My motto has always been, “if you can read, you can cook.” I mentor members through the cooking process and my approach to it in the forum daily, but can the Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™) put a novice home cook on the path to competing on television with seasoned pros like Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson, and TV stardom? Guest blogger Lane Buckman puts it to the test while exploring her own culinary roots.
By Lane Buckman: Since the Personal Chef Approach™ (PCA™) has so increased my confidence as a cook, I decided to audition for the new ABC cooking show, starring Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson. I think it would be really hilarious (and exciting!) if a girl who used to set fire to her kitchen on a regular basis, ended up on a cooking show – and if it is to be, it is all down to the encouragement Julie Anne Rhodes gave me, and learning to make the PCA™ work in my home. Sometimes, just having one person believe in you is all it takes.
While I was working out what I would cook, and what I would say on my video audition, I started thinking about cooking in my family. How had my grandparents grown up eating? How had my parents grown up eating? What did I eat? Who cooked what, and how was it prepared? I know very little of how my grandparents ate as childen, only that food was scarce during the Depression in Alabama, and what they had they shared, and they made it last. I know that their childhood eating habits informed how they provided for their families.
Eating at my mom’s parents’, Grandma and Boom’s, house was eating close to the earth. They worked a massive garden, and Boom–until he had a stroke and couldn’t do it anymore–hunted and fished for nearly all the meat the family ate. So at their house it was all fresh peas and beans, squash and tomatoes–oh my word, y’all! Those tomatoes were the best in the world. We would chop them up with a little mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and eat them like that. There was venison, and fried catfish, and homemade hushpuppies–Boom would fry up the fish and hushpuppies and put them in paper bags to soak out the grease. Then, he would put those bags on the table and we would all just dive in like hillbillies.
When Mom was growing up, they also kept chickens, and they traded the eggs for other dairy products at the Farmer’s Market. Boom was a soldier, so he worked out at Fort Benning during the day, then came home and worked that garden at night. Grandma stayed at home and took care of the house, the children, and the chickens, and did her cooking and canning, and preserving. There were beans and peas to be picked, cleaned and hulled, corn to be plucked and shucked, and all manner of berries and vine fruit to pick and clean.
Now at Granny’s house, my dad’s mom, it was entirely different. When Dad was small, Granny worked at the cotton mill all day. By the time I came along, she was working at JC Penney. Still, she had one breakfast, and four dinner dishes that she served in rotation, with the precision of a machine. Even though she worked better than full-time at the mill, she cooked two full meals a day, and packed lunches for her family. This woman cooked fresh biscuits from scratch every day of her life. With a full-time job, a house to keep, children to care for, and even fewer amenities than Grandma had. I mean, at least Grandma’s children were born in the hospital! Granny had hers on the kitchen table.
Everything at Granny’s house was fried in bacon grease, and fried until it was fossilized. Vegetables were boiled out of the can until mushy. I was in my late teens before I knew that pork chops weren’t supposed to snap, and green beans weren’t supposed to flop over . I’m not saying Granny’s food didn’t taste good: Anything cooked in bacon grease tastes good. I’m just saying there was a big difference.
You have to have time to cook like Grandma and Boom. You have to have time to work the garden, and time to hunt, and time to prep what you’ve produced, and you have to have access to the land and tools it takes to cultivate production, or hunt. You have to know how to take it from the earth to the table. Granny didn’t have that time because she worked full-time, and my Grandaddy was deaf, so not someone you’d want hunting with you! Also, their land wouldn’t grow anything other than mosquitoes.
My mom didn’t have time because she married a Marine which meant we moved every two years, and she worked. So, at our house, we ate a lot of canned food, and the things Dad liked from Granny’s cooking. My mom makes the best pot roast in the world, and I still beg her to make me her vegetable-beef soup every winter. She can also cook a ham like no other, and her bacon sandwiches are transcendent. But, by the time I was in high school, she had all but stopped cooking. Aside from the few things I managed to pick up, when the time came that I was out on my own, I was only expert at microwaving Lean Cuisine.
My poor husband knew he wasn’t marrying a cook, but I don’t think he fully understood what it meant when neither adult in the family knew how to prepare and present a meal. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the desire to do better – I lost sleep over the fact that I was such a horrible homemaker, but I didn’t have the skill set. You can only set the kitchen on fire so many times before you just despair of walking into the room! I just couldn’t get my arms around anything more complicated than spaghetti. That’s when I found Julie Anne’s Personal Chef Approach™ to cooking, which reinvented the stove for me. Mine doesn’t rove, but at this point, it could!
I don’t think anyone over a certain age wants to know the pizza guy by name. I think most parents want to be able to cook well for their children, but they may not have the resources to do it. I am an excellent example of someone who has learned to do it. I can’t tell you how long it has been since I cooked spaghetti. And when I do, I make my own meatballs or meat sauce. It’s also been a long time since Thor has cried when I said I was going to go cook dinner. Now, he has his little hands in most of what I do. When he looks back, I hope what he remembers is how much fun we have singing and dancing in the kitchen.
Jewels Turkey Bolognese
I started making this slightly lower fat version of Bolognese on a diet years ago, and never missed the red meat so I never went back. Of course you can make this the traditional way by substituting beef and/or pork if you prefer, or try it with cannellini beans if you are vegetarian.
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons of dry red wine, optional
2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 cups penne
1). Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the turkey and season to taste. Brown, breaking up into little pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes. Remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
2). Add the remaining olive oil to the same pan, then add the onion and carrots, and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, wine, parsley and oregano and simmer for 15 minutes.
3). Meanwhile, cook penne according to package instructions. Drain, and toss with a little olive oil to keep from sticking together.
4). Remove sauce from heat, stir in fresh basil and cooked ground turkey. Season to taste. Serve hot over penne with desired amount of grated Parmesan on top.
Serve with Balsamic Green Beans.