I have never been big on crafting. My best friend Julie used to make me participate in one obligatory Christmas craft per year, and as a result, I am the proud owner of an okra pod Santa, a wee snowman made out of an ice cream spoon and a Christmas tree with button ornaments. They are cute, but man was it a messy process. Not for Julie. No–she works clean and is generally not messy. Me on the other hand? It’s inevitable that I end up with hot glue on my fingers, paint in my hair and most likely also on my clothes and glitter all over the floor. I am a wreck. The vast majority of the times The Beloved and I go out to eat, I end up with at least one spot of food–in a startlingly contrasting color to whatever I happen to be wearing–either on my shirt or on my pants. If I wear white, which is rare, I end up with tomato sauce or salsa on it. If I am cagey and decide to wear a dark color to hide the inevitable spot or streak of food, I’m Jackson Pollacked with Alfredo sauce. The Beloved tells me it’s a gift. I doubt it.
When I look back on my childhood, I realize that we did not have a lot. We certainly had enough, but we did not grow up as children of excess. We were never needed anything, but sometimes we wanted things.
My mother is an amazing seamstress. She made my wedding dress, and it is stunning. As an adult, I appreciate her skill and artistry with stitchery. As a kid, I just wanted a label in my clothes.
When I was in the fifth grade, I had a pair of bright blue pants. They had large white daisies on them. All over them. My mother made them for me with love and of necessity. I needed pants, so she made me some. What I wanted was jeans. Oh, how I longed for a pair of Levi’s. I begged and pleaded and explained that jeans were necessary to my continued existence, and finally my mom broke down and took me to the mall to shop for jeans.
Last year around this time, I asked the folks on the fan page to tell me what sorts of foods they served at Thanksgiving. One person responded that they have macaroni and cheese. Ah! The idea of having macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving excites me to no end. I am already enamored of carbohydrates, so getting to enjoy stuffing and mashed potatoes at the same time was thrilling enough. Or so I thought.
Here in the South, macaroni and cheese is counted as a vegetable. Seriously. Look at almost any menu in any soul food/Southern cooking restaurant and check out the vegetable choices. You will almost always find macaroni and cheese listed.
When I was asked to review Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, I jumped at the chance. I am a huge fan of noodles with cheese. That’s not to say that I have always loved macaroni and cheese, though. I did not really like the baked macaroni and cheese that I grew up eating. I used to tell people that I didn’t like macaroni and cheese, but I found out later that I just didn’t like my Mom’s macaroni and cheese. Sorry Mom, but there you have it.
The good news is that, since adulthood, I have rarely had macaroni and cheese that I don’t like.
I like butter. Love it, even. And I am also a huge fan of coconut oil. When I saute, I generally use a mixture of the two, the butter for flavor and the coconut oil for its relatively high smoke point and its health benefits.
When the Melt folks emailed me awhile back, asking if I’d like to give their product a whirl, I have to admit I was a bit dubious. I emailed them back and told them as much, but I also said I’d be willing to try Melt and see what I could do with it. They agreed and sent me my coupons which I used and a spreader and flexible cutting board, neither of which I have used at this point.
I couldn’t find Melt Organic Buttery Spread at either Kroger, Harris-Teeter or Lowe’s Foods here, so I pilgrimaged to Whole Foods to pick some up. Currently, Melt comes in Original and Honey flavors, and I believe a chocolate version is set to come out in 2014. I intended to pick up the two available flavors, but all my Whole Foods carried was the Original, so Original it was.
We live in a disposable world. As Jamie so eloquently writes in a recent Plated Stories post, we are Boxed people.
Pry open cardboard cartons, snick open along the trail of glue or zip open the cardboard zipper, and dispense.
Just add water.
Heat and serve.
We fill ourselves with non-food, and the waste piles up.
It didn’t used to be like that, though. Chances are that our grandparents grew up eating real food that they either grew themselves or got locally. Dry goods included staples such as flour, salt and cornmeal, and not macaroni and cheese, Jell-o and rice pilaf.
Depression-era cooks were of necessity adept at stretching out more expensive ingredients with inexpensive or foraged ones. Meat was used as a seasoning, if it was used at all, and nothing was wasted.
For some families, the crowning glory of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey: crisp, lacquered skin, perfectly cooked meat, cavity spilling lemons, rosemary and onion. The star of some families’ Thanksgiving meals is the stuffing: oyster, apple and wild rice, chestnut, sausage. And while I am a fan of succulent and photogenic turkey as well as The Perfect Stuffing, it should come as no surprise that I view dessert as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving spread.
Desserts have a lot to compete with on Thanksgiving, though. Aside from the vast quantities of other foods, there are also parades and football and napping with which to contend. With that in mind, I have put together some Thanksgiving Dessert Tips and Ideas so people will stand up (or rather, sit down) and take notice.
Most of the time, I write about baking, but I also do a lot of cooking. The Beloved and I do actually eat foods that do not fall into the Dessert category. So, when I asked on twitter and facebook awhile ago what I could write about that would be really helpful to my readers and fans, I was pretty excited that this came rolling in:
“For those learning how or just beginning to take cooking seriously, what’s some good advice?”
Of course there are more than ten things you need to know to be a better cook, but ten is a nice round number, and with each tip and trick we learn, we become better cooks. Some of us are farther along on our journeys to becoming Intuitive Cooks–folks who cook by feel, by season, by flavor and without books. So after reading my list, please leave your suggestions in the comments.
And now, here we go, my Ten Basics to Make You a Better Cook.
There is a new cookbook out on the market, and you are going to want a copy.
My history of cookbook purchases describes a Bell curve. I started out small, progressed to buying a car payment’s worth every month and then tapered off when I decided that I didn’t really need any more. These days, I rarely purchase cookbooks. I think I’ve bought two this entire year.
While I was given this book to read and share, I must admit that I wasn’t jumping up and down over the idea. Until I started to read. I couldn’t stop reading. I sort of felt like I was in a church listening to a sermon from a particularly passionate preacher. And he was preaching to me, the choir. I kept nodding and wanting to shout an “Amen!” or a “Preach, friends!” on more than one occasion.
When passionate people write about their passion, it shines through. And man does this book shine. Let me share a few of the more Amen-able quotes.
I’m pretty sure I have told you all before how much I adore Halloween. It is my hands-down favorite holiday. I enjoy the dressing up, the decorating, the candy. And the Scaring of the Children. I only scare them a little bit. Honest. Usually.
Halloween food always puts me in a bit of a quandary, though. Do I turn food into craft projects? Kinda cool, but not really my forté. Do I just let the food speak for itself, or is that too subtle? And do folks really want freakishly frightening food, or just food that will give them a bit of a laugh and a grin and also taste good?
Maybe the happy medium is a Wink and a Nod Tasty Food. To that end, I have found some for you. You can click the photos or the links to get to the posts. Enjoy! And after your culinary Halloween tour, please stick around for a Halloween Jewelry Giveaway from Elle of Elle’s New England Kitchen and Helle’s Bells. Yay! There’s a preview up top. See?