Try not to break into “Fiddler on the Roof” at this title; however, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family recently, which has me thinking about food traditions. I grew up within the culinary limitations of a southern college town (pork and beer, y’all). My mother learned to cook in New England and Texas as a newlywed, although she grew up in a German Jewish family in northern California. I like to think of her cooking as as home-style regional fusion with a strong German influence.
We ate stews, Polish pork chops, pumpernickel bread, and Spanish rice. My mother took me to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. She made her own bread and pie crust, but claimed she could never make biscuits. I grew up thinking that cake mixes were an abomination, store-bought pie crusts were for the weak, and jar tomato sauce was not mentioned in polite company.
All was not blackberry-picking in the mountains for my native food culture, however. For each homemade jar of jam, there was Uncle Ben’s Rice and Campbell’s soup. As I grew up and learned how to eat and cook for myself, I discovered basmati rice, cilantro, and green peppers. I continued going to farmers markets on Saturday mornings and try to make my own pie crust, with varied success.
For me, growing up was a process of choosing food cultures to keep and to reject. (If I never eat aspic again, it will be too soon.) Here are a few simple recipes from my mother (below the line).