Monday, July 17, 2017

Using recipes, and not.

My husband follows recipes, pretty much to the letter.  I mostly make up recipes out of my head as I go along, although occasionally I remember a recipe I read/developed long ago (hello, waffles!)  But aside from those remembered recipes, I basically throw stuff in a pot and cook it.  This means that I get to make up fun names for my meals . . . and I get to keep making up names, because I almost never remember what ingredients I actually used in previous meals.  Our family still fondly remembers inviting a friend over to dinner who remarked with surprise, "I've never had Pittsburgh Pasta before!  I can't believe I haven't tried this!"   All we remember of the recipe is that there were artichokes and chopped-up, leftover lasagna noodles.  Plus other "stuff".  "Stuff" is my favorite ingredient.

Possibly for this reason, I have only two cookbooks.  One is a well-loved copy of Joy of Cooking, which I've had forever. (By the way, if you ever want to read a really wonderful history that looks at kitchens, cooking, society, and also a riveting story of an old-fashioned mom with her hippie daughter, check out Stand facing the stove : the story of the women who gave America the Joy of cooking, by Anne Mendelson).   I love how my The Joy of Cooking describes the basics of preparing food, starting from scratch as well as doing stuff that's fairly sophisticated -- and if you're curious about why this book does it better than others, Mendleson's history explained how the cookbook developed to do just that.

The second cookbook is the More With Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, which describes lots of different ways to make substitutions, and, as promised, offers many ways to make hearty meals starting with humble ingredients.  Longacre was a Mennonite woman who believed that every action tied in some way to promoting (or not) justice.  I love the philosophical preamble to the book as much as I love the pragmatic and helpful guides/recipes that follow.

(Oh, I just realized that I also have a third cookbook -- the Winnie the Pooh Cookbook.  I got it as a child, and I keep it for sentimental reasons.  Yeah).

Having said all that, here's a big hug for K-daughter, who decided to solve the "problem" of having lots of cauliflower from our CSA.  (The "problem" was that the cauliflower was sitting in the fridge and not getting eaten, because it looked like plants and not like food).  And her solution involved hunting for recipes in the modern way (on-line), combined with being willing to take a bit of advice from her mom on how to make substitutions so that using cauliflower didn't mean going to the store to buy even more ingredients.   Huzzah!

Here's the blow-by-blow, via text messages.

K: How does a new recipe for tonight sound? Cauliflower casserole? We dont have sour cream, can i substitute it for the plain yogurt we have in the fridge? Would you mind?

M: Sounds AWESOME! add a tsp or so of vinegar to the yogurt and it'll be more like sour cream.

K:  Sweet! Thank you!!!

M:  You're welcome!

K:  I get out of the child watch at 6:30, i dont think it will take too long to make this if i prep for it now. So we can have dinner by 730 ish?

M:  Sounds fine by me. Thanks for cooking!

K: Totallyi just hope itll taste ok! Haha
It calls for corn flake crumbs.... Can i ise grape nuts instead?!  this may be a dumb question

M: Or regular bread crumbs -- I have a bunch in the freezer. Grape nuts would probably be too crunchy.

K: Awesome. Thanks!

****** after awesome dinner . . .  ********

M:  So where did you find that recipe???

K: I just googled online cauliflower recipes and it popped up with cauliflower casserole, and that sounded really yummy! would you like it?!

M:  Ypppers!!!



  1. My sister still calls me about substitutions and other cooking stuff. Habit, I guess.

    1. Also, I think even if you're not in the same physical kitchen, there's something comforting about communal cooking.