My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Comfort Food

We all remember the food prepared from our childhood.

As for me, I grew up in what was called the "Dishwater Generation" -- a few years after the babies had boomed, but not quite into the sexual revolution.  Our moms simply stood there, staring into back-yard windows; sighing, as their hands moved about in quiet, fetid, dishwater while Eisenhower droned on about how good life was.

1956 - 1961: The "Dishwater Generation"

When I was born, Elvis was old news yet John F. Kennedy was not yet new. A few years later, I don't think that anyone grew up with more of an Epitome of Mid-Sixties Bland Cuisine than I did.

Just take a look at the homestead where I was raised (I captured this frame from Google maps.)

It's a large, white-brick home, constructed in the early sixties with no windows. I was six years old and loved it.

The kitchen was in the back and had an ivory, 1960s, push-button stove. My mom was barely 23 years old when I was born and had very little experience in the kitchen.

Mom worked hard. She was the drama teacher and athletic coach at the local high school and, at the age of 26, was the sponsor of just about every high school club that existed.

My dad, two years younger, was the counselor at the high school and a part-time Baptist minister. Lots of hugs, snugly rough-housing, and loving bed-time stories were administered by them to me and my younger brother.

Needless to say, meals in this household were the epitome of "Mid-Sixties-New-Quick-and-Easy-In-And-Out."

Mas was definietly an active young mother in the Dishwater Generation and had been well-armored with a very few recipes.

One was called "Weenie Stew."

It consisted of a pound of wieners, cut into 1" chunks, browned in a skillet -- then tomato sauce was added, maybe a chopped onion, and served over Minute Rice. Always with a side of canned peas and canned pears as a dessert.

That was it.  
Weenie Stew, canned peas and pears.
At least once a week for three years running.

Then mom and dad divorced.
Child support ensued.
Dad continued to nurture my brother and me a lot and we listened to "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" during our every-other-weekends together with him (he was 31 years old).
He was always an intelligent, supportive, and a loving parent.
I thought that was really cool.
Mom was a wonderful single parent and was incredibly loving, dedicated and supportive. As she was a single parent, I'll always be in awe of what she accomplished. Whenever I had a recital or concert, she was always there. She eventually learned to cook quite well.

To this day, though, she happily admits that, as a child, I learned to cook "out of self defense."

Even though my young parents divorced, I was a very fortunate kid.

So, in that vein, I happily give you the epitome of "Mid-Sixties Comfort Food" for me.

Weenie Stew with Canned Peas.

Cut a pound of wieners into 1-inch chunks, and brown in a cast-iron skillet. (Preferably on a 1964, General Electric, push-button stove just like the one we had back in 1966 -- mine is the same, still works and I love it.)

Add a chopped onion

Add 2 small cans of tomato sauce. Simmer for a half hour.
Or not.

Serve over Minute Rice with canned peas

There you have it. THE epitome of Mid-Sixties American Cuisine.

Whenever I want "Comfort Food" - - 
Weenie Stew and Peas

That is it!

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