Saturday, February 6, 2010

Recipes in Your Head, and in Your Heart

Most of my favorite recipes are memorized.  This is not due to amazing powers of retention or because I sat down and read the recipes over and over again until they were engraved in my brain.  Nope, its from repeated use.  I tend to return to favorites and it is in the repetition that these recipes have become part of my psyche. 

Most people probably have a recipe or two up their sleeves, favorites they can pull off without referring to a cook book or Web site, something we learned to love in our early cooking days and that's been a sure winner every time.  I've shared a few of those in this blog: sweet and sour chicken, chocolate chip cookies, and my mom's "beefaroni." 

I love to hear others' "go to" recipes, the standards they go to when they want a taste of home, a guaranteed result, something familiar.  The exciting thing about baking and cooking is that there is always room for possibility, for new experiences, an expanded repetoire.  I think of people I care about and what I consider their signature recipes.  For my sister-in-law Carolyn, it's her spaghetti sauce.  For my mother-in-law Mary Lou, it was always her pork roast.  For my dad, it was his broiled sword fish with lemon pepper seasoning.  For my mom, it was her tuna casserole.  Before his vegetarian days, my brother Steven grilled a mean hot dog (though he enjoys a veggie dog now and then).  My sister Patsy bakes her chocolate bundt cake for every occasion.  My sister Anne prefers to make "reservations" but I've seen her concoct some really good meals lately, so even if she protests, there's mounting evidence of an inner (and good) cook.  My sister-in-law Suzette is a gourmet cook (lucky husband, my brother Dan).  And my brother Dan is a champion at the grill.  My daughter Katie is a very good cook - she tries new things all the time and really enjoys the creative aspects of cooking.  My daughter Tricia is a cook by profession (good girl!) and recently won an impressive competition, and my daughter Meghan is a very good cook - vegetarian - and really enjoys that.  My son Joe started cooking at an early age.  We had a huge garden and at age  9 or 10 he'd go pluck and eggplant from the garden and, without any help, made eggplant parmesan.  I can still see him as a confident little boy, standing on a stool in front of the stove!  My son Jeffrey is very much like me, a baker, makes beautiful cakes as well as the world's best chocolate chip cookies! 

I'm fortunate to be surrounded by people who share my interest in baking and cooking.  There seems to be a theme running and it's interesting, because growing up, we weren't so focused on food.  My mom made good meals and we enjoyed them, but the next generation seems to have taken food to a more adventurous if not creative level. 

Yep, my favorite recipes are in my head, but they are also in my heart.
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