Recipe: ……as I ramble on……

|February 22, 2011
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Welcome to Old Fashioned Home Cooking!

After years of cooking, baking, preserving, surviving, and making everything homemade and from scratch and being prodded by friends and family – I’ve decided to share many of my secrets with anyone who is interested.

To begin with – I was brought up in the kitchen, I have a strong restaurant background, and I come from a long line of chefs, pastry chefs, and cooks. My mother was in the food industry all her life – from restaurants to delis with her foods shipped to various places in the U.S. as well as overseas. My maternal grandmother #1 (yes, long story – but I had 2 maternal grams) made the pies for a large chain, cooked in several well-known restaurants and also owned a restaurant/pizzeria. My maternal great-gram was always cooking and baking (as well as being a pastry chef) for everyone.

Being Italian – we had a close and very large family. My great-gram had so many children that she owned 2 huge homes next to each other just so that they had room to live. Her kitchen was her domain – no one entered. (you can read more at http:/thefamiliakitchen.net/)

There is where she cooked and baked so many wonderful dishes and made so many beautiful baked goods. Being a high-society woman, she always baked for all her clubs.

She was a woman with a good heart – and she believed in feeding everyone who was hungry – including total strangers. During the WWI, The Great Depression, and WWII, she fed everyone she could – anyone who was hungry – no one was a stranger to her. I swear she cooked and baked 24/7.

My grandfather was a 5-Star chef working in the finest hotels and restaurants. Just like the rest of the family, grandpa also had chickens, goats, and a large garden.

My great aunts and uncles were cooks –

so you see – it’s in my blood.

Also passed down to me, besides all the recipes, techniques, etc., was how to sew, knit, weave, crochet, etc. I was raised to be a “survivor” regardless of whatever happens. Great-gram knew how to make mattresses, blankets, curtains, doilies, lace, clothing, sweaters – you name it. She also did canning and preserving, rendering her own lard, making her own soap, and everything else that she could do. All this, plus much more, just trickled down to me. Of course I still do it – I love doing these things.

As a child it was normal to see mom slaving in the kitchen day and night. I swear she never slept – I never did see her sleep until I was about 7 years old and it scared the crap out of me. Her eyes were closed and she was sleeping. I cried my eyes out – I thought something was wrong – mom never slept!

Years ago our food products that we bought at the supermarket were much healthier for us. Today there are so many additives, preservatives, MSG, and other chemicals in our foods that we do not need to be embalmed when we die – we are slowly doing it to ourselves. They have actually ruined the taste of the good foods we enjoyed.

Today it seems that everything comes out of a box or a can, or it’s frozen and you just nuke it. Sorry – I don’t believe in microwave ovens. Do I own one? Yes. What do I do with it? I heat my wax to do my eye brows. (I’m still getting up the nerve to do my legs – I’m so chicken!) It sits on the top shelf in the linen closet. Did I ever cook with it? I warmed a slice of pizza in it – once. Didn’t like it at all. I made a bag of microwave popcorn in it – no biggie – it’s better on the stove. I also do not believe in microwave popcorn! That stuff will kill you! Use an air popper or do it the old-fashioned way. Or buy Jiffy Pop. Or do what I did – made my own microwave popcorn.

There are so many health problems today – and most of it is because we are not eating healthy foods. I’m not talking organic products – I‘ve got my own opinions on that and I’ll save that for another time – but I am talking about processed foods and some of the things that are being done to our foods today – including the preparation of it.

The MSG and other chemicals added to our foods contribute to autism as well as many, many health problems. I will post more on the effect of MSG and all the names it goes by in another post. Just stop feeding it to your family. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CANNOT MAKE HOMEMADE.

Let’s talk about this for a moment. How long would a head of lettuce last in your refrigerator before getting rusty and tasting lousy? Sometimes it happens in a few days (regardless of when you bought it – you cannot trust the stores). Take a look at those Dole salad mixes on the store shelves. How long do they hang there and what is their expiration date? Usually 3 weeks away. And they are supposed to be “pre-washed” – with what? What are they doing to it to make it last so long? Sorry – I’ll take my chances with what I get from the market, wash it myself and chance how long it will last. But we are lettuce eaters and it doesn’t go to waste here. And I will never use any of their fruit and veggie washes they sell. I make my own. At least I know what I am eating – and it is not chemicals, preservatives or additives. I feel I get enough of those with some of what I eat – I do not need anymore. Even the restaurant are now using that crap – so I prefer to make my own restaurant recipes at home.

Look at the bread on the shelves. First of all – white breads today are scag food. They have no flavor, make lousy sandwiches and don’t even make good toast. Air-filled nothing rolling around in your mouth. (and think about those poor kids eating PB & J on that crap!) Don’t waste your money on them. Go for the hearty breads that have substance to them if you don’t want to make your own. Since when did fresh-baked bread last 3 weeks?

Even milk is dated almost a month away.

Am I the only one who notices these things in the store?

And years ago we didn’t have all these expiration dates and we had no problems. And regardless of what the expiration date is on a product – once it is opened I am the one who decides how long it will last. Once opened these foods do not last until the expiration date. Understand??? Many don’t. No wonder so many have tummy troubles – slowly they are poisoning themselves and their families.

And my refrigerator is something cleaned daily. Never will you find anything that needs to be carbon-dated for identification in my refrigerator. For the life of me I don’t understand why people shove everything in the fridge and just push it around in there. If you are not going to eat it, or use in leftovers, and it’s not something you want to freeze – TOSS IT! And nothing disgusts me more than seeing someone’s refrigerator crammed with unrecognizable things and there is a spoon or fork stuck in it!

Stepping back in time brings back wonderful memories! And the memories are all we have left – those days will never come back. We had a milkman. He would deliver milk every 2 to 3 days. Glass quart bottles with the cream floating on top. You had to shake it to use. He would also deliver cottage cheese, eggs, and butter – not margarine. Margarine (which in those days was great for baking and cooking – not like the crap they have today or those lousy spreads they push on us which you cannot cook and bake with) was something you purchased at the supermarket. (I have a post about margarine I will post later.)

We had the Italian baker who would drive a flatbed with a canvas canopy on the top – sides open – loaded with breads, Danish, pies, cakes, cannoli – everything he baked all night long he would pile on the flatbed and hit the streets singing Italian songs at the top of his lungs! You knew when he was coming. Once in a while we would get a loaf of bread – but not that often. We baked bread in my house everyday. If you bought bread at the supermarket it would go stale in a day or two. And Wonder Bread back in the “good ol’ days” was amazingly good! But then again – everything tasted better then. It wasn’t over-processed and loaded with preservatives, additives, and chemicals.

And then there was the knife man. He walked the streets pushing a cart – just like the popcorn man did. The knife man would sharpen your scissors and knives right on the spot. The popcorn man – well you would hear his whistle and smell that popcorn before he came around the corner. He had the best popcorn and caramel corn.

We even had the S & S man – the man who delivered gallon glass jugs of 101 bleach! Like the milkman, you washed out the bottles and returned the cleaned bottles to them so they could take them back to the plant/dairy. The bleach jugs weren’t capped with a normal cap – they had cork stoppers in them.

The Fuller Brush man came around occasionally selling his wares as well.

Friday was the day you grabbed the vacuum, reversed the hose, and thawed the old-fashioned refrigerator freezers. You needed that extra few inches for shopping day. We had a Coldspot. It amazes me today how much that little freezer held to get us through a week of cooking. Of course we went to the market on other days if we had to – but looking back I wonder how we did it before we got the big chest freezers. Especially with all the cooking and baking we did. Then purchasing two 500 pound capacity chest freezers made everything much easier. The things you can freeze!

Saturday was shopping day – but not until you scrubbed the entire house. That was the day you went with mom to the supermarket (usually the one that gave out the Dollar Doublers or the S & H Green Stamps) and you would shop for the week. Since milk and bread never lasted more than a day, we had the corner stores for things like that. (And she always bought a box of animal crackers for you! The Barnum and Bailey circus box with the little red thread handle.)

It was common to see many of the women shopping with their hair in curlers because Sunday was the day of going to church or to a family for dinner. Families were families in those days. There was respect in those days. Today families are not families – there is no respect.

The first thing you did was stop for gas. Gas stations closed like supermarkets so you had to make sure you had gas. The attendant with the hat that looked like a policeman’s cap, the uniform with the emblem of the gas supplier on the pocket of the shirt, the little bow tie – would not only pump your gas, but he would clean your windshield, check your oil, check your tire pressure and make sure that under the hood – things were fine – all at no extra cost.

Supermarkets did not have built in bakeries, pharmacies, etc. like they do today. We didn’t have 500 different types of cereal to pick from – we had Kix, Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Shredded Wheat, Wheatena, Maypo, Quaker Oats, Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks, Puffed wheat, Puffed Rice and possibly a few more and that was our selection to choose from.

We had Heinz and Hunt’s ketchups, French’s mustard – no fancy mustards, Olive oil, corn oil, lard, shortening (Crisco, Fluffo and Spry), Heinz vinegar – none of all these different brands and various flavors. No bottled sauces – OMG – in my house that would have been forbidden! No one would even touch a jar of it or look at it – it was sacrilegious!

The frozen food section had Swanson TV dinners – that was the “new” thing on the market. I remember mom buying one – she gave it to me for lunch (using me as the guinea pig) to see what it was like – and from there she made her own homemade.

There were basic pastas in a box or cello bag, your choice of flour was Gold Medal, Pillsbury or Robin Hood. There weren’t delis selling pre-cooked foods in the market, but they did sell cold cuts and cheeses. The good American cheese that not only had flavor, but would crack if you tried to fold it. Today’s cheese are so over-processed that I either make my own or go without.

And don’t even bring “dirt” and “sawdust” in my house. “Dirt” is ground black pepper – “sawdust” is grated cheese in a jar. I grind my own pepper and I grate my own cheese – at least I know what I am eating. I even dry my own parsley because today, no one can tell the difference between parsley, cilantro and a weed. They don’t even know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams. But yet supermarkets hire people and don’t teach them. Why? Because even THEY can’t tell the difference. Years ago – they did – today – it’s just a big money game.

For those that did not bake you would run to the bakery for what you needed; and don’t forget to get to the butcher shop – which always had sawdust on the floor.

The stores closed at 5:00 PM on Saturdays and did not open again until Monday morning. So you had a lot to do – going to the dry cleaners or the shoe repair shop, going to the post office, going to the drug store, and the department stores or the five-and-dime. The stores (including gas stations, drug stores, etc.) were also closed by noon on Wednesday’s and every holiday. But you knew it and you planned for it and no one complained.

I miss the old stores: Woolworth’s, Neisner’s, W.T. Grant Company, Kobacker’s, A M & A’s, Hens and Kelley’s, Hengerer’s, Slotkin’s (woman’s apparel), Robert Hall (family clothing). Too many K-Mart stores (which I hate with a passion), Sears was much better when it was Sears & Roebuck (I hate Sears more than I do K-Mart), Target, Wal-Marts.

If mom and I went downtown shopping we would stop at Neisner’s or Woolworth’s. Neisner’s had a cafeteria and you picked what you wanted from a large selection of hot and cold foods. Woolworth’s had a counter and booths – always with the hotdogs cooking on the rollers. Mom would have a cup coffee and a slice of pie – coffee was a dime – pie was fifteen cents a slice. I’d have an order of fries and sometimes a hotdog with a glass of chocolate milk. (Okay – I’m old – I remember Henry’s hamburgers – fifteen cents each and a pound of fries in the white insulated bag, along with a coke for waaaayyyy under a dollar. Still left me change to stop for Hostess Li’l Angel cakes for fifteen cents a package, some candy and still having change from my dollar!)

We didn’t have a house filled with junk foods – and there certainly weren’t as many as there are today. We didn’t live on soda pop. In those days it was sold in glass bottles, quart, 16 ounce size and Coca Cola did have split bottles. Canned pop came out much later. And the deposit on the bottles was 2 cents for the splits and 16 ounce (which were sold in an 8-pack cardboard carrier) and 5 cents for the quarts. Coca-Cola, 7-Up, Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer, Cream Soda, Sarsaparilla, Birch Beer, Cherry and Orange were the drinks then. Potato chips came in cello bags and you could see what they looked like! And then there was Jiffy-Pop!

Sunday was the day of cooking and baking all day to feed the entire family. Everyone piled in on us every Sunday, holiday and special event. We had so much food and so many different meals prepared at once that everyone had a ton of food and baked goods to take home for the next day or two.

When I was very young, mom had the old-fashioned stove that had to be lit with a match – including the oven. The oven did not have a thermostat. You would light a piece of rolled up paper, press the gas button and light the pilot light in the oven. Once it lit you closed the door and waited for the temperature to rise. You could tell the temperature of the oven by placing your hand in it for a second or two. Hey – that is how it was done back then.

When I was a little older mom got a “modern” stove. It was a big one. Two ovens, and it even had a griddle on top between the burners. I loved that stove and I wish I had one like it now. It made the best Sunday breakfasts for the busy cook.

The old percolator (which I still have and it makes the best coffee) sat on one burner, while eggs, were cooking, and bacon or ham in a other skillet was cooking, the pancakes were on the griddle. The loaf of homemade bread from the day before (usually shaped round and big) was sliced in a large thick round and toasted in the broiler. Mom would slather on the butter and jelly if we wanted it and cut it in wedges. I still do it today.

The breakfast mess was immediately cleaned and the sauce was started and the roasts were placed in the oven and the last minute prepping was done for the days meals. Pies, cake and cookies were baked the night before to allow the room in the ovens for breads, rolls and roasts. We also had a large stove in the basement. So we ran up and down the stairs cooking in both kitchens to feed the entire family.

Our kitchen was the heart of our home. Everyone was welcomed there. That is where we cooked, baked, shared, laughed, cried, worried, planned, had family discussions. Weddings, showers, parties, graduations, First Holy Communions, Confirmations, etc. were all planned at the kitchen table. Mourning was done there. Always a good cup of coffee, tea and homemade goodies served to those who entered. Hey – just in time for dinner – grab a seat.

Following in family tradition, this is the time of the year that I replenish my pantry with all kinds of goodies – from homemade baking mixes of all kinds, cake mixes, bread and roll mixes, pie mixes, spice mixes, drink mixes – anything I can make homemade. I know it is all fresh for the heavy baking and cooking throughout the holiday season. I fill my freezer with soups stocks and sauces and I fill may pantry with homemade jellies/jams, soups, stocks, sauces, fruits, veggies – anything.

I have much to share – and I hope you also join me in making homemade goodies for your family as well. Not only will they be eating healthier foods, prepared healthy, but they will also learn to survive and pass it on to their children.

If there is something you would like – just send me an email.
Mamaskitchen@basicisp.net