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The Importance of Home Cooking Today


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#1 FoodMan

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 09:50 AM

Sara-
I, like many other serious food lovers, feel a little annoyed to put it mildly every time a TV cook uses the words “when your guests see this dish they will think you labored in the kitchen all day!” for a plate that took 20 minutes to put together. Why is this so important? Are we really cooking at home for the sole goal to “wow” our guests? To me home cooking is about cooking for the ones you care about, it might take days to prepare a perfect meal or 30 minutes for a proper perfect pasta dish. One is not superior to the other, just different. It just seems to me that when you cook at home you should love what you are doing and not treat it as a chore that needs to be done as fast as possible.

Sorry for the rant but how has home cooking evolved since the days when you started cooking? Do you think it has moved to the better or worse? What is paramount to you when you cook at home? Now, honestly do we really need shows like “Semi Home Made”? Is it teaching home cooks anything useful?

E. Nassar
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#2 Sara Moulton

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 02:38 PM

When Julia Child died I got alot of phone calls from the media because people were aware that I had worked with her and they wanted to know what I thought her legacy was. Among other things I said that at a time when people were cooking mostly with canned and frozen items, she was on tv telling people to cook from scratch and go to the supermarket and "Tell that produce man that he needs to find good fresh ingredients such as leeks and shallots!"
Then a few days later it dawned on me, we are back there again. One of the best selling cookbooks ever was Ann Byrne's Cake Doctor Cookbook where she took a bunch of boxed cake mixes and doctored them up. The most popular shows on the food network are those kind of shows. I really don't know why. I guess people imagine they want to "cook" but they don't think they have the time to do it.
I, like you, find cooking very theraputic. I enjoy the process almost more than the end result. I cook dinner at home 5 nights a week, no kidding. We set the table and sit down to dinner and talk. It is the most important time of the day for the whole family because we reconnect. I think kids (=teenagers) would get into less trouble if they had dinner with their parents every night.
Sara Moulton

#3 fifi

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:06 PM

. . . . .
. . . I cook dinner at home 5 nights a week, no kidding. We set the table and sit down to dinner and talk. It is the most important time of the day for the whole family because we reconnect. I think kids (=teenagers) would get into less trouble if they had dinner with their parents every night.

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Sara . . . that roar you hear in the background is the eGullet multitude in a standing ovation. When my grown* son moved back in with me for a time to finish school, we had dinner just about every weeknight when we were both home. He is the one that insisted that the TV was off and the answering machine could pick up the phone. Our time in the kitchen together (he is a good cook) and at the table was sacrosanct. I was so proud. I even found myself asking "May I be excused?" if I needed to leave the table for some reason. :laugh:

Do you find that the dinner table tradition is sticking with your children now that they are getting older?

* Warning: When it comes to male children, grown has to be assumed to be a relative term. I don't think they ever grow up. He was in his mid-twenties at the time. :blink:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

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#4 Sara Moulton

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:13 PM

Do you find that the dinner table tradition is sticking with your children now that they are getting older?



Fifi,
It is so sticking, My daughter is just a freshman at college but when she came home at winter break, even though she was extremely busy seeing her friends in the city, the one thing she did was show up every night for dinner.
The first thing my son asks when he checks in at the end of the school day is
"Whats for dinner?"

By the way, for the past two birthdays (14 and 15) what my son has asked for is a dinner party! With his friends!!! I get all excited because I think he means one of those civilized affairs with members of both sexes, but no, he means his boy friends, his pimply/gawky awkward teenage friends who do not really know about fine dining.
They all show up like deer in the headlights when they see the table set with a table cloth and napkins, candles and flowers (when asked about setting the table, Sam said, "knock yourself out mom" and then he went and bought the flowers)
The first year they sat at the table and actually conversed for over an hour. This year Sam made them all put their napkins in their laps and one kid take his hat off. They were really into the food this year and apparently they boasted about it to their friends and parents.
Sara Moulton

#5 Marlene

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:15 PM

Thank you for being here Sara!


What's for dinner tomorrow is almost always the last thing my son says to me before he goes to bed at night!

Cooking at home for me tends to morph into entertaining at home quite often. In fact, I'd rather entertain at home than go out. Do you do much entertaining at home and do you have a style you favour? Formal plated style; casual family style?

My guests almost always gather in the kitchen and nibble on things while I'm doing dinner prep. Do you prefer larger or smaller groups?
Marlene
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Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

#6 foodie52

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:18 PM

During highschool, my daughter entertained her friends by holding dinner parties: granted it was tons of spaghetti, garlic bread and then icecream, but they sat around the table for a good hour or so and CONVERSED!

We insisted that our children eat dinner with us 5 nights a week. It is one of my best memories of their childhoods. It's so ....civilized.

#7 fifi

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:21 PM

. . . . .
By the way, for the past two birthdays (14 and 15) what my son has asked for is a dinner party! With his friends!!! I get all excited because I think he means one of those civilized affairs with members of both sexes, but no, he means his boy friends, his pimply/gawky awkward teenage friends who do not really know about fine dining.
They all show up like deer in the headlights when they see the table set with a table cloth and napkins, candles and flowers (when asked about setting the table, Sam said, "knock yourself out mom" and then he went and bought the flowers)
The first year they sat at the table and actually conversed for over an hour. This year Sam made them all put their napkins in their laps and one kid take his hat off. They were really into the food this year and apparently they boasted about it to their friends and parents.

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I think I am tearing up. Especially the buying the flowers bit.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#8 bloviatrix

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:21 PM

It is so sticking, My daughter is just a freshman at college but when she came home at winter break, even though she was extremely busy seeing her friends in the city, the one thing she did was show up every night for dinner.

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Your daughter is in college already? As one of the fans of Cooking Live I remember when both kids would, on occasion, come on the show. I can't believe they're that grown up already.

Regarding your son's friends - have the meals at your home encouraged any of them to try their hand at cooking?
"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

#9 Susan in FL

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:35 PM

This is a wonderful thread. I see so many similarities with how we raised our boys.
Plating isn't always formal, and family style isn't always casual. I plate most of the time... It's just the common every day way for us, and there are always either flowers and/or candles, or some kind of centerpiece. It's just our casual way, second-nature to us. Formal would be fine china and sterling silver (if I had it), much ceremony and ritual, and getting dressed up. Actually, when we serve family style, it's much more of a special occasion because it's so different. To me that is more formal. I am eager to see Sara's response here and the continued discussion. :smile:
Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

#10 FoodMan

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 08:36 AM

I guess people imagine they want to "cook" but they don't think they have the time to do it.


Exactly! They see Emeril on TV making something that looks good from scratch, but they just do not want to invest the time, or put in any effort into a meal that their family or friends will enjoy. Instead they turn into a semi-homemade "recipe" and wonder why their "food" tastes and looks like canned food :hmmm: .

Your comments about cooking for your family at home with what I can only imagine is a full schedule makes me respect you even more. My favorite times of the week are the evenings with my wife and 2.5 year old son and Sunday mornings when I cook breakfast for them. I make it a point that though he is barely potty trained he HAS to at least try a couple of bites of whatever we are having. I have been so surprised so many times at the things he enjoys, most recently a pan fried trout that he actually wanted to buy at the store and a hearty bowl of garbure with lots of cabbage and duck confit!

Thanks for sharing with us.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com


#11 snowangel

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 12:52 PM

Ah, the no time to cook thing.

Back when Peter and Heidi were babies, Diana was about 6, and I was working full-time outside the home. Evenings were chaotic, and it seemed as though Diana got lost in the suffle of diapers, bottles, etc. So, we started a routine. Every evening, after the babes were tucked in, she and I would retreat to the kitchen and plan dinner for the next night, and do what prep we could. All of a sudden, there was time to cook, and it was a very special and sacred time for the two of us. Now that I'm an at-home mom, she and/or Peter join me in the kitchen almost every day after school to get things going.

We are pretty insistent on family dinner, my kids especially. They don't want activities that interfere with this tradition.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#12 Sara Moulton

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 12:56 PM

Cooking at home for me tends to morph into entertaining at home quite often.  In fact, I'd rather entertain at home than go out.  Do you do much entertaining at home and do you have a style you favour?  Formal plated style; casual family style?


You know, 3 plus years after I stopped taping the live show I am still recovering from not being home enough (although even then we had family dinner together 5 nights a week but it didn't start until I got home at 8:15) so now I am focusing on just cooking dinner for the family and not entertaining much.
When I did entertain and I still do for larger groups of family members my plan is to make something ahead, even weeks ahead, and freeze it. There are some things that are even better made ahead, their flavor improves, like most braised dishes. I also make lasagnes. Then I just round out the menu with a few extra dishes (always a salad, I am a saladaholic) and perhaps a make ahead home made dessert. When I have a large crowd, 8 or over, which is usually the case at our farmhouse or at Adler (the husband) family reunions I put it out buffet style so people can take exactly what they want. I always set the table with a tablecloth, cloth napkins, candles and flowers.
Sara Moulton

#13 jsolomon

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:12 PM

It is so sticking, My daughter is just a freshman at college but when she came home at winter break, even though she was extremely busy seeing her friends in the city, the one thing she did was show up every night for dinner.
The first thing my son asks when he checks in at the end of the school day is
"Whats for dinner?"

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So, how much is the correction course being offered for? My fiance could certainly use some help in this arena!
I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

#14 MarketStEl

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 07:00 PM

Ah, the no time to cook thing.

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This thread is quite touching, and I'm sorry I can't add to the heartwarming stories of family dinners growing up, because aside from Sunday dinner at Grandma Smith's, my childhood family dinners were not coming-together-and-bonding occasions--quite the opposite, in fact.

But I do wonder about this "no time to cook" business. I wonder if it may not be "no time to get the right ingredients" as much as "no time to cook"?

Consider that most Americans relegate grocery shopping to a two-hour block of time either every Saturday or every other Saturday. Then consider that many of us don't particularly enjoy this activity (a local supermarket chain in the Philadelphia area used to run radio ads that began, "Okay, all of you out there who enjoy shopping for groceries raise your hand"). Add to that the possibility--maybe probability--that most Americans also aren't up on proper medium- to long-term storage methods for fresh produce, despite the best efforts of people like Sara and Alton Brown. Put all of these factors together and you probably have gone a long way towards explaining the preponderance of canned/frozen/convenience veggies and other foods as ingredients.

It probably would not be all that difficult for most Americans to pick up some veggies on the way home, much as the French do (or so I understand), for preparation that evening. Or let's say that it would not be that difficult if greengrocers and meat markets were distributed across the suburban landscape the way convenience stores, gas stations and drug stores seem to be. But they're not, and it seems most working Americans don't think about picking up dinner on the way home unless someone else has already prepared it.

Edited by MarketStEl, 26 January 2006 - 07:00 PM.

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#15 Susan in FL

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 06:23 AM

I love grocery shopping, especially after I have put time and care into menu planning. Seriously!
We often stop on the way home from work for the produce part, but I sure would be interested in learning more about "proper medium- to long-term storage methods for fresh produce." Do you know of a thread on this somewhere on eGullet, or another guide online somewhere? I want to be able to get maximum life out of my fresh fruits and vegetables. I pretty much just put them in the produce bins of my fridge and that's all.
Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

#16 OnigiriFB

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 06:40 AM

I like grocery shopping too. There's something theraputic about wandering up and down the aisles for me. I do wish there were green groceries like they have convenience stores here. In Thailand it was also easy to pick up fresh veggies. There were usually fruit and veggie stands near your home so making a quick stop isn't a problem.

Susan - what I do is use the Glad (i think) fresh protect plastic bags and paper towels. I try to prep all my veggies as soon as I get home from the grocery. I'll wash most (I don't wash fruit until I'm going to eat it) of the stuff, make sure it's uber dry, cut it up some things, and then wrap some in paper towels and store them in the plastic bags. That seems to keep most of my veggies pretty happy for a bit longer than it used to.

#17 MarketStEl

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 06:58 AM

I'm not going to even remotely claim to be an expert on medium-term or longer storage of produce. I'll just share my odyssey over several years.

For a while, Ziploc made produce storage bags--plastic bags with tiny perforations that allowed air to flow through. I swore by these, as with them, it was possible to keep washed lettuce and other leafy greens fresh for more than two days or so in my fridge. Unfortunately, they didn't sell well nationwide and are no longer made.

For the past few months, I have been buying pre-washed bagged salad mixes from Iovine Bros. in the Reading Terminal Market. These are prepared at their stand from mixed spring greens or combinations of Romaine, peppers and cucumbers.

I had been wrapping them in paper towels and shoving them back in the bags they came in, but even with the towels, they became brown, wilted and sodden after about three days.

A couple of weeks ago, I plunked down $25 on a large salad spinner. This seems to have done the trick. This particular model (an Oxo Good Grips) includes a lid so that you can use the centrifuge bowl for storage after you've spun the greens dry. One week later, the veggies were still crisp, though they were showing some traces of brown around the edges. (My refrigerator has a serious moisture problem: we haven't been able to keep condensation from forming on the ceiling of the fridge compartment.)

I think that vented produce bags would be a good thing to reintroduce, perhaps at the produce stand.

Oh, btw: When that radio ad ran, I would raise my hand. I view it as a relaxing activity and a chance to test my budget-savviness. Since the unscientific survey sample thus far nonetheless suggests a strong correlation between participating in this organization and enjoying the act of shopping for food (big surprise there :hmmm: ), maybe the problem lies with our attitudes towards food in general.
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#18 Susan in FL

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 09:15 AM

Ahhh, here perhaps is a place to ask this question. I'm surprised nobody has asked yet. What did you have for dinner last night? ...Or any night at home this past week (or what's for dinner tonight)?
Here's a link to another thread for you to take a look at in all your spare time. :smile: As you can see, there are many of us here who, like Priscilla said in her post which in 2002 started this now-418-page thread, are very interested in what others cook for dinner.
Fortunately, I'm going into work late today, or else I would have missed my chance to submit this one last question, and would have missed the chance to thank you again, before the Conversation is closed at 2:00. "Thank you" hardly seems enough. This has been the greatest, and the time you have taken to answer the many questions and to join in on the great discussions is appreciated so much. I'm sure I speak for all when I say it's been an honor to have you with us this week. I hope you will find some time to check in with us now and then, and take part in some of our topics. I wish you the best at PBS, and in all you do.
Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

#19 foodie52

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 09:19 AM

These work great. You can get your grocery store manager to order them for your store.

#20 Sara Moulton

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 12:44 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I plunked down $25 on a large salad spinner.  This seems to have done the trick.  This particular model (an Oxo Good Grips) includes a lid so that you can use the centrifuge bowl for storage after you've spun the greens dry.  One week later, the veggies were still crisp, though they were showing some traces of brown around the edges.  (My refrigerator has a serious moisture problem: we haven't been able to keep condensation from forming on the ceiling of the fridge compartment.)


Sandy,
I think you have nailed it. The most important thing to do with produce, especially greens is to keep them very dry. A salad spinner is the most effective tool for doing that as long as you use it properly. My husband has a tendency to jam it full with wet greens and then the water doesn't get thrown off effectively. And he doesn't dump out the water between rounds and so it gets on the greens at the bottom. A salad spinner is sort of like one of those centrifugal force rides at the amusement park, it is the best tool for the job.
But any food lasts longer if you eliminate most of the moisture - think of dried mushrooms or glace de viande.
Sara Moulton

#21 Sara Moulton

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 12:57 PM

Ahhh, here perhaps is a place to ask this question.  I'm surprised nobody has asked yet.  What did you have for dinner last night?  ...Or any night at home this past week (or what's for dinner tonight)?


Tonight is date night, we are going out for dinner
Last night we had rotisserie chicken (!!!) and orzo cooked with chicken stock and finished with butter and parmesan as well as haricots verts, boiled for 3 minutes and tossed with olive oil and salt
Monday I brought home scallops and shrimp from work and made scallops provencal for the husband and shrimp scampi for the son.
Tuesday we tried to finish off some of this huge asian slow cooked pork shoulder roast I had made last week. The recipe came from, "In Mother's Kitchen," a cookbook which I contributed to.
It was supposed to be 4 pounds but they sent me an 8 pounder instead so I marinated it overnight and through the next day and then threw half of it into the slow cooker and half of it into the slow oven at 6pm It was supposed to cook for 6 to 8 hours. Since I go to bed at 10, it got a little complicated. I had to set the alarm to turn it off, and then set the alarm to let it cool for an hour before I put it away. It was pretty good, although the husband said it was a tad sweet.
I have been cooking alot from Daisy Martinez's book. You have to stock pile all these ingredients and preparations (like sofrito and annato oil and olive caper mix) but the recipes are so full of flavor.
Sara Moulton