Article by Mitch Samples
I am sitting in the kitchen, staring at my empty coffee cup, waiting for that little bit of liquid sunshine to finish steeping before I push the plunger of the French Press down. I can smell the coffee, and the garlic bagel in the toaster. I am sitting in the kitchen, thinking of the possibilities my small, 1950’s ceramic coffee cup might hold. Today everything around me seems old: my cup, my French press, the Holly Hobby-like wallpaper in my kitchen, my house. Everything here was probably made before me. It’s a nice feeling, the age, the muted browns, the smell of the coffee, and the garlic bagel. My mind wonders as memories are unlocked by today’s aromas. I can smell the coffee, and the breakfast sausage cooking in my mother’s kitchen 40 years ago. Times change, the aromas and the memories do not.
My mind gravitates to the foods my family enjoyed in my youth, it was a hybrid, mutt of a menu peppered with old friends like beans and wieners and tuna noodle casserole. We would enjoy pepper steak, porcupine meatballs, and the sweet cream dressing my mom would make. This would only adorn the garden lettuce, the store bought wasn’t good enough for it. Occasionally we had special foods like fried shrimp and French fries on New Years Eve, or the curried duck recipe my father would make from the James Beard cookbook. Shortly after that it was back to meat ring casserole or an experimental dish my mother found in her new 70’s era yogurt centric cookbook. I don’t think we had the same yogurt available to us then as the cookbook intended.
I suppose I am thinking so much of the past because will be traveling this weekend to Virginia for the memorial of my good friend Richard Phelps, who also happens to be my sister’s father in law. It is a sad but unavoidable day for us all to be the guest of honor at a function such as this. Memories abound. Most of my memories of Richard revolve around food. He loved to cook, and really got into it. My sister and brother in law even gave him a chef coat and special apron to wear, and he wore them proudly. I remember him grilling lamb, and making huge pots of pasta with gravy, laughing and drinking red wine. Richard loved food and he loved to eat, but some of his food stories were horrific.
As a child, he was quite ill for a while and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. Eventually they thought he might have celiac disease and prescribed…bananas. Why bananas, I don’t know, they are gluten free I guess, and it was a long time ago; so, bananas it was. Richard ate nothing but bananas for 6 months. His health did improve, no one knows if it was the bananas, but he couldn’t look a banana in the face for the rest of his life. The sight of them would make him gag. Not all memories are positive, they are memorable though.
I’m sure you have great food memories, like when you smell the bacon and onions cooking together, and the aroma of fresh corn you are shucking on the porch. Your sunny springtime childhood comes back to you in a flash, the friends you’ve made around the table, the memories you keep, and the memories yet to come.
Get some pasta, break some bread, and make some friends this weekend.
Here’s a great recipe (below) to get you started. Makes sure to get your pasta and chevré at the market on Saturday for this amazingly tasty and simple dish. Heck, get something to throw on the grill too, and please, raise a glass to Richard.
Image: Paradox Farm
Image: Fork + Spoon Fresh Pasta
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs fresh sage
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 cups good quality chicken stock
8 oz fresh Fork and Spoon Radiatore
Vegetable of choice to garnish
1 Tbs fresh chevré
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in sauté pan and brown slightly.
Sauté the sage and garlic for a few seconds.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Add the pasta and vegetables and simmer until the pasta is al dente.
Remove pan from heat, allow to rest for about 30 seconds, then stir in the cheese.
Season to taste.
Note: this recipe is very flexible to ingredient substitution and any shape pasta will do. The only firm ratio I would recommend is that of pasta to liquid. Traditionally made with parmesan, I find the chevré adds a nice creaminess and is locally available from Paradox Farms Creamery.