Day #117: No Microwave

Once we made the decision to put our microwave away in a closet, the re-learning began. How would we warm up food? 

On the one hand, this feels slightly ridiculous because we didn’t cook with a microwave until 1982. I remember attending classes at Byerly’s Cooking School to master cooking in a microwave. The huge oven quickly became a kitchen staple, even when I did awful things like setting the timer for one hour instead of one minute and walked away into my office. (What happened? The interior of the microwave oven melted and so did the door.)

Lavangie silicone mats and Nordic Ware baking sheets

We’ve found two tools very handy for warming up food. Nordic Ware (shop local!) makes wonderful half sheet, quarter sheet, and large sheet baking pans. They’re very sturdy and easy to keep clean. With care, they should last us forever.

To line them, and keep them looking clean, we use Lavangie silicone baking mats. They come in sizes that fit those baking sheets.

There. It wasn’t as hard to adjust to cooking without a microwave as we imagined.

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 #83: Finding Betty Crocker

Finding Betty Crocker

My grandmother began working as the cook for a doctor’s family in the small town near their farm when she was 18. Her brother was the family’s chauffeur. It was a very small town. I’ve always been bemused that the family had servants. My grandmother was a very good cook. She had a large family who could always be assured of tasty meals when they visited for a weekend or a week. Grandma had a large garden. She canned, froze blueberries and the fish Grandpa caught, and ordered 20 pounds of flour at a time for the six loaves of bread she baked every Monday morning and the pies she baked several times a week.

I remember distinctly going to my grandmother’s pantry in the late Sixties and finding two boxes of cake mix. I was shocked. My grandmother had never made anything out of a box. “It’s much easier,” she explained. “And it saves time. It’s cheaper, too.”

I have the records of my grandmother’s cooking: recipes she saved which she annotated, newspaper clippings, and ads she cut out of magazines for products she must have wanted to try. There are recipes written in other hands sharing a dessert or bread or salad enjoyed when everyone got together for a meal. It was the late Sixties when more and more of those recipes called for a cake mix. Betty Crocker. Duncan Hines. Pillsbury. Each of those cake mixes had a persona who helped to sell the brand. Duncan Hines was a real person. Betty Crocker was not. And the Pillsbury Dough Boy ….

I am grateful for the book Finding Betty Crocker. Author Susan Marks shares how the marketing techniques developed that would make Betty Crocker one of the most well-known brands—and women—in the country. It’s a wonderful, chatty, eye-opening book about marketing and the anthropology of women’s lives in the United States. I once had our marketing book club read the book and it engaged us in conversation for hours. It’s eye-opening.

Day #44: Homemade

I am fortunate that my husband is such a good cook. He is always willing to try new recipes. People are often pleased by his creative presentations. We’ve been striving to eat as many meals at home as possible, and to eat as few processed foods as we can, so his craft is plied from scratch several times a day. You’re quite talented, Steve, and I’m grateful.

Fourth of July cake