Cooking up a Blog

My family has been encouraging me to blog, but I could not think of what to blog about.

Whiteladyinthehood suggested blogging about cooking.  Here goes.

Once upon a time a long, long, long time ago there was a young girl who started life as a new bride. My cooking talent was extremely limited.  I could burn potatoes, and having been raised Roman Catholic (back then) meat on Fridays was a no-no.  My sisters would make either scrambled eggs with canned spaghetti, or the dreaded Salmon Loaf. (What a way to waste good salmon.)

I knew that something had to be done, about my lack of culinary skills.  Considering my bigger brother had by then become a chef, and was working in London, England.

Having married a man, whose love of books and knowledge was essential to his lifestyle, I decided that I needed cookbooks to improve my skills in the kitchen.  Thank goodness for libraries.

I would check out 3 or 4 cooking books, and pore over them, deciding which would be more useful to me on a day to day basis.  Betty Crocker’s Cookbook won out as my first purchase.  I still have it after 45 years, and my son & daughter are fighting over who gets it, when I am no longer around.

Over the years ½ a tonne of cookbooks must have come through our doors, thank heavens for being able to research recipes on the Internet.

Monarch Flour had a cookbook available by sending in a coupon.  That book has been used so much the pages were pulling away from the spiral binding.  My husband found a stationery store that sold specialized sizes of binders; he found a 9” by 7 ¼” binder for me.  After punching holes to match the rings, a very good book was saved.

Five Roses had the same deal, although it got some use, the wear & tear was easily fix with duct tape.  Oh yeah, Betty Crocker has some duct tape & packing tape holding her together too.

I love a saying that my daughter has ‘Duct tape is like the Force….there is a light side and there is a dark side, and it holds the universe together’.

My collection of cookbooks has risen to include two books by a local writer, who has collected mostly Mennonite recipes, and written two books, “FOOD THAT REALLY SCHMECKS” & “MORE FOOD THAT REALLY SCHMECKS”.

I also added several Chinese cookbooks to the mix, and, to top off my collection, “The Joy of Cooking.”  All these books were added to my collection only after I had borrowed them from the Library, and tried several of the recipes.

Along with the cookbooks came the cooking shows “The Galloping Gourmet” with Graham Kerr (learned my chopping technique with him), “Yan Can” with Martin Yan (knew my chopping), he taught me how to WOK. Let’s not forget Julia Child, who showed me that even a greatly experienced cook like her could have a turkey squirt out of her hands to land on the studio floor.

My first experiments were with classic meat and potato dishes, with North American versions of spaghetti.  Then we segued into Chinese with simple stir fries, then I got really creative and was making egg drop soup and wontons for wonton soup. We made the wonton dough from scratch, rolled it, cut it, and wrapped it into its little bishop-hat shape.  Notice I said “we”, I could not have pulled it off without my trusty sous-chef (handy hubby).  A side note is that my husband is so handy cleaning up my messes; he can get ahead of me.  We lovingly call him “FLASH”.  Sometimes he even puts away items I haven’t used yet.

Just to let you know, it was so long ago that you could not buy fresh bean sprouts in the grocery stores, only canned (yuck).  So we had to grow our own.  Making stir fries took a week in planning, so you could have the fresh bean sprout.  Now we have a huge Chinese supermarket that just keeps growing in size, and it handles everything one could wish for.

Of course there was Italian cooking going on too.  Pizza (homemade), lasagna, and cannelloni.  “Cannelloni” girl find happiness in the big city? (sic)

Then came Ukrainian perogies, Polish cabbage rolls, and a ‘French’ onion soup, which is superb.

Later my husband and children developed a taste for Hot & Sour soup. That was added to my repertoire.

Mexican was next.  A Mexican themed restaurant call Chi-Chi’s came to town, so “FLASH” decided to treat me to a night out.  The fajitas were wonderful, but the fried ice cream was superb.  The fajitas, tacos, and quesadillas were easy to learn how to make, but I have never tried the fried ice cream. Hmmmm

It soon became obvious to my family that “you can’t take mom to a restaurant, because she can end up making it better”.

Now our city has a “Multicultural Festival” at the end of June, and my son’s favourite food vendors were the Greek\Turkey\Cypriot, who served “Gyros/Donairs” and the El Salvadorian, who served ‘pupusas’.  Gyros/Donairs with tzatziki sauce were no problem, I already knew how to make them, the El Salvadorian well……no, didn’t have a clue.

Then one day my son came home from work saying that an El Salvadorian woman had started at his shop.  She had brought pupusas to work. They are a corn-dough outside with a meat & cheese filling that is served with a light tomato sauce and a side of marinated coleslaw called ‘curtido’.  She was happy to give him the recipe.  Using her recipe and some videos courtesy of YouTube, we gathered in the kitchen, myself, my son, and don’t forget “FLASH”, to start our odyssey into El Salvadorian cuisine.

Now pupusas are made with a special corn flour called Ceratex or Masa Harina that is mixed with water.  You take a piece of dough and pat it out in your hand to make a circle, then fill it with different fillings.  Our favourite filling is ground bacon, pork, and mozzarella with loroco.  Loroco is a Central American vine flower bud, and imparts a lovely flavour.  With the filling in the center of our circle, we pull the dough over the filling, so the filling is now surrounded by the corn dough making a round ball, and then you pat it between your hands to flatten it out.  When it is about a quarter to a third of an inch thick it is fried on a griddle until it is golden brown on both sides.  Serve with the above.

I wish to acknowledge that my developing my cooking skills could not have been done without my family’s support, especially “FLASH”.

Stay tune for all about cookies…………………….