I come from a long line of good cooks. My mother, her mother before her, hers before her and so on. They came from a different generation, where food was not only not only enjoyable, but essential. Food also bought the family together.
I remember many of the food based traditions growing up.
Making the traditional tomato sugo in summertime, which took a few days to prepare and complete. The tomatoes must be juicy, red and ripe; nothing compares to a quality home grown tomato, I couldn’t live without them! Making the sauce is akin to a gourmet production line, each person has a job, from washing the bottles and inserting the basil leaves into them, to cutting up the tomatoes and feeding them into the machine, to sealing the bottles with the bottle top contraption and boiling them; everyone has an important job to do!
“Killing the pigs" was always a memorable event. The pigs had been grown from piglets and fattened for eating. The whole process (not including the growing) takes the good part of a week, slaughtering them, letting the meat hang and cutting them up for various uses; not one bit is wasted - from the snout to the tail, even the ears (my Dad’s favourite)!
And while I don’t consume much pork now that I am older, (I was even vegan for a spell while at Uni!) I still appreciate that my parents and their ancestors took part in these traditions so that they would have enough food for their family all year round.
My Mum still grows her own olives and pickles them. They are so much yummier than the store bought variety and at least when you make something yourself you know exactly what is in it. She also makes her own olive oil too; once a year she takes her olives to a local grower for processing, the result is fresh, fruity oil that never disappoints in a salad or on its own with homemade Italian bread (see my previous post on bread and bikkies).
My sister and I are of different generation, dare I say wasteful. Having been born and raised in Australia, we eat more junk food than our parents did, consume more meat and saturated fat, drink a little too much on the odd occasion; although I have given up alcohol for Lent, which wasn’t too hard, as these days I have an odd glass of wine now and again. My days of binge drinking on the weekend are far behind me, and to tell you the truth I don’t miss them or the self-induced hangover that came with it!
I have always had an interest in cooking, but not in the same way that Mum and Nonna did. Of course I had to cook for myself while I was living away from home, my cousin and I with whom I shared a house at Uni would take it in turns to cook. Our favourite dessert was chocolate soy custard, which we consumed with gusto and then wondered how we had put on so much weight! But it was so yummy!
I have to admit I do love watching other people cook. We are big fans of Masterchef in our house, our young son loves watching it too, and he loves to find out what score the contestants receive from the judges. He has also taken to scoring my dishes; I have even received a 10/10 a couple of times! We are also a little too obsessed with the Lifestyle Food channel. My husband is almost always watching one celebrity chef or another; I enjoy watching it for inspiration too!
But my biggest joy is from cooking and eating cake, or any kind of dessert; although in truth I am really not so great at the cooking part of the process. I have had many failures in the kitchen; my brother once named one of my efforts “the hub cap cake”, for its obvious resemblance to a car part (he is a mechanic)! I often burn food too; it’s hard to keep an eye on everything while you are multi-tasking at the same time!
I enjoy reading food magazines too and experimenting with the recipes. I decided to make a delicious looking banana cake from the latest issue of recipes + magazine yesterday, which didn’t turn out too badly. I didn’t burn it and it tasted delicious. My son helped me make triple-choc muffins today, they turned out quite okay also; I again succeeded in not starting a fire in the oven, which is always a bonus!
yummy triple-choc cupcakes, delish!
So while I am definitely NOT Nigella Lawson, I do enjoy cooking most of the time, it’s not so enjoyable when you feel you HAVE to cook, rather than inspired to do it... I’d say I’m more like Jamie Oliver, a rustic approach to cooking and a little rough around the edges!