I often talk about my family and their influences on my cooking. Most likely it’s because I like to reminisce and keep their memories alive. Comfort food is exactly that, a remembrance of a time past, carried forward in food. Our olfactory memory is much longer and more accurate than the rest of our memory, probably because we don’t often reinvent the stories of smells and tastes like we might about people and events.
Recipes are our history. They aren’t intellectual property as much as aural history, passed down and around from generation to generation; friend to friend; and now blog to blog (oh how I dislike that word). Julia Child did not invent Beurre Blanc, she just passed it along to the 50’s American housewife. Fortunately for us all, Julia’s fine work was so good that it has lasted generations in it’s original form (more or less).
Folk music is akin to the recipe. Tunes were taught to younger players and passed around. The performance was like cooking – you took the tune and made it your own. These tunes traveled the globe (before that was easy) so variations of Irish folk songs turned up in the hills of West Virginia and the front porches of Alabama. Maybe the bridge was different or the key had changed, but the essence of the tune was still there, seasoned by the local influence and passed on to another generation. Recipes are no different. The ingredients vary slightly and the methods get updated – a spice is left out or added – but the essence and memory remain.
I think that’s why I love to cook. I find an idea, make it my own, then perform it in the kitchen. And like writing a song, I also compose new ideas from time to time. I base those ideas on my taste memory, knowledge and experience and I come up with something that I think is original.
Somebody must have been Italian in my lineage. I wake up craving garlic and I could eat pasta everyday. I love Italians: their cars, their food, their music and their passion. Here is an Italian favorite that I am channelling. I don’t even know where I have had this in the past, but my wife and I have been making it for a few years with tomatoes from our garden.
- 4 Slices of Stale Bread, torn into chunks
- 3-4 Ripe Tomatoes, rough chopped
- 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
- 2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon of Fresh Basil, rough chopped
- 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil (As good as you got)
- 2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
- Chef’s Knife
- Mixing Bowl
- Tear the bread into bit sized chunks into a bowl. You will need to use homemade or semi-homemade bread that actually gets stale. The stuff with a shelf life of 10 years will never work.
- Salt and pepper the bread.
- Peal and slice the tomatoes over the bread so the juice of the tomatoes cover and coat the bread.
- Let that mixture sit for an hour of so. You want the bread to be thoroughly soaked.
- Toss the onion, garlic, basil, olive oil and vinegar into the mixture. Careful with the red onion. Add less if it seems strong.
- Salt and pepper to taste.