I was not born into a foodie family. I have compiled sufficient data to support this claim. When I joined Ancestry.com, I expected to streamline the stack of notes and scraps of paper that I have accumulated over the past forty years. My filing system consisted of placing anything to do with my ancestors or my husband's family into a folder called "Heritage." It was my intent to coalesce the data so I could create a family tree for my children. With the accessibility of actual documents from both the United States and Europe, I am able to trace my family tree as far back as 1642! Nothing about what I read about my British, Scottish, French and German forbearers suggested an extravagant love of food. (Witchcraft, that is another story. A blog-worthy one at that!) More accurately, as I leaf through the past, I sense a well-honed practice of parsimony. I imagine diets based on food on hand; bread pudding to use up yesterday's stale bread heels, shepherd's pie to reengineer leftover meat and naturally the ubiquitous potato. The preferred beverage, tea, was likely served six times a day. That requires nothing more than tea leaves and water.
The solid Portuguese legacy that makes up my husband's family suggests a long history of life on, or, near the ocean. It is easy to imagine that, particularly the women, of his family developed cooking skills that reflected their culture and their pasts. I have copied many more recipes from his family than from my own. The Portuguese people make use of the riches offered up by the region and its proximity to Mediterranean Sea. The meals are colorful, rich with olive oil, deep red wines, fresh-slaughtered kpork, air-filled yeasty breads, goat cheeses and sweet grapes.
Ah, but I digress. My own affection for food was inadvertently revealed at a very public venue.
About twenty years ago, my mother took me to a diner in Falmouth, Massachusetts. She had developed a habit of going for coffee after her twice/week exercise class. My mother had become friends with numerous local women who met there routinely. These women were well-acquainted with my mother and her family. They greeted me as if they already knew me. Going through those doors, I had attained celebrity status. I surprised my mother, her friends and, frankly, myself, with the wry and comedic accounts of food in the Evans household. Once I started with the monologue about some of my mother's most memorable meals, I couldn't turn it off. I was worried I might offend my mother, but she seemed to be laughing as sincerely (and raucously) as the rest of my audience. I sat on a spinning barstool at the head of a U-shaped counter with my mother by my side. I was like a computer downloading food stories that, without humor, might have been sad. My talents as a raconteur were revealed as I launched into the routine; at age 17, I discovered there are two halves to an English muffin. I thought each half WAS an English muffin. I felt like I was channeling Ellen DeGeneres, an up and coming comedic personality at the time, when I went into a riff describing the dinner party at which my mother served us each four freshly boiled frozen ravioli in a soupy layer of tomato sauce. The bowl of salad contained six leaves of lettuce, half a cucumber and one tomato. The meal was without a realistic serving size of ravioli, wine that might have made it more palatable, garlic bread to sop up the soupy tomato sauce and a salad with dressing. By now, the women in my audience were falling off their stools laughing. I moved onto the sketch describing the Christmas Eve meal of lima beans and a slightly undercooked pound of meatloaf. There was a salad on the side. This meal was meant to serve six. My sister, her husband, my husband and I went out for Chinese food after we cleaned up the dinner dishes. Before the crowd turned maudlin, I launched into my habit of eating half a frozen banana cream pie after dinner every night during my junior year in high school. They were jealous that I did not gain weight. I explained it would be hard since I subsisted on air and banana cream pie. I explained that I started taking over preparing meals a few times each week when I was sixteen. I closed my comedic routine with the heartfelt observation that our shared family dinners were sacrosanct even if the food was lacking.
As we walked out to the car my mother remarked, "I didn't know you had that in you!"
Clearly, food was an important issue in our family. I believe a psychiatrist would be delighted to have me on her couch for at least three or four years on this issue alone.
I started to learn how to cook in third grade. The mother of one of my classmates was a chef and offered to give us weekly lessons. I continued to learn my way around the kitchen when I enrolled in Home Economics in middle school. By high school, I knew I wanted to be fully proficient in all aspects of meal planning and preparation. I volunteered in the school kitchen and I enrolled in a mini-course offered for a month. By junior year, I was confident enough to host a dinner party. It was an occasion to dress up and entertain boys. I served Spaghetti and Meatballs. Safe. It felt like we were playing adults.
In college, I bought second-hand cookbooks and read them on Saturday afternoons as a respite from studying for school. I tried out hundreds of recipes. Very little daunted me. If a meal turned out to be totally inedible, I trashed it and ate Cheerios. It was only a matter of time that my Joy of Cooking would become subjected to my habit of writing about it. I was fortunate enough to find acceptance at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I made a habit of testing every recipe I wrote about. It wasn't until I had been doing it for several years that I found many of the other contributors were not that rigorous. I loved sharing my passion for food and literature with others.
I may have hung up my pseudo-career as a comedienne, I may have distanced myself from the Gazette because it was not financially rewarding, I may not write about food on a weekly
any longer, but I am still a foodie.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.
Food remains an interest, a hobby, a passion and a culinary delight. Which explains
why, when Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer arrived in the mail today, I read it cover-to-cover while making notes about what I would like to buy if I am fortunate to find a ride there. Trader Joe seduces the reader into wanting to pick up the car keys and motor on down to the market. Let me know if you are going that way!