Thursday, February 23, 2006

Comfort Food and Request for Recipe Testers

Why is it that in the hot summer, I really only want comfort food when I’m feeling sick or very sad? And… am I alone in this?

All winter long, just about every meal is a comfort food meal - slow roasted meats and veggies, long simmering soups and stews, and those wonderful dishes from my childhood that were most often accompanied by mashed potatoes with tons of butter – like meatloaf or shepherd’s pie

or these salmon patties that I recently tested for the cookbook and naturally made them the way my mother did – with tons of potatoes mashed with milk and loads of butter, and – even better than the salmon – heaps of thinly sliced onions, fried until they are crispy and almost burnt. My mouth is watering as I write this. It was one of our favorite meals growing up and always vividly takes me back to those times. Naturally, like my mother, I made too many potatoes and, hard as it is to believe, too many onions. So I did what she used to do, what she learned from her mother – made fried potato patties.

Now let me back up for a moment and say a few words about my cookbook. The seeds for Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories – Recipes to Warm the Heart, actually go back to the very early 1900’s. My grandfather left Tsarist Russia with my grandmother and my, then one year old aunt (they lied and said she was two, so that she would be allowed to travel by ship). I can’t image what the trip was like, but I’m sure it wasn’t too pleasant – picture steerage from the movie Titanic. Like most immigrant women, she brought her homeland with her via recipes. And, two generations later, we’re still making some of them and wishing we wrote down the recipes for ones we crave but can’t recreate- mostly because they represent a feeling, a sense of well-being rather than a clear picture of the dish and its ingredients.

The book is filled with recipes passed on from my grandmother (that's her on the left) to my mother (on the right and her baby sister in the middle - they were 7 in all), from my friends’ mothers and my own creations written down originally for my daughters. The recipes have a fresh new twist and most of them are simplified for our hectic lifestyles. There are also some stories from my childhood that everyone can relate to regardless of ethnic or religious backgrounds. The intention is for you to be reminded of your own special memories. Everyone has some version of Sunday afternoons with the extended family.

The seeds for the book may have been sowed almost a hundred years ago, but the real impetus came when my older daughter went off to university and called often for recipes (at least twice a month for the banana bread) and “food questions”. It brought home the fact that I had missed the chance to collect my mother’s great recipes and many of her secret “how to’s”. She was a fabulous cook and baker who unfortunately developed Multiple Sclerosis and died much too young. I always thought I would have plenty of time to write down her recipes, as well as those of my grandmother and great aunt, recipes that were so much a part of my childhood memories.

And now to the request part....The book is almost ready to be published, and I’ve been fortunate to have a number of people from around the world (many of them fellow food bloggers)volunteer to be a part of my recipe testing team. They seem to be enjoying the experience. Check out Cookin with Cyndi to see what I mean. That said I still have many recipes left to test and would love to have you join my team. Just send me an email and I’ll send you a few to try out and provide me with some feedback.

Now enough shameless self-promotion and back to comfort food and a recipe for leftover potato patties. I happened to catch Emeril Lagasse on Food TV, promoting his newest book, Potluck. I’m not the hugest fans of his shows, but one thing he said certainly caught my attention - “Comfort food doesn’t have to be pretty”. This is often true, as is the case with the mashed potato & fried onion patties below and my rationale for not taking any pictures of them. They may not look pretty, but they certainly are tasty.


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Ivonne said...

These salmon patties look delicious!

I make a similar dish ... there's something about salmon in apttie form that is so enticing!

Culinarily Obsessed said...

Everything on your blog looks delicious! I love your cookbook idea and would love to do some recipe testing for you.

I am emailing you now! =)

Cyndi said...

I think our mothers were twins in another life--in addition to the salmon patties I wrote you about last week, and a few other similar recipes, my mother also made mashed potato patties with leftover mashed potatoes! This is too fun.

Ruth said...

Wow, three testers here to thank. Cyndi, for testing so many and writing nice things about them; Ivonne and Culinarily obsessed - thanks for joining the team!

Cyndi - our mothers probably were were twins - I'm always finding similarities when I visit your site.

Ivonne - nothing shabby about the trout post either - definitely a keeper.

David said...

You can't go wrong with fried onion and potatoes of any kind!

J said...

hi ruth, am so excited to hear the book is finally about to come into being! who needs pictures when your prose paints a scene that rivals that of an exquisite still life? although that having been said, those salmon cakes do look awesome...

shaz said...

yum! I simply love mash potatoes. These days i like to spruce them up a bit with asian touches. like with wasabi or saffrom for lovely hues of green or yellow