Keeping it real
After reading a newspaper article about a not-so-traditional restaurant that utilized the home-grown skills of Italian nonnas instead of traditionally trained chefs (find it here: http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/07/07/missing-home-cooking-borrow-a-grandma/), I couldn’t help but imagine what the menu at my own grandmother’s restaurant–if there was one, of course– might look like. We are Iowegian, not Italian, so I’m pretty sure that there would be some significant differences in fare, but I’m confident that fundamental kitchen principles– cook what you can with what you have, and do it with as much love and care as possible–would be the same at both Enoteca Maria and Grandma Thompson’s Kitchen.
But last night, after I received an invitation to a breakfast with a few other women in the neighborhood, I totally abandoned all of my flowers-and-rainbows notions about meals and community and I panicked: What should I wear? What will we talk about? What’s the most impressive thing I know how to bake so that I don’t seem like the fairly unkempt/socially awkward gal I’ve become?
And then, of course, I remembered that my child needed bathing and dinner needed fixing and laundry needed folding… so I was forced to get a grip and change my thinking: What can I make that won’t require a trip to the store? Or another load of dishes? Or a total anxiety attack triggered by the realization that I’m regularly a total failure in the kitchen (in addition to being a really crappy housekeeper/decorator/organizer)?
I consulted my trusty recipe book (which was, incidentally, a wedding gift from my Iowa-family), determined to find something that would work with whatever I already had in my own kitchen. The resulting banana-walnut-chocolate-chip muffins that I’ve made a million times before? Totally, predictably good. And the company? Even better than I could have hoped for. Neither, of course, were worth getting worked up about– and I love knowing that, had I called to ask any of the women in my family for advice, they probably would have told me to make banana-walnut-chocolate-chip muffins and relax.
I’ll spare you the recipe, because I’ve already posted at least five variations on the theme (and you’re probably totally attached to your own family’s version of the treat), but the article above– and my success (thank goodness!) with yet another trusted family recipe has me wondering:
What is your no-fail recipe? What’s your most vivid food memory? And if you were to open up a restaurant that highlighted the cooking/baking specialties of your own grandmother/mother/uncle/etc., what would the menu look like?