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.