Sunday, October 04, 2009

Culinary Therapy Wrap Up

How much do you identify with your ethnic or regional background? And does that affect your cooking?

My family background is Anglo-Irish and Slovak, and I was born and raised in New Jersey.

Jersey is good because the ethnic makeup of the area I grew up in prizes vegetables and good food and good cooking. However, a lot of it tends towards Italian style cooking and the worship of tomatoes, neither of which I am on board with. Yes, I am a changeling. I don't love Italian food, but I'll eat it every once in a while. Tomatoes I can take or leave most of the time. Yes, even homegrown tomatoes. Yes, even heirlooms.

The Slovak side--My grandmother grew up in a mountain village where you grew stuff or starved, and she always farmed even in this country with another job. Her two specialties were pickles and homemade chicken soup with homemade noodles. I have got the stock down, but my noodles are always too thick. Her cooking was heavily reliant on using what was at hand and not wasting anything.

The Anglo-Irish side--Supposedly, Grandma Jane did not cook. The family "joke" (maybe true, maybe not) was that she and Aunt Mary Jane ate at Friendly's every night. When Dusie was about 3 or 4, she told my parents she wanted to go live with them. They came and picked her up and some clothes and went out to Friendly's for dinner. Dusie ate her Happy Endings Sundae and then got very serious. "I have to go home now. My baby (meaning Aces) needs me." So they brought her back.

She remembered this incident, but couldn't figure out why she had wanted to go live with them until last year when I told her about the Friendly's aspect.

My father liked his meat and vegetables overcooked. In rebellion, I undercook all meat and veg.

Grandma Jane apparently was a huge Coke fiend, a trait I inherited.

An important point of family history that I hadn't known until recently--my paternal grandfather weighed over 300 pounds. While my parents were always dieting during my childhood, I think that I grew up with good eating patterns and nutritional ideals. However, I realized over the past couple of years that I use sugar and caffeine to manipulate my mood and basically home treat my anxiety and depression. I don't know what I would have done differently with that information, and the connection to mental health. And I don't know where that leaves me now.

Culinary Therapy--Final Questions

1. Is there anything that makes the act of cooking (not thinking about cooking) appealing to you?
Having people come over to eat with me. Praise. Interesting new recipes or ingredients. Wanting to try something, but being too intimidated to eat it out in a restaurant for the first time.

2. What would you rather be doing than cooking?
Screwing around on the internet, writing, walking around the neighborhood, reading, dreaming of kittens.

3. What prevents you from cooking and/or posting about the cooking you do?
Lack of a digital camera. But honestly, I am very comfortable making a large something, pairing it with salad or refashioning it (those freehanded lamb meatballs, for instance) and eating it for several days until it either runs out or spoils or I lose interest. This is a utilitarian approach to eating, but not real exciting for most.

4. What, if anything, have you gained from CT?
I came to at least one important personal realization that I'll elaborate on in more detail in the future: eating makes me anxious, or at least triggers the same pattern of anxiety that the phone and writing and a score of other activities of daily life provoke in me.

But also--I like my cooking and eating style. I just need to improve my focus enough so that I am actually (gasp!) managing to pack a lunch and plan out both lunch and dinner menus in advance.

I do have a list of dishes to try in the next few weeks. Invites are forthcoming, and well, leftovers are always appreciated at work.

Lady Baltimore cake
applesauce cake
pumpkin chicken goulash
chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
date & apricot chutney
green tomato chutney
My Thanksgiving Dinner! (which might be held on Veteran's Day)

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