Like a lot of people, I’ve been cooking more lately because I am working from home and generally have, well, nowhere to go. We are not running to the YMCA or to dance class, not visiting with family and friends and all my municipal meetings are now on Zoom. So, there’s more time for what I’m calling “Corona Cooking.”
Growing up, I lived with my grandparents, and my grandmother – known to all as “Moo” – was an amazing cook. When I was young, she would cook a big meal almost every night and we would all sit down together to eat. My aunts and uncle were like siblings and those who were still living at home would gather for weekday dinners that surpassed most families’ Sunday dinners.
There was pasta carbonara, pot roast with roasted potatoes and carrots, German potato salad, roast beef, pork fried rice, omelets . . . I could go on and on. And on.
As I grew older and my aunts and uncle moved out of the house, Moo “retired” from many of the daily chores, including cooking big meals every day. She still cooked a few times a week, but since we were down to a household of three, we often ate out. Friday was designated takeout pizza night (we usually rotated Family and Pasquale’s) and on Saturdays my Poppa would make steak, often accompanied by thick tomato slices broiled with fontina, pecorino romano and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. But on Sundays, that’s when Moo still brought her skills to the dinner table.
Our family always spent Sundays together. It was not unusual to have 15-20 people or more at our house on Sundays. Sometimes there were guests from the UK – friends and colleagues of my Pop’s from his work in the aerospace business – my friends would join us regularly and occasionally a neighbor would come by for a bite. And Moo always cooked a feast.
I will state for the record that my cooking is mediocre at best, however I did learn a few of Moo’s tricks along the way. One of them was how to make amazing cream of wheat. While most people find it bland, my family secrets for doctoring it include almond extract and butter and that is all I will reveal!
One of my best dishes, in my opinion, is chicken francaise, which I made last week. It’s not rocket science – I pound the chicken out thin, dip it in egg and flour with salt and pepper, then fry it. I then deglaze the pan with white wine, add lemon juice and butter, put the chicken back in the pan, and top it all off with capers. Without capers, it’s just not chicken francaise.
We have also been baking the past few weeks, mainly at my daughter’s request. While we have relied on some baking mixes, we have also been honing our scratch skills. Banana bread is a favorite – both with and without walnuts and chocolate chips – and another family recipe is 1-2-3-4 cake, named for the measurement of its main ingredients.
I wonder if, when we are allowed to venture out of our homes again, this cooking trend will continue. As families return to their regular schedules of work meetings and after school activities, will they continue to make time for cooking? I’m not sure it will fit into our daily schedule, but I hope to reinstitute Sunday family dinners once my family can come over again.
What have you been cooking or baking lately? Please share your recipes (with photos!) with us. Email me at [email protected]