Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Food for Thought

Do you like to read books about food or cooking?

Some people collect cookbooks. Thumbing through recipes or making meal plans is a hobby for them. I cannot honestly say that I am one of these people although I do tear out the occasional recipe from a lady's magazine or print out one from the internet. I especially like the ones that someone else has recommended. Some of my favorite recipes have been torn from our local Wednesday Food Section of the paper.

I wish I had some of my grandmother's recipes. She made a delicious Orange Cake. She baked it in an angel food cake pan and when it came out of the oven she would drizzle a sugary glaze over it. Our whole family remembers it with the fondest of memories, but alas the recipe died with her. She made it from memory. I wonder if any of my cooking will be legendary in my children's minds after I am gone.

Me and Grandmother on my 1st Birthday

I did learn to make Chicken and Dumplings from Grandmother. These instructions weren't written down either. I stood beside her in the kitchen and watched her mix the ingredients, roll out the dough, drop the dumplings into the broth one by one, gentling swirling the pot to cover each dumpling as it floated in the savory broth. My grandmother has been gone for over 15 years now. By request of my youngest son, I prepared this dish as part of his birthday meal a couple of years ago. My daddy took one taste and asked me if this was his mother's recipe. I knew I had the recipe right.

Me and Grandmother when she was about 80

Two Fat Ladies was my favorite cooking show from the first moment I laid eyes on those two motorcycle and sidecar riding ladies, Clarrisa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. What a hoot and what an education...pommes frites rather than french fries does sound ever so posh. And with all the butter and cream they used, well their dishes surely had to be tasty didn't they? I loved it that they served these meals to such diverse groups as the Scottish Fireman's Brigade and to the students of a boy's prep school.

Have you ever wondered why a recipe might also be called a receipt? Well since this inquiring mind wanted to know, I looked it up.

Receipt is an old form that means the same as recipe. Both derive from Latin recipere, to receive or take. Receipt was first used in medieval English as a formula or prescription for a medicinal preparation (Chaucer is the first known user, in the Canterbury Tales of about 1386). The sense of “a written statement saying that money or goods have been received” only arrived at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Hence Rx for a prescription. Cool.

I think we should use more culinary words and phrases in our everyday speech; like gustatory, epicurean, gourmand, gastronome, repast, provender, potable, having to eat one's own words, having an attitude like sour grapes, enjoying life with relish and gusto....

No one writes about food like Ruth Reichl. I first read her Tender At The Bone a number of years ago. This book is her semi-autobiographical ode to her love affair with food and her journey from her childhood kitchen to her work as the editor of Gourmet magazine. Her descriptive food vocabulary is so exact the reader almost tastes the dish along with her. She has since written Comfort Me With Apples and Garlic and Sapphires.

Like Water for Chocolate
is another one of those books that melds food and fantasy with an almost invisible line connecting the two. While reading I felt myself being transported into the Mexican kitchen of her story so that I could chop chilies along with the other characters in the book.

And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul? Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul -Plato

Language and words are like food to me. Food for thought. Big bites of life. Flavor for a day to day world. Tasty experiences and savory memories. Mmmmmmm.


  1. Lovely post... returning your visit post-Debby's site! I am the same - not an avid recipe collector (or even a cook) but I am a devout eater.

    Will be back!


  2. It's not nice to make my tummy grumble at 6 in the morning! But what a great post. And I love the photos of you and your grandmother.

  3. Great photos with your grandmother and a nice post. I am with bush babe there... not into too many recipes but love to eat.. haa haa. See ya!
    The Bach

  4. I have a wonderful old sugar cookie recipe that was my Great- Grandmother's. I will post it soon...nice memories.

    I love Two Fat Ladies!! Is it still on? I haven't seen it in ages. They were a stitch.

    Nice photos of you and your grandmother. You are lucky to have them.

  5. Lovely! Love that old photograph of your grandmother; what a blessing family is... I'm sure your children will always remember your cooking... that's how it it...

    Lovely day


  6. Interesting post. Food encompasses so much more of life than just the physical acts of cooking and eating.

    It's amazing when you stop and think about it.

    Even Jesus Himself, described himself as The Bread Of Life.

    It all comes down to food!

    You may be interested in hearing about a book called "Much Depends On Dinner" by Margaret Visser. She dissects an ordinary meal, breaking it down to rice, salt, lemon, chicken...something else too, I can't recall at the moment, and she devotes a chapter to each ingredient, delving into the cultural history of it.

    You might find it in used book stores, its an old book and it came out in paperback too.

  7. Steviewren, I think one of the fat ladies passed away. Sad news.

  8. You were a very cute youngster, Steviewren, and your grandmother was just lovely.!

  9. This was my first visit to your blog and I love it. Such a sweet tender scene of you watching your grandmother making the dumplings. It took me back to the 50's when I watched my mother make dumplings. I also loved your List of Stuff.What a great list! I shall return :)

  10. I LOVED reading "Garlic and Sapphires" -- Ruth Reichl can write about food like nobody's business!

    Generally, I read books about food and cooking in spurts. I tend to get discouraged and overloaded by them -- there's so much to take in. Lately I've been wanting to read Anthony Bourdaine's book.

    Wish you would come to my house and make me some chicken and dumplings!

  11. Very interesting post, Stevie! I love looking at cookbooks! I do have several of them but really like to cook just from my head...without a recipe. That is how dinner usually is, but I do use recipes for desserts and things that need precise measurements. I also find that when I'm flipping through a cooking magazine or cookbook, that I tend to want to try the recipes that have a beautiful photograph of the finished product. Funny how our mind and stomach relates to the picture more than a recipe without one! Nice post...and photos of you and your grandma!

  12. I use to look for cookbooks while I was on vacation. Then each would give me a few recipes and a few memories. But who was I kidding, I was not really going to make anything. About ten years into our marriage my husband said we should just take the kitchen out and put a pool table there instead. We do not play pool. He now loves to cook and I still do not play pool. I forgot all about the Two Fat Ladies. My husband use to watch them with the kids. Not sure why? I still get alot of recipes from the Wednesday paper. They sit in a drawer in the kitchen. My daughter's boyfriend loves whatever I cook, I shutter to think what kind of cook his mother is, if my cooking tastes good. I do make a good Shepherd's Pie. To answer your pansie question, I think they will do okay, that side of the deck gets the early sunshine.

  13. Bush Babe...yes, I too am a devout eater!

    Thanks everyone on the nice comments on the photos of my grandmother. She loved to cook and even more she loved for people to enjoy her food.

    Yes, Jennifer Paterson of the Two Fat Ladies fame did die. The show ended with her death.

    Have you ever thought of how many descriptive food words that we use to describe other things? juicy, savory, tasty, bitter, salty, sour, sweet, moist, mushy, stringy, crispy, succulent, tangy, spicy, pungent, tart, bland, appetizing, flavorful, acidic....you think of some!

  14. What a lovely tribute to your grandmother and food. I would say that you cooking in legendary to me! First, you are the one that taught me to cook. There are many meals that I learned from you that I still cook today (stuffed bell pepper, salmon patties, tuna melts, lasagna... And when I cook and eat them it brings back memories of my growing up years. Thank you for all of the time you put into teaching me how to cook. I would not be the cooking wife that I am today without you!


I'm glad you stopped by and I look forward to your comments. As Dr. Fraser Crane would say, "Hello, I'm listening."