I am not an exceptional cook, but I like to be in the kitchen, and I have a few good recipes that I can count on.
From my Mom, I have the ability to make a good pot roast, an excellent boiled dinner, and a wonderful rhubarb crisp. I crimp pie crust the same way Mom did, but the recipe is my own. Mom’s apple pie used to be my favorite, and she often included it “just for Cindy” in her holiday baking. Her tastes changed as she got older, though, and her apple pie got sweeter and sweeter over the years. At the same time, I was sweetening things less and less. Toward the end, I could barely tolerate her apple pie, and would manage to choke down one slice, just to spare her feelings.
I have altered a few childhood favorites, to better suit my own tastes. I add broccoli to my macaroni and cheese. Also, I make a white sauce and add extra sharp cheddar cheese to it, rather than just stirring in the milk, butter and cubes of cheese as Mom did. For goulash, I use Italian sausage instead of ground beef. I add finely diced carrots and onions to my split pea soup with ham.
Ethnic foods have been a big interest of mine, and I have by turns gained knowledge of Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Indian cooking. I learned vegetarian cooking from the Seventh Day Adventists back in the 1970’s, when I was boycotting beef for one reason or another. Their reasons for vegetarianism were religious, not health-based, and the recipes I came away with were loaded with fat, calories and cholesterol. I still love the Special K loaf and pecan burgers that they taught me how to make. My friend, Sue Knisley, taught me how to make home-made noodles, when she visited me on the island many years ago.
Cookbooks have been a source for other good standards. My chicken and dumplings recipe comes straight from the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book that my mother gave me before I was married. Two favorites, Basque chicken in red wine with olives and peppers, and sauteed chicken breasts in Dijon mustard cream sauce, come from The Supermarket Epicure, a large paperback cookbook that I bought on sale many years ago. My best bread recipe is the Fitness House Bread from Home Food Systems. Second in line is the crusty round loaf from Artisan Breads in 10 Minutes a Day. My best soups, when not thrown together ad lib with whatever is handy, come from This Good Food: Contemporary French Vegetarian recipes from a Monastery Kitchen.
Bachelor living lends itself to another whole series of meals. Scrambled eggs with cheese, hot buttered noodles with broccoli and parmesan, a fried hamburger smothered in cauliflower or cabbage, or – more often than I care to admit – cold cereal with sliced bananas and milk can make a fine dinner, when dining alone.