Brandon Hernández 9:22 a.m., May 24
Learning to Cook Grandma’s and Mama’s Way
Tough times have hit our country again. The current difference is there are fewer and fewer people who have the ability and knowledge to cook meals from scratch. Food that is not only healthy, and nutritious but tastes good as well.
Now popping food from the freezer to the oven or opening a can to heat on the stove seems to be the norm. While some people simply venture out to grab fast food or eat out at a local restaurant.
My research has shown that the majority of cooking is now done by the man of the house and is usually done on the BBQ. Cooking; an essential survival skill is no longer learned at home. Unless you count corndogs, hotdogs, frozen pizza, Top Ramen, Cup of Noodles, nachos or some other microwaveable food. Let’s see what the score is: Diabetes, heart disease, and obesity-3 The American family-0 When I was a kid our family struggled. We just didn’t know it. My mother and grandmother were magicians, making food and nutritious meals from nothing. A little flour, water, baking soda and salt, then presto…..homemade biscuits would appear right before your eyes. We watched with awe as the dough was flattened, rolled, then cut into perfect circles using a drinking glass, popped into the oven, only to reappear golden brown and delicious. Experience was their teacher. They cooked by taste and sight. A pinch of this. A dash of that. I don’t ever remember them using a recipe. Yet, the meals were always consistent, with heavenly aromas and mouth watering goodness. All of our meals had the farmer philosophy. Breakfast leftovers were eaten at lunch. Bacon and eggs became biscuit sandwiches. Lunch leftovers became part of dinner. Nothing was ever wasted and no one ever went hungry. Somehow there was always enough. Like I said they were magicians. Like a mason uses mortar, my grandmother used gravy. Helping to stretch the meal and fill you up. Stick to your ribs goodness, Grandma would say. Most of the time we had milk gravy, but quite a few times it was made from water. Unless you were told, there's no way you could ever taste the difference.
Take a few leftover short ribs, carrots, green beans, and corn, throw in a few potatoes, celery, some rice and there was a huge pot of soup for everyone. Topped off with soda biscuits of course. Everyone helped with dinner. It was family time. We shared funny stories as everyone helped with mixing, chopping, shucking the corn or setting the table.
When we had a cow, we took turns bringing in the milk. Mom would strain the warm milk through cheesecloth and then add ice to cool it down. We had a cow named Elsie, that wouldn’t give a drop of milk unless you played classical music. The first time I milked her, no one told me that important fact, that is, until I had practically pulled the poor thing until she was raw. Finally Grandpa came out to see what was taking so long. He switched on the radio and she started swaying from side to side, lowing softly. This time I barely touched her and a virtual waterfall of milk began escaping her engorged udder. She seemed grateful for the release as she turned and licked my face, knocking me off the milking stool. Everyone drank milk, and ate whatever was on put on the table. No catering to someone’s whining. We were simply told, “Eat, or you’ll get nothing until the next meal.” We did eat. We ate a lot. However, we always left room for dessert, which were Mom and Grandma’s homemade cakes and pies. All the kids would pick wild berries for Grandma’s pies. She made the flakiest crust I’ve ever seen or tasted. All her pies had lattice top crusts, except for her pumpkin or sweet potato. There’s not a day that goes by that I fail to grateful for my mother and grandmother. The lessons I learned were invaluable. I bake from scratch, can jams, pickles and marmalades. Most of our meals (99%) are all homemade. Today’s dinner leftovers, if there are any, will be lunch for my family tomorrow.
I’ll be making chicken enchiladas, (from scratch, of course). There’s nothing quite as good as enchiladas with fried eggs and sour cream on top, to start off your day. It’s the breakfast of champions. If only everyone else could be as fortunate as me to have had these wonderful ladies to serve as my mentors.