Since I’m promoting recipes on my blog, maybe I should explain my background in the culinary arts.
When I was growing up, my mom wasn’t what you would call an exceptional cook. She prepared your basic meat, starch, and vegetable meals—meat was fried or baked, potatoes were baked or scalloped, and vegetables were canned or frozen. Recipes were kept to at most 3 ingredients (5 if you count salt and pepper). The only condiment was ketchup. If you didn’t count your basic “meat and potatoes” meal, her total game was Swiss steak in a tomato and onion sauce, pork chops drenched in mushroom soup, and hamburger stroganoff (recipe in blog), another tasty mushroom soup dish. Her goal was meals that were filling, not necessarily meals that tasted good. If I complained (which wasn’t often) my dad would always end the discussion with “Well it doesn’t look like you’ve skipped many of her meals.”
The epicurean highlights of my early years were:
- When my mom discovered TV dinners. First marketed in the 1950s, these meals were named for the containers resemblance to the TV screen, speakers, and control panels of the contemporary television. I only remember four choices, fried chicken, turkey (with dressing hidden under the turkey), Salisbury steak, and cod (which no one ate). They were similar meals to what my mom cooked, but somehow tasted better.
- The arrival of fast food. There were a few McDonald’s around back then, but not in the small town where I lived. We did, however, have a few independent, local hamburger joints. A cheeseburger was always treated like a gourmet dish at our house. And French fries were to die for.
- The Mexican café my dad loved. What the restaurant lacked in decor and cleanliness it made up with in the best enchiladas, tacos, and tostadas ever made (that statement still stands after 50 years of measuring them against hundreds of other Mexican meals [my favorite ethnic food]). I still drool when I think of their red chili burritos. I have had red burritos all over the U.S. and even when they have a fancy name like “Macho Colorado Red,” none have ever tasted anywhere near as good.
What my mom did excel at cooking was wild game and trout. This was important to my dad and I because we hunted and fished so much there was always a good supply of dead things being brought home to be cooked. My mom cooked quail and dove breasts wrapped in bacon, fried deer liver with onions, and was a specialist with “fry meat” as we called the steaks and miscellaneous meat from elk and antelope. She was also the only person I know who would allow you to just throw a mess of fish in the sink and she would gut, clean, and then cook them without a single complaint.
My dad was not a cook. Or let’s say, no one should have ever, ever allowed him to cook. This did not, however, stop his friends from making him the camp cook on hunting and fishing trips. Either his buddies were masochists or they would simply do anything to keep from having to cook themselves—I suspect it was mostly the later.
He cooked one of three meals:
- Hamburger fried with potatoes and onions.
- Canned corned beef fried with potatoes and onions.
- Chopped venison fried with potatoes and onions.
None of the meals was very good, but when my dad announced at nearly every dinner, “If you don’t like it, then you do the cooking,” there was always complete silence. To a man, the others never complained and always ate with relish. After dinner in our hunting camp, the smell of (not gunpowder) ketchup was always in the air.
With a background like this, you might be a little suspicious of my recipes. But like I said earlier, I don’t base my recipes on my being an excellent cook. In fact the first requirement of my recipes are so simple any one (remember “geezers and small children”) can cook them and they taste good. As a healthy, enthusiastic eater for over 60 years (maybe I should deduct the first two years when food was basically some form of mush) I am selecting the best of meals from my many decades at the dinner table. Put simply, I know when something tastes good.
If my résumé is not good enough for you then I’ll leave you with another of my dads quotes, “Eat it or don’t, it’s not me who will be hungry in an hour.”