Monday, May 2, 2016

Oh Hell, She's Cookin' Now!


I love the sound of that word--the rhythm of the consonants, the way the word just kind of rolls along. It's one of the words that sounds like what it conveys; it not only sounds edible but actually rather delicious.

So many of my memories of my grandmother--my Mawga--involve her in the kitchen. I suppose it's not such a remarkable thing; she was a product of Midcentury America, after all. By the I was a little girl in the 1980s attending elementary school, being told I could be a President or an astronaut by female teachers who were probably once told that was all they could hope to become, my grandmother was still at home, cooking.

The sizzle of smelly salmon patties. The warning hiss of the pressure cooker. The clatter and rattle of the cast iron skillet against the stove as she popped popcorn in preparation for our Saturday night tradition of popcorn and The Golden Girls. My hands, squelching through the raw meat and bread crumbs as we rolled meatballs. Her hands, as she rolled and cut egg noodles, as she spread pink icing over my birthday cake. Her voice, reflecting that she might make Sue's chicken that night. (Who the hell was Sue, anyway?) My grandfather,  making cameo appearances as he mashed the potatoes vigorously every Thanksgiving (to this day, mashed potatoes, no matter how fancy or locally-sourced or foodie-ish, don't taste the same; they lack the quiet, stubborn strength and loyalty that came through my grandfather's potato masher) and grilled hamburgers and hotdogs every Memorial Day, every Fourth of July, every Labor Day.

Yet for all the cooking she did, she didn't do much to teach me how to cook. The one cooking lesson my Mawga gave me was pretty terse: "If you can read, you can cook." I can't say that I ever sought out her tutelage, as Eldest Sister did--I remember, as both Mawga and Eldest progressed in age, Mawga ceded more and more culinary power and responsibility to Eldest. Over the years, I've made a few pretty half-hearted efforts at cookery, and in recent years, less and less. Scoots Magoo was usually condescending at best, slightly mocking at worst, when I attempted to cook, and as our home life disintegrated in other ways, it was less and less of a pleasure to cook.

Well, f**k that noise. I'm home. And I can read. So I can cook.


  1. I am so happy that you have decided that hells yeah, you want to do this cooking thing! You know, I don't think I ever really got that much in the way of instruction from Mawga, either, but what I did get is the benefit of using her kitchen a lot with the bonus of her being there to ask questions of. Also? As afraid as I am of EVERYTHING, cooking has never seemed like a daunting prospect to me. I think that, starting a little girl, I spent 80% of my time there in the kitchen, either raiding her fridge, watching her cook, or poring through her cookbooks. Cooking was something I'd always found very exciting--well, maybe not exciting, but I was excited by it. It didn't seem like a "domesticated lady" thing to me, it seemed like art, or a hobby--and to a person who for a long time never considered herself very good at anything or having much in the way of talent...well, it seemed like a valuable thing to cultivate.

  2. Also: quiche. Super easy. Make one this weekend. Here is a loose recipe.
    Get a frozen pie crust (or you can do it crustless!) Don't forget to pre-bake the pie crust. Do that by pricking the pie crust a few times on the bottom, line it with some foil and dump a bag of dried beans on the foil. They weight the pie crust down so it doesn't puff up while you are pre-baking it. And you are pre-baking it, because you are pouring an eggy custard in it eventually and you don't want it to be mushy! Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let cool a bit. (Use whatever beans you might cook up at another time, because you can totally use them later.)*

    Ok, so the quiche is pre-baking. Crack 4 eggs in a bowl and whisk together. Stir in a cup of milk. (4 eggs and 1ish cup of milk is what recipes say--I just checked--but I think I use more egg and less milk, but it always turns out the same.) Whisk, whisk. Add a little salt and pepper. Recipes say "white pepper" because I guess they don't want black pepper flakes to corrupt their pure-hearted quiche, but whatevs. Stir in a cup of whatever cheese you want. Pour mixture into pre-baked pie crust, bake in 375 oven for maybe 30 minutes, or until golden and puffed up a bit.

    That's a basic quiche, but you can up the nutrition by adding some vegetables-asparagus in spring, maybe zucchini and squash in the summer, spinach whenever. Throw in some bacon crumbles or diced ham! Add some chives for flavor. Whatever you want. I think of quiche as a vehicle for clearing out "veggies on the verge", stuff that's nearly been around too long and needs to be eaten quickly

    *A quick word on doing dumb stuff. I totally forgot to line my pie crust with foil the last time I pre-baked one. I pulled it out of the oven and idly thought " do I normally get these beans out of here?" That's when I realized I forgot the foil. I let it cool. Dumped most of the beans out into a container and had to manually pick the rest out of the crust. It left a few bean-shaped indentations in the crust but once you pour the filling in, no one knows. I threw the beans in a colander, gave them a rinse, and then threw them in a pot and made black bean soup! Let me add again that the beans you use for pie weights are DRIED BEANS.

    Read over this. Call me if you have questions. Make it this weekend!