Thursday, April 14, 2005


oh my. . my family thinks that i am a food snob!!! Now i don't really see it that way, but i suppose that I can see where they're coming from?! i like different things than they do. . I like reggiano cheese, gruyere, i like angel hair pasta, i like coconut milk, i like balsmic vinegar on my strawberries, i like to make vanilla sugar! I like good things! things with flavour. I like real vanilla, vanilla beans are even better! But i think my current *perceived* snobbiness just is a developing appreciation for cooking! and it goes WAAAAY back. Since I was a child i've been fascinated with watching people cook!!! Back in the 60s and early 70s there weren't a whole lot of cooking shows like there are now. . . * and yes, I am a 'food network' freak! *

I used to watch Julia Child's show "The French Chef". . I was all of 7, 8 years old and here i'm watching this french-trained chef make bernaise sauce, crepes, puff pastry, paella, duck confit.. boeuf bourginon, you get the picture! I just loved watching the camera close-ups on the bowl, the pot, the pan, I loved watching her cut up the food, cook it. Hers wasn't the only show - there was Graham Kerr's "Galloping Gourmet". . well he did more wine pouring and drinking that cooking, but he was cool to watch in his tacky 70s bellbottoms and wide collared shirts! I also used to love the "Kraft" commercials on CBC (Canadian TV network) They would show quick cooking ideas and 'how to's. The voiceover man's ear-friendly words were so familiar and comforting. The commercials never showed a person doing the cooking, only a pair of hands! bizarre, eh? I loved it!

Naturally I was very anxious to get busy in the kitchen and i had free run of the place! with the proviso that i clean up what i mess up. I went NUTS! With my mother's '5 Roses' cookbook, I began to do my best Julia Child impersonation! I made my first cake from scratch at the age of 8!!! Cakes were easier than my next project.. . pie pastry and fillings! I made my first pie at the age of 9-- I fed a slice to my dad, and he spared my feelings, told me it was 'delicious'. . . it was like shoeleather!!! (he told me many years later when i had landed safely in the 'flaky pastry' league) My first batch of cookies? DON'T ASK!! They weren't individual cookies so much as one ginormous, thin, brittle rectangle of wasted ingredients!! blech! I got better!!!

My great grandma. . all i remember of her kitchen is the old gas stove. I used to watch her light that thing. I can still see how now, striking the match and putting it under the burner ring, I could hear the hissing of the gas, and the 'whoosh' of the blue flame. Entrancing! She made the most BEAUTIFUL shortbread . . . she used this old cookie press. . we had one like it at home too. . . I never saw her actually make the cookies but i sure ate them when we came to visit!!! They were little, rectangular, scalloped- edged masterpieces flooded with white icing, onto which she placed dainty, little sugar flowers. Nana says that Great Grandma used to sell these cookies to EVERYONE. . she was in great demand, especially at Christmas time!

I have her recipe, but of course mine taste nothing like hers did! No wonder my Nana was a wonderful cook and pastry chef! She had a great teacher! I can't remember the number of times I would sit behind my grandmother's kitchen counter on my orange stool (each of us girls had one) and would watch her work. She was a whiz. I learned so much just observing. I loved the way she even made the simplest things like porridge! sounds boring, yeah, but i've never tasted better. It was kinda thick, a wee bit salty. . I can see us girls eating our porridge now.. Nana would pour the milk over top of the porridge, and we'd pile on the brown sugar. She always used the 'old fashioned' oats, i can still see her at the stove, stirring. I asked her how much of the oats to put in, she said "oh, 5 handfuls or so." .. but i never did get it right, cuz she had little hands, and mine were twice as big. Nana used to come to our place when our parents worked afternoons. . . she made our supper and sat through all our retarded TV shows!!! Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, she was a saint! I don't suppose we always appreciated all her work, cuz we were young and fussy then. . When I got to be old enough to work the oven by myself, i assumed the role of 'cook' in our family when our mother worked afternoon shift. . I would come home from school and cook the supper. I loved it. Sure beat our dad's notion of supper -- burned french fries and fish sticks! UGH. .

Come a long way since then. . STILL get the biggest thrill out of watching people cook, or cooking myself. . Its so fun. I get teased by my husband and now even my daughters and their boyfriends join in the teasing. . their chief target? my fave cook -- Ina Garten who has this awesome show called "The Barefoot Contessa". . .
When I printed some of her recipes. . Rob crossed out "Contessa" and wrote in "Fatessa"!!! I don't care! I love her!! As Joel (KK's b/f) wisely says "never trust a skinny cook"!

I love this show.. i've learned to do things that go way beyond the women cooks in my family, who wouldn't have known 'pancetta' if they fell over it! or fresh basil if it fall into their laps. . my mother's culinary version of the "holy trinity" was salt, pepper and paprika! I don't think that she evern knew what fresh herbs were! I LOVE fresh herbs. . tarragon. basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives, dill. . . I've learned how to make garlic paste using kosher salt, I know how to strip the leaves off a stem of thyme. . i know how to peel fresh ginger, i've learned how to use roasted red peppers, i'm an extra virgin olive oil fool! i can make REAL fettucine alfredo. . DROOL. . I've learned how to buy a good knife, how to sear meat properly, how to do roast fruit with honey and vanilla bean. . I'm telling you, if you watch Food Network you too can do all this amazing stuff. . . its FUN!


Lindsay said...

Wow, you totally lost me on that last paragraph! You're right, I wouldn't know pancetta if I fell over it. What is pancetta, anyway? Oh, and another thing, what was your great grandmother's name?

Denise said...

The Naked Chef! Yep, he's my favorite! I could watch him everyday!! lol! He also has very good, simple(naked) recipes - I like that about him too! ;)

Kathryn said...

Linds. . . heh heh. . sorry about that last paragraph. . i guess i AM a food snob?! pancetta is Italian smoked bacon type product. prosciutto is also VERY yummy, its like a thin, very smoky ham, you don't cook it, its already smoked. you wrap it around things like melon slices, asparagus bundles, put it in a sandwich with cheese. .

Your great-great grandma's name was Agnes! She was such a sweetie.

Denise, i too love Jamie Oliver's show! He rocks! I've learned lots from him too!!! like how to 'bash' everything up in a mortar and pestle.. and how to 'bung' things into the oven! easy peasy!!!