Tag Archives: memories

A Cook’s Best Friend

November 2019

For those of us cookbook lovers, a recipe book is an old and faithful friend with a million memories trapped between the stained pages.

Long before the internet, we “old” cooks depended on cookbooks for ideas, measurements and recipes.

Sometimes a (cook) book is a life-changer. The Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook was a pioneer in promoting vegetarian cooking. Even though it was first published over 40 years ago, the message and recipes never fail to inspire. In fact, I recently made homemade hummus and used the seasoning technique for “Soy Spread” from the book. The result was a totally addictive and tasty spread. Some things just never age!

Whenever friends or family see me in the kitchen, they always want to know whether I received professional training. The truth is I learned by watching some very talented cooks. Laurel, Gale, Sultana, Sarah, Sandra, Diane, Carol and many others taught me that cooking was more than just putting together ingredients.

Together we cooked with grace. We washed, chopped, diced, sautéed and boiled with one-pointed attention and mindfulness. I learned that healthy food prepared with love was a selfless act.

A person dear to all of us would gently remind us to “think globally, but act locally.” We followed his philosophy in the kitchen, making sure the vegetables, fruits and grains we used came from local farms and farmers’ markets.

So now whenever I see the familiar deep red-brown cover of Laurel’s Kitchen on my book shelf, it is a reminder that cooking is an act of love, a gift to share with friends and family. This is a timeless and important message to keep in mind during the holiday season.

The Joy IN Cooking:

My aunt (yes, that same one you have read about) gave me my first cookbook in 1986 when I was a young bride. The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker became an indispensable part of my life. Those early days in Sacramento were lonely with my mother too far away for everyday advice. Phone calls to India were expensive and besides she had no access to a phone. My mother-in-law, Betty, was just a “long distance” phone call away, but at that time I was too shy to turn to her for advice. But Irma and Marion were right there in my kitchen, offering silent advice that I could follow as needed. Their advice came with no strings attached.

The Joy of Cooking was more than just recipes. I learned how to set a table and plan a menu.  Everything a new cook needed could be found in the 800-plus pages from boiling an egg to making puff paste (pate feuilletee) to creating the flakiest pie crusts.

Need a bittersweet chocolate frosting? Look no further than page 679. Recipes for cakes, icebox cookies and even cocktails could be found in this book.

The book is a little worn around the edges (like me) and the spine is held together with tape but that doesn’t really matter because the pale blue cookbook is as dear as an old friend. We have weathered a lot together.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a new and updated edition of this beloved cookbook at a recent visit to the Rombauer Winery (The Joy of Wine). It was our thirty-third wedding anniversary and my husband wanted to buy the book for me and the saleswoman offered the book at a deep discount to as an anniversary gift. How could we refuse? An old companion has a new appearance and I look forward to getting to know this edition. I’m sure we’ll become best of friends soon.

A happy and nourishing Thanksgiving to all. I’m grateful to all my readers.

 

 

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Filed under Joy of Cooking, Laurel's Kitchen Cookbook, Rombauer Vineyards, Uncategorized, vegetarian cooking

Duke’s legacy

Scan_201903132009 Pictures 017ajay and duke

March 2019

The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being. – Konrad Lorenz

A year has passed since we lost our pet Duke to cancer and the past few days have been filled with bittersweet furry memories.

Death seems to have a way of playing tricks on my mind and some days I think Duke has been gone a long time and other times I think I can hear his soft snoring. There seems to be an ebb and flow to grief. This month, so far, has been an emotional time for me.

But even in his absence Duke has found a way to be part of our lives. It all started on that first weekend after Duke died and my husband and I found ourselves with an empty Saturday afternoon ahead of us. We missed Duke and our daily walks with him. So we decided to drive to a state park and go for a walk. On that hike the fresh air, the warm sun and gentle breeze soothed our grieving hearts. We shared Duke stories and shed a few sad tears.  At the end of the five-mile hike our sorrow was a little less and our hearts a little lighter. But on that cool windy afternoon we had a sort of epiphany when we realized we liked, no loved, spending time together. So a new hobby was born.

Since then we have walked many miles and trails. Rockville Park in Fairfield continues to be a favorite with the stately oaks and winding paths. We challenged ourselves on the Stebbins Cold Canyon Trail with breathtaking views of Lake Berryessa. We hiked the rocky Pacific Crest Trail near Truckee. We found refuge from the summer heat at China Camp State Park and the Coastal Trail near Muir Beach.

The 12 mile hike in mid-September on the Appalachian Trail near Harpers Ferry in West Virginia was one the highlights of our trip back east for a family wedding.

Our hikes were cut short for a few weeks when I developed tendinitis in my right ankle but we are slowly resuming our walking “dates.” The route that works best for me now is, ironically, the one that we used to take Duke on.  For practical reasons, we rarely walked Duke together; instead we took turns with morning and evening walks.

We still miss Duke and his eccentricities. But in our grief we found something enduring and worthwhile to commemorate.  Our nest is still empty, especially without Duke, but now we have a way to honor his memory and celebrate the wonder of us. What a legacy Duke has left us! We lost a pet but re-discovered each other. Our walking journey has come full circle.

Thank you Duke.

 

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Making Memories: June 2014

 

          The supermarket is a place of many sensory sensations especially for a toddler but this youngster was totally focused on his mother’s I-Phone. The checker and store customers were oohing and ahing over his skills on the tiny screen. I, too, was in awe of his talents but couldn’t help thinking he was missing out on making some awesome memories. That little boy will no doubt grow up to write Apps and design programs and games but what will his memories be? Are we losing something intangible and precious in our pursuit of technology? Because I’m discovering (late in life) that these childhood experiences make us who we are.

               One summer my parents decided my sister and I would spend a few weeks at my mother’s ancestral village. For a couple of teenagers this was not our idea of fun but my parents didn’t believe in a democracy. So we left our mountainside home in the temperate Blue Mountains and headed down the hill to the hot plains. The village was located in the heart of Kerala, one of the southernmost states in India. My sister and I were used to hillsides of verdant tea plantations, orange orchards and neatly manicured gardens filled with roses, dahlias and bright bougainvillea vines. The rows upon rows of stately coconut palms, banana plantations, mango orchards and shady tamarind trees were an alien landscape for us. We missed the cool breezes, our friends and the local library.

          While visiting our various cousins, aunts and uncles we stayed in our ancestral home. This huge mansion had thick teak doors and windows with intricately carved designs. The interior was cool and dark and featured a large open courtyard which let in pale moonlight as well as the harsh tropical sun. Each bedroom had dim yellow light bulbs that flickered so much that we could never read in bed. Another thing to grumble about!

          Much to our consternation, we learned the hard way, that our aunt Devi was an early riser and had no patience for sleepy teens. So that first morning we were rudely awakened and asked to bring a change of clothes, a clean towel and bar of sandalwood soap and follow her and various other female members of our household to the temple pool. The water was an emerald green and refreshing enough to wake us up. Soon we forgot to be sleepy and sulky. We splashed and played with our cousins. Before we knew it, it was time to put on clean clothes and walk along the narrow dirt trail to the local temple. Here we watched, a bit shyly, while the young priest rang the temple bell and chanted in Sanskrit. The sweet taste of jaggery (brown sugar), the fruity scent of baby bananas and the heady aroma of oil lamps and incense are the memories of that first morning.

         We came back to find the smoky kitchen filled with the scent of strong coffee and steaming buffalo milk. We enjoyed the creamy drink with tender rice dumplings in a spicy sauce. As guests my sister and I were given the only two low wooden stools. Everyone else sat cross-legged on long straw mats. Before the week was over we were seated next to my cousins, enjoying the camaraderie.

         That summer we spent our days gorging on green mangoes (and getting spectacular stomach aches), going to the thatched- roof cinema theater to watch old black and white movies and playing endless card games with our cousins. Each day as the tropical sun dipped behind the tall palms and the clouds burst into lavender and orange hues, we headed back to the temple pool to cool off and pay another visit to the temple. This time we were given spoonfuls of sweet rice pudding with bits of tasty fresh coconut and chewy raisins.

         One wonderful evening my aunt Panchajam had us over for a meal at her house and later we sat outside on the open veranda. The tropical night was like black velvet and the sky above us was filled with millions of twinkling stars. The buzzing mosquitoes were kept at bay with smoking neem sticks and the only sound was the lone call of the nightingale. Aunt Panchajam and her sister Subhadra entertained us with us stories from the Indian epics. They told us about brave heroes, beautiful maidens and treacherous villains and held us spellbound late into the night. My sister and I wanted that magical night to last forever.

         Now decades later I look back and marvel at those memorable experiences and friends we made that tropical summer. We need such memories to sustain and nourish us. Years later our children should look back on shopping trips with mom or dad or a family camping vacation or even a simple visit to the local library as a treasured time. There is no App for that!

 

 

               

 

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