Day #165: Canning Challenged

Last night, for Sunday supper, a dear friend brought me a thank you gift … which thrilled me. Will this Ball Blue Book finally give me the courage to do some canning, overcoming my fear of killing those I love with tainted food? I want to make sauce, the way my grandmother did. Stay tuned. And see those lovely “Happy Clips”? There are beautiful golden words painted on them: “Thankful,” “Grateful,” and “Blessed.” I am. Truly blessed.

Ball Blue Book Guide to Canning

Day #122: Taste and Smell

I have been unable to taste or smell anything for almost two weeks. Nothing. No glimmer. This is a result of a cold … and I hope I regain those senses. For anyone who is without them, you have my profound sympathy. I have been able to observe many aspects about eating for which I haven’t spent enough time being grateful. Instead, texture has become important. I don’t have much appetite. But food memory! My brain is doing its best to provide memories of taste and smell … it’s like standing on the other side of a window watching someone eat. Fascinating.

sense of taste and smell

Day #112: Recipes

I’ve written before that my grandmother was a wonderful cook. One of her specialties was peach pie. She left us without a recipe. When I asked her to write it down, she was reluctant. I don’t know why. I would watch her make it, using pinches and handfuls to measure. She used tapioca to thicken the sauce, nutmeg, and she cut fresh peaches. I’ve hunted for a recipe that is similar. I have been unable to replicate her pie. Do you have a beloved food that you’ve been hunting elusively? I’m grateful to people who write down their recipes for posterity.

peach pie

Day #102: Trisha Yearwood

I need all the inspiration I can get to pursue our commitment to cooking our food from scratch and eating at home. Now it’s becoming something of a mission for me to encourage other people to do the same … but I recognize the need to be very subtle about this. Someone who is not subtle at all, but provides me with tremendous encouragement, is Trisha Yearwood with her show Southern Kitchen. She is ebullient, loves cooking, shares her efforts with humor, friendship, family, and love. For me, those elements have become the reasons for preparing good food. Through her show, I have discovered that southern recipes involve LOTS of sugar, so we adjust. I suppose sweet tea should have been my first clue. I am grateful to Trisha Yearwood for sharing her camaraderie and her love for cooking. [below: Trisha Yearwood and her sister Beth Bernard]

Trisha Yearwood and her sister Beth

Day #70: Cheese Grater

I know, what a weird thing to be grateful for, but this cheese grater is important in our lives. Roughly 20 years ago, I started coughing about 15 minutes after eating in some restaurants. I talked with my doctor, asked other people, and no one knew what could be causing this. The reaction increased: I could barely breathe for five minutes, my voice was raspy, my head plugged up, and I coughed and coughed. Through trial and error, we figured out that it was a reaction to two things, PHO (partially hydrogenated oil—trans fats) and propylene glycol (which is used to keep food, such as grated cheese, from sticking together). I have to be very picky about what I eat in a restaurant … and we’ve stopped buying grated cheese. With this wonderful cheese grater, it is very easy to grate your own cheese … and it saves money! (At Ikea, it’s a Stralande Rotary Cheese and Food Grater; adjustable for left- or right-hand use)

Day #46: Condensed Soups

Our path for healthier eating has the signpost “one change at a time.” Here’s one change we’ve managed. A part of our cooking repertoire is the hot dish (casseroles for non-Minnesotans). Many of them use the red-and-white labeled “cream of” canned soup. High in sodium, containing many ingredients we don’t want to ingest, we’ve tried to figure out how to make recipes without them. It’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving without a green bean casserole. We’ve made the dish from scratch, cutting up mushrooms and breading and frying our own shallots, but it wasn’t quite the same. We are grateful that our research turned up this basic recipe (a roux) with natural ingredients that mix up in four minutes and equal, and improve on, the condensed soups. I think you’ll be surprised by how much better your hot dish recipes taste.

green bean casserole

Day #27: Limburger Cheese

Yes, you read that correctly. I truly love Limburger cheese. My husband wishes this were not the käse (inside joke). There is only one cheese factory left in the USA that makes Limburger in the traditional way. Few stores sell it. 

My statement, in a prior essay, about memories? As a six-year-old, I remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen at the oak table which now sits in our dining room, eating Limburger cheese with my grandfather. He would spread it on heavy pumpernickel bread, salt it (he salted everything), and then put raw onions on top. That, he proclaimed, was a sandwich. He would offer me some (without the onions), delighted when I ate it and enjoyed it. So of course my fondness for this cheese is inseparable from my love for my grandfather.

For my last birthday, Steve and our good friend, Lisa, treated me to a wish-come-true. We drove to my hometown where there is a cheese store that still sells Limburger cheese. We brought some home, with a fervent promise to my husband to never eat it when he was in the room and to clean up all signs that it had been eaten. Ah, what we do for love!

Day #18: Blueberry Picking

When I was young, my grandfather would coax us all into the car after the Fourth of July to hunt for blueberries. He had a pretty good idea where they might be. He’d pay attention to where forest fires had occurred, knowing that a few years later there would be a fine crop of blueberries growing on the forest floor.

wild blueberries

We each had galvanized buckets, stooping over to pick the plumpest berries, trying hard not to put more in our mouths than we dropped into the buckets. We knew we’d appreciate them in January and February. We picked in silence, feeling a part of the forest.

On the drive home in the car, there would be stories of brothers or sisters who’d gotten lost looking for berries, or someone who curled up in the sun, or someone who came back with an empty bucket and blue stains on their teeth and hands. My favorite story gave me shivers: bear cubs!

Somehow, going to the grocery store for blueberries doesn’t generate memories of sounds, smells, discovery, and laughter. And those berries seldom taste as good. I’m grateful for the experiences of picking berries in the wild. #ayearofgratitude