Thursday, February 10, 2011

Linking to My DNA of Cooking

I got another book in the mail! It is like getting a box of chocolates to satisfy my craving to know more. I received Forgotten Skills of Cooking the Time-Honored Ways Are The Best over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen, who is called "the Julia Child of Ireland".
Last night I was brought back to my roots of Northern Europe reading her fantastic book showing how to create those dishes that are part of my DNA.

The chapter titles are:

  • Foraging

  • Fish

  • Game

  • Beef

  • Dairy

  • Eggs and Poultry

  • Pig

  • Lamb

  • Vegetables Herbs and Salad

  • Preserving

  • Desserts

  • Cakes and Cookies

  • Bread

  • Household Tips

  • Resources

How many of you have tasted Comfrey Fritters? I have Comfrey growing in my garden. I know it is a time-honored herb, but I have never used it in my cooking. I also saw a recipe for a drink made with Comfrey leaves as one of the ingredients.

In her Household Tips, Darina list several old but true methods of helping with a stiff neck, Nettle stings and how to clean the oven. We need to be reminded that there are problem solvers that don't come in a clean plastic bottle with a squirt top formulated with high-tech science and harmful substances.

I suddenly know with encouragement by the author that I could possibly even cure a whole ham and that my Norwegian ancestors would love that salted cod might show up on my dinner table very soon! I found out that it doesn't have to be cod that has been salted to death and stiff as a board. We always laughed at that it was said the real flavor came from the dog lifting his leg on the cod while it was leaning up against the back porch wall. You can use just enough salt to use within a few days to have delicious taste of salted cod without suffering from guilt from knowing that your arteries are now permanently blocked and your blood pressure is off the charts.

I think we partly threw away much of our old cooking methods because we now had refrigerators to keep food safe and fresh instead of preserving them to keep the bacteria from growing. We also got carried away with eating healthier with less salts. Funny, we didn't mind eating McDonald's hamburgers or Banquet frozen dinners. We got rid of the old to replace with even more questionable new foods. We now have engineered and genetically altered foods. Heaven only knows what we eat if we are not careful. Our labeling laws don't always keep up with processes our food manufactures come up with. We can't tell from a label what the cow ate to create the steak we purchase or the milk that we drink.

Darina brings us back to the knowledge that we threw out with the wash in the early 1960's when new was best and old was just that - old and useless. I came into adulthood at that time. I wore Jackie Kennedy styles, made jello cakes and even ate Wonder Bread. Remember Valveeta Cheese? It still exist even though most of us feel it is just colorized melted plastic of some sort.

Through the years, I have chosen my own style to wear, eat whole grain breads, like to make my own cakes from scratch, eat real cheese and even manage to make bread about once a month. But, I have never attempted to go to where my mother never went. It was probably my grandmother who last raised her own chickens, made her own butter and made bread each and every week. My mother born in 1919, thought those skills of making her own food were outdated and unnecessary. She was convinced to throw out the old for everything new. She used only cake mixes, loved those frozen dinners and gave up fresh vegetables for frozen or canned. Advertising pays very well for a reason - it works. We believe what we are told.

Maybe like Egypt revolting in a need for freedoms that they have learned about through the internet, has also had us reaching back into our past to find a simplified way of life without advertising making us choose what to be, what to do and what to buy. I think it is an internet revolution with people like Jamie Oliver shouting at us to think for ourselves. Of course TV has joined this band wagon with shows letting us meet these strange people who believe basic food is good for us. Food without chemicals and genetic engineering is making a comeback. We crave it. We search it out. This is news coming from the people from a food revolution. Companies are rushing in to get their fair market share with labels of natural, organic or whatever sounds good for today. But do we really know they are truthful? They have lied to us in the past. They have lost our trust. We no longer believe that someone else really cares about our welfare. We have to care ourselves. We are searching our past to find a way to know what our own food consist of and to be responsible for our own well being. We are growing our own vegetables, reading labels like those on a mission, searching for meat that has been raised in dignity and health and developing skills that we once thought were needless.

I even thought for a brief moment that I was being innovative. What a foolish assumption. Search the internet for new terms of use like organic, sustainable and chemical free. It is amazing what those searches can find!

Welcome to a new but not original way of life. I hope someday to report that I have cured a ham. I hope that I can get my own chickens soon and that maybe a pig might even find a home with me until the day he feeds my family. I have yet to figure out how to get over killing. Up until now, my life has been eating meat from a plastic wrapped package. I don't hear a squeal, a gasp or see death. Darina even describes how to break a chicken's neck. It is out of my reality, but I know my day will come when I find this as a normal process of life.

I'll be back to report on my progress of reaching back into my ancestry. I don't plan on plundering the shores of England as my Viking relatives did or burn books or kill people for believing something I find disturbing, but I will use some of the past to create a better future. I will bring in what was thrown out with the wash that really needed to be cherished as a healthy wise treasure to hold dear. Comments are always appreciated and enjoyed.

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We moved to our current home on the Wild River Coast of Southern Oregon from San Jose, CA. Our family consist of Jim and Karen, two dogs and two cats. Karen's passion is gardening. Jim's obsession is building electric powered fishing kayaks and fishing.