My Obsession

It is Thanksgiving Day 2011 and I have been toying with the idea of writing about cooking for thirty-five years or so.  I’ve considered cookbooks, novels in which cooking takes a major roll (á la Like Water for Chocolate), poetry, newspaper columns about cooking, and painting and drawing about cooking.  That last is not really “writing,” but you get the idea.  And that whole time the one thing I did do was cook!  A lot!

I taught cooking for over 25 years in various cities where I’ve lived.  I taught out of my home, at natural food stores and other places.  I have invented recipes and even invented a no-tomato pasta sauce and a vegetarian alfredo sauce that was actually manufactured for a brief time in a Brooklyn food factory.  That’s a story for another blog.

I also wrote a column about natural foods in the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin under the name of a local co-op.  It was a Q & A column.  We wrote the questions and the answers until people started actually sending in questions.  I have the columns in a portfolio I keep of my freelance writing adventures and not too long ago pulled it out.

And there was this Q & A column in which I once recommended making peanut butter and sauerkraut or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.  That used to be a favorite with my kids, but I wonder how many people actually tried that?!  I know what you might be thinking—“No wonder the Philadelphia Bulletin shut down!”  No, it shut down years after my column ended.  Really!

I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement along the way that has made me pretty self-assured about my cooking.  Years ago my friend named Anne Marie bought me a book about how to write a cookbook and wrote me an incredible letter validating my talent and she continued to bug me about writing this for years.  But I never did it.

I used to cook for other people too. I did it for money but mostly I just loved doing it.  I had several friends who cooked for other people because we were studying and teaching Macrobiotics and eastern philosophy and healing.  So I cooked macrobiotic, vegetarian meals for friends and for people who were ill with degenerative diseases.  Many of them did better eating healthy food and some healed and some didn’t.  At that time I didn’t have the full picture of what would cause a person to heal that I have now.  That too is another subject.

Those wonderful people, friends and their families also urged me to start a catering business or open a restaurant.  I’ve always thought that would be way too labor intensive and really I considered it might ruin cooking for me.

I guess I could have gone to cooking school, and I did study with some fabulous teachers off and on in my life who remain an inspiration to me.  I never stopped studying cooking and have done it all sorts of ways via television cooking shows, books, friends and dining in all kinds of restaurants.

Probably the outstanding thing about my obsession with cooking is that I absolutely love my own cooking!  And this is annoying to some people who think I should not be the first one to compliment my own dishes at a meal.  (Sorry Dan, I can’t help doing that!)  It’s like being the first to “like” your own posts on Facebook.  Which I sometimes do also.

For instance today I’m going to my church for a big, beautiful Thanksgiving Dinner.  My friend Robin asked me to make the salad.  For a week now I’ve been imagining how various ingredients will taste together.  Now the salad is made and I taste-tested it to see how my chosen ingredients worked out together.  My first thought when I tasted it was, “I’ll probably mostly eat this salad at the dinner.  It is soooo good!”  So you see, I do love my own cooking and making and tasting this holiday salad pushed me over the edge to start writing!

The salad:

  • Red and Green curly leaf lettuce
  • Celery diced pretty small
  • Bits of sun-dried tomato
  • Fresh ripe pears skinned and diced
  • Roasted pecans flavored with a small dose of maple syrup (100% real stuff) and coated with a mix of cinnamon, cardamom, Hawaiian sea salt (I bought Hawaiian ‘cause I was thinking about my friends Kim and Ruth who now live in Hawaii and with whom I have shared many Thanksgiving dinners in the past) and some paprika.
  • The dressing is a simple red wine and olive oil vinaigrette that has salt and a dash of liquid stevia in it.
  • Garnished with a little shredded extremely sharp, stinky cheese if you like that.  (Sorry, I already threw the wrapper out and now I can’t remember the exact name of it.  It has holes like Swiss but it’s not Swiss and it’s not Havarti.  I will find out and let you know.) 

I won’t apologize for not including measurements!  I don’t measure hardly ever and you don’t need to either.  You just go by your taste and experience of what works.  That is the adventurous way to go.

Finally after all the years, I realized that the idea of creating aesthetic, delicious dishes and meals is my personal expression, my art.  And I realized that I have a viewpoint about many, many aspects of life that is manifested from my experiences, adventures and love of cooking.  So this is what I’m writing about—how I see and experience life through the viewpoint of cooking.

I hope you enjoy My Cooking Life and would love to have you contribute to it with your feedback, your own stories, or let me interview you!  At this point I have no idea how often I will be blogging but my target is at least once a week.

Much love,  Patty

PS:  I still love peanut butter and pickles on whole wheat toast!

12 thoughts on “My Obsession

  1. Hi Patty, GREAT story that brought back fond memories of my childhood and cooking. Here are a few recipes that might be of interest to you,. 4 total to be precise.

    “This Italian Wine Cookie recipe was handed down through many generations. They are a crisp, not-too-sweet, EASY TO MAKE cookie that are great with coffee or tea.”
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    3 tablespoons white sugar
    1 cup dry red wine
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the wine and oil. Mix with a large fork and then with your hands.
    Roll small pieces of dough between hands to make “logs” then shape into circles. The circles should be no bigger than the 2 inches in diameter. Roll cookies in extra sugar and place on cookie sheet.
    Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 minutes or until slightly brown. After cookies cool they should be hard and crisp.

    YET ANOTHER (not so much wine involved in this one though)
    Black Walnut Torte
    Sift together:
    1 2/3 cups flour
    1/2 cup butter
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 egg slightly beaten
    1/4 tsp. salt
    2 tbsp. Sherry
    1/4 tsp. nutmeg

    Blend the butter into the flour mixture. Gradually add the egg and wine and knead into a smooth dough. Roll thin and line a shallow baking pan to a depth of about one inch. Bake until slightly set at 450° F. Spread with the following mixture:
    2/3 cup sugar
    4 egg yolks unbeaten
    1/2 cup black walnuts chopped
    1/4 cup citron cut fine
    1/2 cup butter
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. almond extract
    2 tbsp. Sherry

    Cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks together for fifteen minutes. Add the wine, almond extract, salt and nuts. Sprinkle the citron over the partially baked cake. Spread the filling on top and bake at 325° F. for about thirty minutes. Cut into small squares while warm and allow to cool in the pan before removing the cakes.

    Another open to your interpretation.
    1 tsp. baking powder
    4-6 eggs
    Flour to make soft dough
    2 c. wine
    1 c. oil
    1 c. sugar
    1 pt. honey
    Mix wine, oil, sugar and beaten egg together. Add baking powder and enough flour to roll dough, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut in 1 inch lengths. Fry in deep fat until a golden brown. Drain on wax paper. When cookies are all fried, pour warm honey over them.

    And LAST but not least

    1 c. butter
    2 c. sugar
    3 eggs
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1/2 c. sweet wine (Port or Cream Sherry)
    5 to 5 1/2 c. flour

    1 lb. powdered sugar
    1 to 2 tbsp. milk
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1/8 tsp. salt

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs, vanilla and wine. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. Dough will be stiff. Roll out dough, on well-floured pastry sheet, to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutter. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Make icing by combining above ingredients. (Should be an almost runny consistency). Frost cookies. These cookies will keep for up to one year in an airtight container.

    May have more in my recipe file and if I run across them will post later,.

    Happy Holidays

    • Hi Dave! These are really great and I will give them a try! I think the Italian one looks close to what I remember and with only a few changes. I didn’t know you were a collector of recipes and you must also then be a cook! Thanks for sharing these and I’ll let everyone know how they turn out.

  2. Mom, you left out something – it’s peanut butter, pickle and ONION that makes it great! I love the article and can’t wait to read more!
    Nicky (since we’re reflecting I’ll leave my kid nick-name for your blog)

  3. Oh, wow – Pete turned me on to PB&P snacks. So good in an odd sort of way! Looking forward to see what other creations you come up with!

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