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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Warm-Ups

Oscar Foulkes October 24, 2012 Uncategorized No comments

Pea and artichoke purée that I made with leftover artichokes

Long before celebrity chefs, way before cooking challenges found their way into reality television, cooking was something we learnt from our mothers and grandmothers. There is something warm and fuzzy about the kitchen – complete with granny’s apple pie in the oven – being the centre of love and warmth in the home. Add an Aga stove to the mix, assorted jars of preserves, gently fizzing ginger beer, and you have memories that evoke all kinds of emotions.

So, I have this fantasy of culinary traditions being passed along the female line. Coq au vin, Rogan Josh, Osso Bucco, Yorkshire Pudding and countless others. These were all learnt at the knees of a mother or grandmother, who in turn learnt it at the knees of her mother or grandmother.

I was particularly attached to my granny, but I can’t point to any particular dish that I learnt from her, and certainly none that had been in the family for generations. Oh, I suppose I should mention that she taught domestic science, but in this field my granny wasn’t much of a goddess. Perhaps her childhood during the Great Depression put paid to excessive meanders into opulence and hedonism.

Her motto was “waste not, want not”. When she burnt her toast, which was often, because she bought the less expensive non-popup toaster, she simply used the bread knife with its half-broken handle to scrape off the black bits. In fact, she may also have used the same knife to spread butter and marmalade. She was practical and pragmatic – both with capital P’s.

What I learn from my granny was the recycling of leftovers. By its very nature this cuisine has no recipes, because the constituents are slightly different every time. It’s more of an attitude, a commitment to squeeze every last bit of value out of food that would otherwise go to waste.

My attitude is somewhat less utilitarian, in that deliciousness is also one of my aims. The Leftover Recycler faces an additional challenge, in that the family prefers a varied diet. So, tonight’s roast chicken leftovers can’t become tomorrow’s chicken pie. But, the chicken needs to be consumed before it picks up nasty bacteria, lest the ghosts of meals past come back to haunt the weak of gastric function.

A freezer is an important tool for the Warm-Ups Wizard, but only if you can remember exactly what is in each container. I have been known to occasionally dump a freezer relic, because I couldn’t work out what it was. In many cases, as I begin working with the leftover constituent, I can recall the circumstances of the evening when the meal was first served. So, it’s like a dinner party that just keeps happening. Of course, that only works if excessive consumption of alcohol at the dinner has not erased all memory of the gathering.

My granny eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s. She cooked a large percentage of her food in one particular aluminium pot, which we still have. Even though the causal link between the two A’s has never been conclusively proven, I have not been able to bring myself to use that pot.

I learnt about frugality from my grandmother, who learnt about it in the Great Depression. It should be useful during the Great Recession.

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