Thursday, August 14, 2008

memories steeped in food

How many afternoons I sat at my Grandmother's dining table doing homework after school? K-6, 5 days a week, about 1200....and not once did I get up to see how she cooked her dinner, or gathered the ingredients from her garden, I had no interest, I was that peanut butter and jelly only kid, I usually complained when she served fish my grandfather had caught or game he had shot, many times I lectured my grandfather on his barbarian practice of shooting animals, when they had perfectly plastic wrapped meat at the market. They were of the generation that grew up during the depression, grandma's family moved to northern Arizona when that area was a frontier, they lived in a small shack, and when my great grandfather was unable to work in the mines any longer, they opened their kitchen to offer meager meals to fellow miners in an attempt to keep the roof over them, they had family in the area that were ranchers and grew what they could in the arid soil, learned much from the native americans in crop production and cooking techniques. My grandfather was forever changed by the leaving of Oklahoma during the dust bowl era and depression survival meant entering the armed forces for him. These life changing experiences made them hoarders of food, they had more canned goods than most supermarkets, large bags of rice, beans, sugar, coffee were stashed in closets, I played market as a kid with an abundance of canned and shelf stable foods in the laundry room.....they grew anything they could in the garden, had a compost heap in 1972 in Southern California and fed a full table of 8 every night of the week........yet i never once watched or helped or was asked to help grandma prepare a meal, how did she make her cornbread? what was her secret ingredient in hominy? did she make her own tortillas for enchiladas? I have her recipes but not that visual memory of her frying potatoes or making tamales........yesterday was my first attempt to make a pot of beans, the simple staple of my youth was never a written recipe, so i relied on the pioneer woman, link at left and also made her recipe for cornbread, and my fried potatoes....all together they comprise what I call Oklahoma supper, my grandfather often told the story of growing up and being lucky to get a spoonful of beans, the next time I make them I will try to add more flavor, these were pretty tame, but a good starting point! The cornbread was divine, almost custardy in the middle cooked in cast iron of course! We enjoyed it too much, left no room for dessert! not always a bad thing!

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