The Foodie: Watching mom bake pies stirred original interest in cooking

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Little did I know when I e-mailed Tim Schmitt some ideas I had for his concept web-news site that he would invite me to be a food and wine columnist. After only a few pieces he now calls me “The Foodie.” It’s a self-proclaimed title I use because of my ongoing interest of all things culinary.

My food memories cannot be separated from any other childhood memories because food has been central to it all. As far back as I can remember I used to sit at the kitchen table on any given Saturday afternoon (after the hankies were ironed and baseboards dusted – my weekly chores) and watch my mother bake pies. Fruit in season, fruit from cans, puddings and custard … the filling did not matter as much as the crust.

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She had the “touch” … that special skill which knew just the right measurements, just the way to cut the fat into the flour and just the right amount of ice water to lightly toss until the mess became a soft ball nearly ready for the wooden pin (an old smooth commercial pin with the tiny handles removed – she said she “felt” the dough better when she held the pin, not the handles).

Mom does not make many pies these days … says she lost the touch. Still, her crust is better than any bakery and any red box.

I grew up eating cornflake chicken and beef stroganoff. She made us tuna noodle casserole (casseroles were big in the ‘60’s and ’70’s) and chicken cutlets. Homemade spaghetti sauce (seriously, it’s macaroni, not pasta in our house) along with perfect meatballs and braciole made with beef pounded thin filled with a stuffing which included hard boiled eggs. Food was always homemade. We used to beg to have TV dinners and we only got them when they had plans on a Saturday night.

As an adult, I learned to cook mostly by trial and error. We have eaten most of my mistakes but there are also times when the need to order a pizza became apparent. I have a friend who shares my passion for food and when Denise invites me for any meal I know I am in for a treat. We used to plan dinner parties by reviewing 15 cookbooks and 25 cooking magazines. We would test recipes so we would know the actual time of preparation (if you are inexperienced add 50 percent to the time stated).

I started writing a holiday journal about 10 years ago. In it, I write out the menu for the meal, who attended and the outcome. I also try to jot a few memories of my year down and enjoy reading the entries each year.

Food Network has expanded my skill and interest. Since I started watching cooking shows I have a much better attitude about the outcomes in my kitchen. What’s the worst thing that could happen? We order out … no worries.

I would really like to learn about you. Why do you cook? Do you enjoy it or do you fear it? Is there a food memory you have that you would like some help with? Maybe I could help find that recipe or try to recreate it.

Do you have food memories from growing up you would like to share? What are you doing to pass that along to your family?

What can we learn together to help you enjoy playing with your food?

Have a yummy week!

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