Monday, February 21, 2011

Bad Times and Good Food

Even those people who love me the most will tell you that I should be a candidate for this, one of our favorite shows on Food Network. (Saving for a later date my suitability for What Not To Wear, of course.)

I would not argue with them one iota. When our younger son, Thomas, was about 4 or 5, he looked up from his dinner plate and said, "Mama? This is the best food you ever made."

It was Hamburger Helper.

My dear husband, Henry, is the person with the cooking genes around here. He grew up eating those wonderful country spreads that his Mama laid out all the time, and when I was a young bride with woefully inadequate kitchen skills my sweet mother-in-law told me not to bother with learning because "Lin* loves to do it, and he's good at it." I am not much of one for taking advice, but I heeded hers.

I will tell you that I have nearly perfected my Mama's Amazing Potato Salad recipe, and am now the family keeper of that responsibility. I am not a total lost cause, people.

This season of unemployment through which we are traveling means that we are making our food dollars stretch as far as we possibly can. Historically, we have always eaten out or ordered take-out at least once a week, but so far in 2011 we have done that only 3 times: once on a gift certificate a sweet friend sent for our anniversary; once on a gift certificate that one of Henry's customers had given him one Christmas; and we caved and got $12 in Chinese take-out this weekend. Wild, I know.

Anyway....  we had stocked up on pork chops recently when Winn-Dixie had them deeply reduced, so I knew we were having those for supper tonight. But what to go with?

We had bought a bag of apples at the grocery last week that had a wonderful flavor but were a little mealier than I like. We also had 6 small potatoes that were a little less than wonderfully firm. In ordinary times all of these things would have found their way into the compost pile, but tonight?

I chopped those suckers up with some white onion and carrots, tossed them in olive oil and some seasonings, and popped them in the oven to roast.  Roasting vegetables/fruits that are on the questionable end of the scale is the culinary equivalent of wearing a black muu muu: a multitude of sins can be covered quite nicely.

I am here to report that this combination was out of this world!

While we were knocking each other down for seconds I couldn't help but recall that so many of our classic Southern dishes were born of a time when folks couldn't afford to let one little thing go to waste, and I am learning that with a little heat and a little seasoning, you can put a pretty fine meal on the table from lots of lost causes. 

How fun is THAT??

* Lin is what Henry's family calls him. His old friends call him Blue or Bluejohn. I call him Cap. His granddaughter calls him Pop. The poor man will answer to anything. 


  1. I love this and so true.

    It's funny but when I lived in Scotland, Alex's granny would make a meal pretty much out of anything leftover in her kitchen. She once prepared a soup from stuff that I had thought was the compost bin but nope, just leaves of cabbages, and parts of vegetables she would save at a later date to make into a big ol' stock or soup (and it was yummy!) I thought such frugality bizarre but as I age, I admire this skill, where you can buy a chicken and not let any part of it go to waste - not one little bit. Not that they were poor by any means but her saying (like my mother) was always: "look after the pennies and the pounds (British pounds) will take care of themselves". How true.

    Hate that you are having to be so creative in the kitchen as a reminder of H's current unemployment situation but it's a life skill we should all aim to achieve, even in the more affluent times.

  2. I hear THAT, Carrie, necessity being the mother of "in kitchen" and all that......!

  3. food adventures are grand. I am the keeper of strudel making in my family and am proud of it so do be proud of that potato salad.

  4. Our own cupboards were so bare once that the only thing I could throw together was spaghetti noodles with taco seasoning. It was hands-down one of the worst meals I've ever eaten, as attested to the fact that I've never forgotten it.
    Glad you are better at this than I am, although, I'm praying the day comes soon when you are hosting the feast for others to enjoy.