Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Peasant cooking

 I often rant on about how I hate to cook. That doesn't mean I can't or even that I'm bad at it. I just hate doing it. I didn't always hate to cook it's just something that has evolved over 60 years or so. I started 'cooking' when I was 5 or 6, shelling peas, making cookies from left over dough and progressing as I got older. By the time I was 12 or so I was doing entire meals for a family of 5. Not a big deal really. 

My parents still made the 'big meals' on the weekends and I was the helper. I learned to cook by watching and helping my parents. My mother was a peasant cook, my father was a much more elegant cook, like with that damn sauerbraten - meat must be marinated for at least a day, stored in a cool place and turned frequently - that was my job. Or when fettuccine alfredo was on the menu, mother would make fresh pasta and my father would make the sauce, just enough for one portion at a time, it was a little weird, only one person being served at a time but that's the way my father said it should be done, and so it was.   

So the thing is - I have no hard and fast recipes. Ask me for a recipe and I'm lost. "I can show you, I can't tell you" is my answer. Aside from baking, which is science, ingredients having to be in exact proportions, I do everything to taste. How much seasoning? How much do you like? Or what I happen to have in the fridge, throw it in a pan, every time is different. Nothing is complicated or sophisticated. Just peasant food. Poor people's food. 

Which brings me to pickled squash.  Jean, of Cheerful Monk posted about squash, and I mentioned pickled squash in my comment. Now pickled squash is NOT pickled but it is so damn delicious that people ooh and aah over it. And then ask for the recipe. And then I'm stuck because there is no way I can TELL you how to make it. Folks think I'm being snobby or snotty or whatever - thinking I don't want to share. I do. I'm fine with sharing recipes but when I try to tell them how to make pickled squash their eyes start to glaze over. 

How thick do you slice the squash? Well, you now maybe just this thick (thumb and forefinger just so wide apart). How long do you fry it? Well you know till it's golden brown and soft enough but certainly not crispy. Squash can get crispy? Yeah, it can. You can burn anything. But what's that about not draining all the frying oil off? Well, as you take the done pieces out of the pan you tap some of the oil off but leave some on the squash.  But how much do you leave? Eh, I don't know, just enough. How much oil do you fry it in? More than saute but certainly not enough to deep fry. Of course we won't even go into how much vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes etc to put in. There is just no way to say. I can SHOW you how to make pickled squash but I can't TELL you.

Now I am totally craving pickled squash. Will I make some? Hell, no. It is tedious and time consuming. Slicing the squash, which by the way, it's zucchini, is the least of it. Frying it is the killer, takes forever. Never mind the mess or the lingering odor. Smells great while it's cooking, not so great after it's done and the smell lingers. Lordy but I hate lingering cooking smells, except for baked goods. 

I can't tell you how to make spaghetti sauce, or manicotti, or meatballs or even ravioli much less pickled squash but I can show you.  Anyone want to come over and make a mess in my kitchen?

8 comments:

  1. That's me - cooking peasant food. Cook what's in the cupboards and the fridge and season to taste. It's how I learned to cook and I have never gone hungry for want of a single ingredient. I'm big on cooking 'mustgo's'. What? This has to be used today or it will spoil - mustgo. Ha ha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't say I've ever had must go's. I've never had an over stocked fridge. I've only ever bought exactly what I need and no more. Pantry stuff I might have a little more - right now I have 6 cans of tuna and 4 cans of soup. When I re-did the kitchen I got rid of a perfectly good fridge because it was too big and was 3/4 empty most of the time. Now the smaller fridge is about half empty most of the time. Nothing in the the vegetable bins but a couple of heads of garlic that will soon be minced and frozen. If anyone dropped by and wanted to be fed I'm not sure what I could give them - spaghetti with garlic and oil?

      Delete
  2. My family was basic meat and potatoes Midwestern style meaning BBQ. My grandmas were both bakers so I still have that fondness for baked goods. As for pickled squash, that's something I haven't heard of but it sounds intriguing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh it is so delicious! It's best when it it sits for a day and the flavors blend and intensify but it just never lasts that long! And there ain't nothing wrong with BBQ, tho honestly I've never been fond of potatoes except maybe sweet potatoes or yams (and does anyone really know the difference?) Of course you can take leftover mashed potatoes and make a patty with cheese inside and fry them in a little olive oil, now that's ok. A nice sweet potato, nuked, with the merest pat of butter and lots of pepper - that's dinner for me. The mother couldn't cook to save her life, especially meat, but man oh man the woman could bake but then she liked sweets, so I guess we are good at what we like and that includes cooking.

      Delete
  3. Andy likes simple meals, so he's no problem to cook for. It bothered me when we were first married, then I realized how much time I had for other things and blessed him for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it wasn't until I got married (at age 44) that I started on my road to hating cooking. When I was single I only cooked when I wanted to, which wasn't very often so I enjoyed it more. Even soup and grilled cheese becomes onerous when it has to be done every single day for decades LOL My husband is Boston Irish but he took quickly to the delights of Italian peasant cuisine.

      Delete
  4. What a thoroughly delightful post Grace.

    When you say your Squash is Zucchini which is my Courgette, but also known as summer squash, what do you call your actual squashes. Is the Americanism therefore Zucchini Squash?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess we call squash by their specific names - acorn, pumpkin, spaghetti, patty pan etc - are all followed by the word 'squash' but zucchini is usually just called zucchini. I don't know why we call this zucchini dish 'pickled squash' because it really isn't pickled tho there is vinegar in the recipe - probably something in the translation from Italian to American???

      Delete