Over the last twenty years or so I discovered genuine cooking. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I experienced, unknowingly, a transformation that made the task of family food preparation easier and less expensive, while sacrificing quality and health in the process. Processed food must have seemed like manna from Heaven, it was cheap and easy to a generation that was still reeling from the shortages and rationing of the depression and a war.
My cooking ancestry comes from a family of migrant farm workers, and immigrant homesteaders that moved to the big city of Portland, Oregon. My perception, some six decades after the fact, is that the Portland branch, my fathers side, approached food from a utilitarian perspective, they ate to live, food was a necessity, and simplicity with economy was the objective.
The first great cook I remember was my Grandma, my mother’s mother. Two foods stand out, her homemade bread, and her turkey with egg noodles. Grandma grew up in Nebraska, she lived through the dust bowl; she learned how to cook when ingredients were scarce and limited. Like centuries of cooks before her, the most amazing meals were born from poverty.
The smell of her fresh baked bread is as vivid today as it was all those years ago, a thick slice while still warm, loaded with butter; thankfully we were not concerned in those days with fat and cholesterol. She made “egg noodles” – any chef would be impressed – eggs and flour, a bit of salt, rolled by hand, no pasta machine for her. Boiled quickly, then served with a wonderful sauce of leftover turkey and gravy, a comfort food I have not had in at least 40 years.
My mother tells people that I liked to cook when I was 12, I do remember it vaguely but until I was in my late thirties I must confess Hamburger Helper and instant Kraft Au-gratin Potatoes were common, even Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Such is life, economics, and reality.
Then Tricia came into my life. She has been fascinated with food her whole life, has a degree in food science from Central Washington University, and is so realistic about food, it must be good, and in moderation. Our early meals were eclectic, a mix of creative cooking, and sadly more processed than we would ever do today. But someplace along the line we became foodies.
I started traveling, eating at better restaurants, we ate out a lot and traveled, we watched cooking shows on PBS, trying out new recipes; we were transformed. Today food and wine are our hobbies, and what a wonderful hobby it is.
Our best times are cooking together, eating together, and talking. We are devoted to local, organic, humane, and sustainable food. When we travel we shop at local markets, look for restaurants that don’t have the menu in English. Food brings us together, it is what calms when there is stress, encourages conversation, makes us laugh, and how we show we care.
My advice to couples is learn to cook, it’s not that hard. Pour a glass of wine, put on some music, cook together and talk. Set aside the worries and frustrations of the day, even those issues that all couples deal with, and cook, and eat, and talk. From the beginning of time meals have brought people together, it still works. We need our relationships in these stressful times, so share a meal with someone you care about, in a small way it adds to the peace we so need.