, isn't that what our most ancient of ancestors ate: gruel/porriage and cheese & bread? That's 1000's of years of comfort.

I agree with everyone that has said that trying different cultures and recipes is necessary for fun and personal growth. But trying them, at the cost of losing who we have been since we walked upright, seems to high a cost.

Both your posts, Rainey and Lady Amalthea, have given me a lot of food for thought. Thanks for such wonderful insight and examples.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some threads, like a good conversation, have a life all their own. But, I wanted to post a link on this exact subject in the Cookbook thread. So, it's there.
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey wrote:
Also regarding matzo ball soup, Marilyn Monroe is reported to have asked at a dinner party when served matzo ball soup, "Do you eat any other parts of the matzo?" Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil


Not knowing enough about her, this was likely a sincere question, I guess. I plead ignorance vis-a-vis matzo-ball soup. Never tasted it, never seen a picture or read a description of it either. She would have required no training for any of the Indian Jones movies.

Yes, Rainey, the chain restaurants: Ruby Tuesday, Fridays, Waffle House (here in Dixie they are everywhere), and numerous Chinese joints always seem to have a parking-lot full of cars each evening.

Super-market prepared foods: I don't begrudge anyone who's willing to spend the money for conveinence foods like a roasted chicken from a supermarket. To me, it is like listening to pop music. I'm never going to get the masses to enjoy or embrace classical music, so I don't bother. There will always be niches like this group who like good food and cooking. Similarly, there will always be a niche group who rejects pop music in favor of classical or serious music. I suspect we all know that trying to compete with mass culture is a losing game. So I don't try and I lose no sleep if most people don't share my views.

Dairy_Queen, the other universal comfort food on this forum was mac-n-cheese.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sarape wrote:
Rainey wrote:
Also regarding matzo ball soup, Marilyn Monroe is reported to have asked at a dinner party when served matzo ball soup, "Do you eat any other parts of the matzo?" Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil


Not knowing enough about her, this was likely a sincere question, I guess. I plead ignorance vis-a-vis matzo-ball soup. Never tasted it, never seen a picture or read a description of it either. She would have required no training for any of the Indian Jones movies.
.


I dunno. The lady was married to Arthur Miller. I don't think he was a guy who went trolling for the brain dead, ya know? I think she was the Madonna or Jessica Simpson of her day -- just as "dumb" as suited her purpose.

I've heard before that she had a wicked sense of humor. This may be an example of it. I can just see well-dressed people spitting out their soup as she breathed this in all her "naiveté". Priceless! Twisted Evil
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, Rainey, especially the Jessica Simpson analogy. Here's some direct quotes from this year's Dumb Blonde. Laughing

[Jessica Simpson and her husband are enjoying a delicious meal of Chicken of the Sea tunafish.]
Jessica Simpson: "Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish?"



[Jessica is inverviewed by Chaunce Hayden of Metro Channel's 'Naked New York']
Jessica Simpson: " I hate to admit it, but yes, I swear to you, I really thought Chicken of the Sea was actually chicken. That's how I really think."



[Chicken of the Sea company invites Jessica to a company meeting.]
Chicken of the Sea exec Don George: "We wanted to bring her down and make sure she understood the difference, and told her the story of how the brand name originated. "

This link is pretty funny: http://www.chickenofthesea.com/news_4.aspx
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Nancy



Joined: 18 Feb 2005
Posts: 4
Location: Peak District, UK

PostPosted: Sat Feb 19, 2005 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="swan"]In dutch we even call coffee "een bakkie troost", which means as much as 'a cup of comfort/consolation'.[/quote]

I like the 'cup of comfort' - I am working with business partners on Holland, and when meetings are held there, there is so much coffee (and GOOD coffee), it takes me 3 days to be able to sleep Very Happy
I get a lot of work done, though!

Now I'll memorise "een bakkie troost" and suprise my Dutch collegues next week Laughing
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debsdelectables



Joined: 07 Apr 2005
Posts: 5
Location: New Jersey

PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:41 pm    Post subject: back to comfort food Reply with quote

While macaroni and cheese is definitely comfort food for me, when I'm feeling blue, I go out, buy some ripe organic avocados, fresh garlic, Trader Joe's salsa verde, fresh limes, and make some guacamole. I also use cilantro (the dried variety because I only like fresh cilantro in Indian food) in the guac along with a little salt and pepper. If I'm feeling spicy, I'll add a little hot sauce--green to keep the colors in the green family.

The best chips for this green dish are the Santitas from Frito Lay. Perfect crunch and just enough salt not to be plain and not too salty to be obnoxious. Also recommended are Garden of Eatin's Red Hot Blues. Very crunchy, made with blue corn and perfectly spicy.

Another favorite comfort food is a good grilled swiss cheese and tomato sandwich on rye. Even just toasted rye bread with a little butter will do the trick as well.

Oh, and there's nothing better on a wintry day than a perfectly baked Yukon Gold potato with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. mmmmm

In case of emergency, I call Vinnie and Son's pizza joint in Somerset, NJ for their Sicilian pie (in Jersey, that means a whole pizza). I get eggplant on mine and live off of it for a week. It's huge!!!

Someone was talking about Matzo Ball soup earlier in this forum. While she's Italian and not the tiniest bit Jewish, my step-mother makes the most convincing Matzo Ball soup I've had. Other Jewish staples are latkes, the potato pancake served around Channukah. Mine have been pretty good the last few years.

Finally, I have an allergy to chocolate, so the sweet I enjoy is unsweetened carob almonds.
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