I have always been willing to eat almost anything that didn’t eat me first. I adore kombucha, oysters and sushi.
I like craft brews and hand-hewn whole grain breads. I am careful about the ingredients I purchase in the foods we eat.
I absolutely adore broccoli which, I think, makes one of me.
For all my putting on airs when it comes to the culinary arts, there is one specific truth that is beyond self evident: I have white trash taste buds.
In my defense, I am a lifelong product of the middle states located in that down-to-earth area between the east and west coasts.
As a middler, I was pretty much programmed from birth to have an affinity for creamed soups and jello.
My mother has many gifts and talents but cooking isn’t one of them. Her famous baking related line?
I made a pie once. Emphasis: once.
As a result, I will always have a soft spot for fish sticks, Kraft boxed mac and cheese (or is it cheez?) and all things that come out of a can or the freezer section of the grocery store.
My grandmother, however, could cook up a storm. Give her a speck of salt and a pot, and she could make a feast.
Still, despite all her culinary prowess, I know that one of my favorite childhood foods, requested for every special dinner, was green bean casserole with meatballs. The meatballs made it fancy.
This culinary treat for the taste buds is a gelatinous mess of canned cream of mushroom soup, canned dried onions and green beans.
I still make it for every holiday meal because my own children also cannot fathom a holiday table without it.
Who needs roasted vegetables in a balsamic reduction glaze when you can have a stubby green bean swimming in goo? We all learned the basic food pyramid of course.
In my childhood (1970s) it was a bit more forgiving than it is today.
If I recall correctly it was fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, meat proteins, Hi-C fruit punch and Spam.
Today, there are so many dietary options and ingredient limitations: fat-free, organic, free range, cage free, gluten free, MSG free. Sugar-free? NutraSweet? Stevia?
Is it all natural? I don’t know!
In my mother’s day, we had Tab. I guess that had something weird in it because it has disappeared.
Today, they tell me my food is healthier than ever, but I feel like I need an advanced degree just to make sense of the labels. Autumn and the holidays always make me want to get back into the kitchen.
This is where my outer foodie meets my inner midwestern cook. I want to be very cutting edge with my food choices but the truth is, I am always going to be true to my culinary roots.
I hail from the land where a mixture of canned fruit, marshmallow and nuts can be submerged in gelatin to become something we straight-faced refer to as salad. It does, after all, contain fruit.
My mother, she of I made a pie once fame, will be bereft if the table is not resplendent with a roll of jellied cranberry with the can shape still intact.
That is good stuff where I come from. Turkey, an ostensibly healthy(ish) form of protein, is basted in butter until it oozes.
Ham, slightly less healthy, is often coated in a brown sugar crust with added salt just for emphasis a guess? Does ham even NEED salt?
Maybe it cuts the sweet of all the brown sugar and pineapple? Granted, almost everything is assumed to need salt.
Mr. Wonderful will salt food before he even tastes it. We are trying to rein in his love of the salt shaker, but he basically likes his salt layer to be thick and crunchy.
According to most medical knowledge, he shouldn’t have lived past age 22.
We do like our veggies — in season. We can roast fresh Brussels sprouts with the best of them. The rest of the year, however, we like to mush vegetables into other things.
Green beans? We already know how delicious this casserole is. If you disagree, I will fight you on it.
Sweet potatoes? Add butter and cinnamon and top with marshmallows.
Corn? Cornbread mix (Jiffy is good and costs maybe a quarter) and add plenty of cheese.
Basically, welcome to the Midwest where any vegetable you are faced with can be casseroled with the right amount of cream soup, marshmallows or cheese. When in doubt, add hash browns. I no longer apologize for my uncomplicated taste buds.
Please pass the ranch dressing.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!