Snow in April means stay home to bake bread, write, and paint rather than go to the pool. I may walk the dogs or swim later if I feel like a slug. What’s been on my mind is how my family of origin has influenced my love of cooking. I’d been wracking my brain trying to think of an appropriate title for my blog that encompasses who I am and all of my interests. My journal is filled with ideas. I just couldn’t land on one. And then I had a dream. I don’t know about you, but I pay attention to my dreams. I believe dreams are akin to the soul informing the conscious mind or ego what’s going on. For instance, my clients often come in with nightmares, which are sometimes so scary to them they are afraid to even talk about them. I tell them that nightmares are often about something we are afraid to deal with in our lives. It’s the SELF’s or SOUL’s way of helping us process. If we are willing to look the nightmare turns into an ally.
While I was trying to land on a title I had a dream about my neighbor. In the dream, I walk over to her house. Everything there is chaotic and she was upset that she didn’t know what to do. She says to me, “I don’t even know where to begin.” This isn’t far from the truth. There are always multiple cars in her driveway, kids running around her yard and ours, and dogs barking. I never know which dogs are hers and which ones are just visiting. This is the stuff of irritation for me. Only once have I walked over in a neighborly way after listening to her boyfriend trying to start their lawn mower for what seemed like hours. I walked over and offered the use of ours more out of frustration than kindness I’ll admit. I walked over and when she came to the door a Rottweiler came to greet me as well. I peeked in the house to see many grown-ups and kids lounging around. What does this have to do with choosing Noleftovers? My dream let me know I’ve been projecting onto her. Remember I don’t know anything about her. Whenever you feel an unexplainable aversion to someone you can be sure you’re projecting onto them. In the dream, I respond to her, “You know, I always begin with I’m one of twelve.”
I am one of twelve. Number five to be exact. You can imagine the chaos. We spent a lot time running around outside unsupervised much like the kids next door. One important ritual controlled the chaos of our crazy family and that was dinnertime. My father loved to cook and he was very good at it. As I mentioned in “Who do you think you are?,” his grandmother was very creative. His mother was French (Odette) and an incredible baker. My father provided a male role model much different than the sports loving, outdoorsman type of American myth. He was a creative. When he was dying I wrote a poem for him titled, “Faith, Pancakes, and Other Non-verbal Expressions of Love.” My father went to 6:00 a.m. mass in the mornings and came home to make a hot breakfast. I have a picture of him that serves as my “Kitchen Madonna.” It’s a Catholic thing. You’re supposed to have a statue of the Blessed Mother of Jesus to protect and bless the hearth, but I have my dad. The picture also serves as “proof” because my younger sister who is only fifteen months younger than I swears she ate cold cereal all the time. The Lansing State Journal came to our house one morning to do a piece about Mornings with a Family of Fourteen. My mother was not as interested in food as my father. There is a picture her in that morning piece seated on the stool in the corner over a cup of coffee. One of my sisters has that picture. To this day I do not eat cold cereal.
Sunday dinner was very important to my father and that was typically the meal he prepared. For the life of me, I do not remember more than one roast chicken to divide among fourteen people. We always had mashed potatoes, a vegetable, and a salad, which was a family favorite as he put a hardboiled egg, bacon, and a homemade mayonnaise and vinegar dressing on it. Dinnertime was the one time he and my mother could corral all the kids into one place. However, we didn’t all fit around the table. The kids would take turns at the aforementioned stool in the corner, which is a theme for another time. My father would not let us commence eating until my mother was seated and the prayer said.
Here’s the other thing. I don’t remember more than one pie for dessert. My father was a great pie maker. To this day I’ve not tasted a pie crust that surpasses my father’s. My husband has perfected it, I must say. There’s also a poem about that in my arsenal. He kept things simple as you will see in future posts, but his results were delicious! The more impressive skill was dividing said pie among all those mouths. My husband and I can dispense with a pie in six servings, eight if we’re watching our weight. When we had cherry pie, my father would say, “Whoever gets the pit gets a second piece of pie.” Apparently, cans of cherries (in water not in syrup) contained a least one pit (did he know that or was it a fluke? I don’t know). Whoever almost broke a tooth was the lucky recipient of the last sliver. Here’s the pie crust recipe. I use my younger sister’s cherry pie recipe. It could be the one my father used. Doesn’t matter because if anyone inherited his gift for cooking it is my sister.
For the crust: Pie crust is one thing I just don’t mess with. You can substitute whole wheat pastry flour and it is fine, but indulge a little. Eat it like the original.
2 cup (9 oz) unbleached unbromated flour
1t salt (and don’t forget it! Right Gerry?:)
A scant cup of Crisco (just over 3/4 just shy of one cup)
7 to 8 T ice cold water
Combine dry ingredients, with a fork or pastry blender
1/2Add the water until blended and can easily form into a ball making sure it’s not too wet. My husband wraps in wax paper and chills in the refrigerator for a bit before dividing the crust in two and rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Flour the rolling pin as well. While he’s doing that I’m preparing the filling. The filling can be healthier than the old recipes. I like canned cherries in water especially since I’m lazy and if I have fresh cherries in the house I eat them all.
2 cans of cherries packed in water (I like Oregon pitted red tart cherries) Do not throw away the juice
1/2 C monk fruit crystals
1 T ground flaxseed
2 T cornstarch or other thickener
1/4 t almond extract
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Combine monk fruit crystals, flaxseed and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Drain the juice of one can of cherries into the saucepan and cook on the stove over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Add the cherries and extract and remove from heat.
Dot with butter before topping with pastry. I also am not a fan of cross-hatching the top crust. Why? Because I love crust. Vent the top with a fork. Be creative. My husband does all the crimping etc. He’s better at it than I. Maybe when I get back from Ballymaloe I’ll be better than he is at making a pie crust.
Turn down the oven to 350 and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.