…or was it salsa?
I have the Betty Crocker New Dinner for Two Cookbook, that was first published in 1964. I probably bought my copy in 1970 when I was first married. It has a number of basic recipes that many people would call “comfort food,” today.
One of the sections talks about “All-American Favorites,” and gives you suggestions for regional cooking. My section of the country is the Upper Midwest, and this is a list of the foods that they say are common to the area:
Bacon and Eggs
Cherry Pie Cobbler
Corn of the Cob
Green String Beans
Honey and Biscuits
I’ve never eaten smelts or rutabagas. But, I HAVE eaten food from the other four regions. We consider ourselves to be fairly open to a variety of American cuisines. One of my English friends commented that she was surprised that I thought there was “American food.” I should have specified that I was talking about the food of my childhood…in the American Midwest. We have endless cuisines now, all based on region or ethnicity.
From the Far West we’ve had Apple Dumplings, Bean Sprouts, Eggs Foo Yung, Jack Cheese, Orange Juice, Walnuts, and Water Chestnuts.
From the Southwest: Barbecued Beef, Chili Con Carne, Grapefruit, Hot Chocolate, Lettuces, Melons, Summer Squash and Tortillas.
The South: Baked Ham, Baking Powder Biscuits, Deep-Dish Peach Pie, Fritters, Shrimp Gumbo (or in our case, almost ANYTHING Creole),and Watermelon. (Actually, I’d move watermelon to the Midwest, because I remember the fields along the Mississippi.)
The New England area has meals that you read about in books: Anadama Bread, Boston Baked Beans and Brown Bread, Boston Cream Pie, Broiled Lobster with Drawn Butter, Clam Chowder, Codfish Cakes, Cornmeal Pancakes and Real Maple Syrup, Cranberry Sauce, Gooseberry Tarts, Indian Pudding with Nutmeg Sauce, and Succotash.
I’ve missed out on the Anadama bread, the codfish cakes, cornmeal pancakes, gooseberry tarts, Indian pudding and succotash, but I’ve had all the rest.
I’m sure a lot of what we consider standard fare in the Midwest came to us from pioneers moving through our area to the west, and even more came from immigrants who decided to settle here. When I was a child, my mother served “mush” at breakfast. It was browned in butter in a fry pan, and served with maple syrup. I think they call it “Polenta” now, but that was a meal that had to have come from the pioneers. Beer and cheese and dairy are pretty standard in Wisconsin, and probably came from the Germans who settles there. The Great Lakes give us fresh fish. Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri are states known for corn-fed beef. Some of our heavier meals must have been developed at a time when men and women worked off more calories, and needed to eat to be able to work. And most of those meals were made out of what could be grown in the garden and canned.
We eat a much lighter diet now than our fore bearers used to. There are fewer courses, and the choices are lighter in calories, but we still fall back to some of the comfort food. I find fruits and veggies at the summer Farmer’s Markets to be a form of comfort food. In the freeze of the winter, pot roast or macaroni and cheese might call to me.
I suppose the biggest difference in my cooking over the years is the use of herbs in these basic recipes. I have an herb garden, so I can grow fresh herbs, and I can harvest those herbs for winter use. Basil and dill, fresh or dried, are my all time favorite seasonings, but I love a little thyme and bay leaf in beef stew. How about a little minced chives in scrambled eggs or egg casseroles? Or a bit of salad burnet (tastes like cucumber) in your salad.
Yes, I use herbs, and some spices, but my cooking plan is still very simple. I don’t mix in twelve ingredients when three or four will do. I thought my cooking was very simple until I met Cop Car. She’s the Queen of simple meals! But I think I may have “turned” her with the tomato-garlic-minced onion mixture for the bruchetta! She ate it (leftover) for BREAKFAST! *G*
…or was it salsa?