Monday, August 22, 2011

Bettye Ruth and Neva Goss

I wanted to do a post about two very important people in my life, my Grandmother Bettye and my Great-Grandmother Neva. Two amazing cooks who started and nurtured my love of cooking and baking. They came from a time where you didn't just cook or just bake. They came hand in hand. You did both, and you did it well. You had Sunday lunch to make, after church of course. You fed a whole family. There were no shortcuts.

Food was an important part of my family's life. On a holiday people would get up at 5 am, cook for days, and 6 or more people would always be in the kitchen. There would always be an argument at some point about who would make the gravy this year, because everyone thought theirs was the best. And as a child, I can tell you, they all tasted different (my mom's was the best, Aunt Josie's was too thick, and Gramma's tasted like it had too much flour.) But food was about family. You cooked and baked to feed the family you loved, and sometimes hated. If one dish you made became someone's "favorite" you were supposed to make that dish forever, at every holiday, until you die. But, we would all have the recipe, so if someone did die, their dish would live on, and we as a family would continue to make it as if they were still around. It keeps you in the family. There is a beautiful legacy with food. If you create something special, people will continue to make it, to keep you a part of the family forever. I like the idea of that. People live a lot of their lives trying to be remembered. Be famous, change the world, write a book. To live on forever. But with family and cooking, everyone can live on forever. It's so simple.
 I remember watching my Gramma rolling out her dough, to make her famous Chicken Dumplin's. But, they were never dumplings, they were noodles. She would roll out the dough, and cut long strips with a knife. It was the best thing you ever ate. Or her famous Custard Pie, which I now make. Or Grandpa's Homemade ice cream, which only got made once a year for The 4th of July. We would always ask him to make it, but he never would. We didn't just celebrate the independence of our nation on that holiday, we celebrated the food we had to wait a WHOLE YEAR to eat.
 My great-Grandma Neva Goss "nana"was born in 1900, and died in 1996. I had her until I was 16 years old. She lived through the first world war, the depression, the second world war, ect. She spent her life in a kitchen, taught her daughter, and they taught me. When Nana died, I remember sitting around a table with all my extended family, while my Aunt Wanda made Nana's famous Apple Dumplin's. We all ate them straight out of the oven. I even remember burning my tongue. Even though her body was gone, she was in the room with us because her food was.
 Tomorrow we bury Bettye Ruth. We may be burying her body, but her food will live on in this family forever. My pies are being made because of Gramma and Nana.
 My family has died, or has moved away. We don't have Sunday lunches after church anymore, hell, we don't GO to church anymore. Even holidays are spread out between spouse's families. But what we always have, and will always be with us, are a handful of recipes that brought our family together. We can make them, and talk about all the wonderful times we had when they were here with us.





Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peach Habanero Pie

Today is one of my MANY recipe testing afternoons. Ive been hard at work crossing every T, and dotting every I. My new obsession has been peppers. I like spicy cocktails, spicy food, and why not spicy dessert? With beautiful peaches in season, it was a no brainer.
  While the pie is cooling on a baking rack, I'm full of nerves. Did I get it right? will this recipe be the one I stick with. And my biggest fear...did I use too many peppers? We will find out in a few hours, after the pie has cooled and settled.  This might be genius, or a total pie fail. I must admit, some of my crust melted off the pie. Totally my fault. Usually I stick my uncooked pie in the freezer to cool down the crust, so when it hits the heat in the oven it holds it's shape. But being the impatient person I am, I pulled it from the freezer far too early. Ah well, nobody bought it. It's just for me to enjoy.


On to the next! In the oven cooking away while the peach is cooling, is my Carrot Pie. This is not as much of an experiment. It's a sweet pie, like a squash pie, but with grated carrots instead. Today's plan also includes my BlueRibbon Blueberry Rhubarb, and my Onion Citrus preserves. The onions have been sitting in a bowl sweating for hours. Maybe at some point I'll actually get to eat lunch or dinner.
 
UPDATE!! Way too many peppers! but still delicious. Next one will be a keeper.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue Ribbon Winner

Last weekend, in Ellenville New York, The Blueberry Huckleberry Festival was held. It was a great day, with many delicious blueberry treats. They held a pie contest at noon. So of course I was there by 9 am to enter with my blueberry colored dress(I'm crazy like that). There were already three other people ready to go. Last years winner, a Laura Ashley mom( a serious Sandra Lee look a like), and someone I dubbed, the local idiot(she spilled her pie all over the judging table). These people meant business, and were in it to win it. Only 10 entries were allowed. So I had 9 people to take down.
 While living in Ellenville for the summer, doing a show at Shadowland Theater, I met many amazing people, who were so kind to invite me and my cast mates over for BBQ's, dinners, and brunches. Because I never show up empty handed to someone's home, I made one of my berry pies (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry). It was received with a huge reaction, which was exciting, because I made up the recipe the night before on a whim. Many people in town were so excited by my pies, that they pushed me to enter into the contest. I knew I wanted to make my Blueberry Rhubarb, but I had one problem...rhubarb was starting to go out of season, finding it wouldn't be easy. But I knew this recipe was amazing, to quote my friend Nic, "This is the best blueberry pie I've ever had in my life". Thanks Nic, I think so too. When I located the rhubarb, I was a woman on a mission. This contest was mine!
  I baked two beautiful pies, just in case something happened to one, then chose the best looking to put in the contest. The reject, was devoured by a house full of starving actors. At 12:30, after watching three men eat an insane amount of blueberry pies, they crowned me the Blue Ribbon Winner! All I wanted was street cred, and a ribbon. But the prize was a Waterford Crystal Pie/Cake stand. Super fancy and expensive. Boy, was I an instant celebrity in Ellenville. People wanting to talk to me, meet me, and pick my brain on my baking secrets. I even got interviewed on the radio! I mean WHAT???!! I walked away from that day with the assurance that I am a good cook. I don't know why I needed a contest to tell me, what people have been saying for years, but I did.  I also walked away with the realization, that next year, I'll be back to defend my title. Watch out bakers in the Catskills, I'll be coming for you...