Archive for the ‘New Recipe’ Category

Cooking from Scratch

Sunday, February 26th, 2012


Aunt Isabelle as painted by her niece Mary Benedetto

Aunt Isabelle

Weekends. They are a great time to sleep late, work on things I need to do without interruption, and cook up a few meals for the week. Yesterday it was Herb Bread (this time I added millet, garlic and fresh rosemary and parsley.). Good loaf. Also tried Borscht for the first time from my new favorite cookbook, "Twelve Months of Monastary Soups" by Brother Victor.

Today, though, I was digging through the pantry and found some pinto beans. Hmmm. A green chili and pinto bean stew sounded good, but of course, since I'd just found them, the beans were not soaked. Thank goodness it only takes a minute googling to find out how to use the pressure cooker to cook unsoaked beans! Jill McKeever  mentioned using a Presto 6 qt. pressure cooker - same as mine - I decided to give her recipe "How to Cook Pinto Beans in a Pressure Cooker" a try. She said to  cook the beans longer than my Presto instructions indicated, but I tried it her way. Success. 🙂

Seems I have been cooking from scratch since forever. Actually, I remember exactly when, if I am honest. In her later years, my father's Aunt Isabelle used to take turns staying with relatives for a week or two at a time. We all loved her and would argue whose turn it was next to have her stay.

Stout and shorter than me, she wore her grey hair in long plaits wound like a crown atop her head. She taught me how to braid on her own hair, how to knit, crochet, mend and cook. I never did learn how to turn collar and cuffs to extend a shirt's life, but I did learn about nutrition.

My siblings and I were always thrilled when she came to stay. Aunt Isabelle was a great cook, would help with homework and mending and anything else around the house. Most of all, she brought a sense of happiness where ever she went, so our home felt even more full - in a good way - when she was with us.

When my mother died, Aunt Isabelle came to stay and help us sort out our lives. She emptied the kitchen cupboards onto the counter one by one and went through everything. She had the trash can by her side and quickly filled it despite my protests. Jello. Pudding. Cake Mix. Any foodstuffs in a box. In her Italian accent she explained, shaking her head, "That's-a not-a real food, Honey. I'm-a sorry but you canna-not eat-a that stuff. It's-a bad for you health. I'm-a gonna show you how to cook it right."

And she did. Breads. Cakes. Manicotti. Soup.  Between Aunt Isabelle, Aunt Carol and Aunt Mary, I learned how to cook from scratch. Scratch cooking does not really take that much longer, the fresh ingredients pack flavor like nothing ever could coming from a box, and it makes a house smell like home.