Thursday, August 13, 2009

Food to Remember

Do you have memories of food growing up? I have so many. May be that we loved to eat, but we also had family celebrations that always involved delicious food. We were Catholic, so we had the Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and graduations and so on. The marriages, and the funerals.

Once a year, we went with the church and the whole neighborhood to Coney Island, and every family packed a huge picnic lunch. My mother always brought cold fried chicken, which I can still taste to this day and cannot replicate. Her potato salad caused fights between me and my sisters.

My dad also cooked. He made huge pots of chili which was so hot, my mother made him cook two pots, one for everyone else and one for him.

We were poor, so we didn't eat too many fancy meals, mostly stews, soups, and one-pot creations. I still make cabbage and German sausage, string beans and potatoes, navy bean soup, my dad's vegetable soup, and my favorite beef stew.

Dad loved ice cream, and he made sundaes for us and banana splits. Mom didn't like to bake much, but she made the best one-egg cake with caramel icing I ever tasted.

My maternal grandfather lived on a farm, and in the summer we'd pick wild blackberries, and my step-grandmother made the best blackberry pie. She also wrung the heads off chickens and cleaned them and fried them up for dinner, but we won't go there.

My Favorite Beef Stew

1 pound of stew beef, or leftover potroast cut in chunks
4 good sized potatoes, cut in eighths
4 carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 can of peas
2 tablespoons of flour, divided
1 to 2 tablespoons of oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons catsup

Coat stew beef with flour mixed with salt and pepper and saute in oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot. When slightly browned, add potatoes, carrots, and celery plus enough water to cover. Bring to boil and then turn stove to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender. If water cooks down, add a little more. When done, take about a fourth cup of water out of the pot and mix with the other tablespoon of flour to make a paste and then pour back into the stew. Add catsup and peas and salt and pepper to taste.

I usually make this in my crock pot which doesn't require much water. I usually serve with homemade bread or rolls. I also add a little wine occasionally and a few more seasonings to my liking.


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