I don’t know if it’s the change in weather, the holiday season or the realization that human beings are in a state of unrest that conjures up memories of my childhood. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. There’s also the possibility that recently meeting new people has forced me to talk about myself, dig deep into the depths of my past. Questions are asked, and it gets me to thinking, reminiscing, longing for the return of certain people, places or smells.
When I cook, I’m all about exploring new ideas, combining recipes to create something new or something that works with what I have in my fridge. Reversing the roles, I cook a lot now for my grandmother. She likes what I make, but it suddenly dawned on me that maybe she longs for the past too. And when thinking about flavors that might comfort us both during these strange times, I revert back to the good old days.
I can still remember the scent of her house, her sister’s house, her mother’s house – scents that also comforted my mother even as she aged – of melt-in-your-mouth steak and rice and gravy, freshly picked tomatoes and cucumbers whose aromas beckoned from even a room away and cathead biscuits slathered with butter (they’d already been cooked with lard). Another dish we all loved was cooked-down green beans with potatoes and bacon. They were often slightly mushy and oh so sweet. Delicious.
Being my fancy self, and because Nana always shoo-shooed everyone out of her kitchen, I didn’t grow up knowing how to make all of these dishes. But it’s better late than never.
Nana loves lamb. So I found a nice boneless leg, patted it dry, rubbed it with herbs and spices, seared it and set it in a Crock-Pot with red wine and broth to cook for a few hours. Ohmagawd, I tasted a sliver last night, but I can’t wait to serve and eat it this evening with Nana.
She usually has as few slices of sweet potato with her supper. In addition to serving that and the lamb, I sautéed some bacon and sausage and then added a little butter and broth. Once that came to a boil, I threw in the cut potatoes and green beans, turned it down low and let it cook for an hour or so. I did it! I don’t know if that’s the way she would have done it, but the taste is pretty close. I didn’t ask her how to prepare it because I want to surprise her, in case you were wondering. #happycamper
I’m excited to share this with her. Now, this week is all about the dressing. I’ve been dreaming about it for a week. No fancy cranberries or nuts in it this time. Just good old fashioned country-style dressing. I have a profound respect for the kitchen skills (and more) of my female ancestors (not being sexist here; just stating the facts of how it has been). Maybe with a little practice, and their guidance, I’ll get the hang of it. Wish me luck. Bon appétit.