In my next life, I think I’ll come back as a chef. I love writing, but if I’m not at my computer (or in Scotland or at a gathering of my family), I’d just as soon be in the kitchen. It’s a legacy from my mom.
Food has always been important to me. Like my faith, it sustains me. It is part of my self-assumed role as a nurturer—I love to feed people—and it’s a big factor in my social life. I’d rather go out to dinner with friends or have them into my house than go to the theater or a movie. At the table, there’s sociability and interchange and friendship; at the theater or the symphony, each person is pretty well isolated until afterward, when talk may flow in comparing reactions.
For me, food is also about continuity—and change. I bring to the table today the recipes of my mother, still often used and some, I’m sure, from her mother. I bring a few from my ex-husband’s Jewish tradition. So my cooking preserves the past and carries it on for my children and grandchildren.
But cooking is also about change. Now well into my seventies (can that be true?), I’ve seen a lot of changes in what we Americans eat. I’ve seen fast food mushroom beyond belief and the family dinner hour almost disappear—both trends I bemoan. I’ve seen foods come and go—remember when the “in” thing was to order fondue at a fancy restaurant? But not many eat fondue today, although I hear it’s making a comeback.
In the ’80s there was all that fuss about crepes—whole restaurants devoted to them—and quiche, and the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Pasta changed from spaghetti and meatballs to all kind of exciting things, beginning with fettuccine Alfredo and moving on to goat cheese pizza. Italian food in the
Pretty much gone are the Chinese restaurants of my youth, with chrome and Formica furniture and little white take-out boxes (not that I ate at them very often—Chinese was not on my dad’s list of acceptable foods). Today, we eat pan-Asian food—Thai, Vietnamese, everything from glass noodles to sushi and sashimi (which I love)—but who would have eaten raw fish in the ’60s?
Hamburgers have morphed from a meat patty on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and mustard into imaginative concoctions of which guacamole and bacon are the least exotic additions. We’ve added game to our menus, and now the trendiest restaurants serve elk tacos, venison medallions, wild boar chops, and buffalo hamburgers.
I’m a believer in experimenting with the new foods, and I’m as ready as anyone to try a seared scallop on a bed of pureed cauliflower (even though I don’t much like cauliflower) and topped with foie gras (it was probably the best tapa I’ve ever had). But I also think it’s important to carry on the recipes of the past—King Ranch chicken and meatloaf and tuna casserole, albeit with a twist. In many ways, the path of my life with food traces the ways that our food has changed in this country and yet, I hope, emphasizes the importance of keeping tradition.
1 lb. ground beef
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed in garlic press
2 tsp each sugar and salt (I cut back on those but sugar is important in tomato-based sauces—my mom taught me years ago it sort of rounds it off.)
Pepper to taste
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (here again, you have to fudge; cream cheese doesn’t come in 3 oz. pkg. anymore)
1 c. sour cream
6 green onions chopped, with some of the tops included
Leftovers, if any, freeze well.
Find her at http://www.judyalter.com, http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Alter/e/B001H6KPU6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1403141253&sr=1-2-ent; or on her blogs, http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com and http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com (a food blog—no surprise!).