Sincere best wishes to my precious Mom on her 86th birthday – my mentor, my muse, my support, my inspiration, my best friend, and the person who has loved me longest and most deeply – always. I love you with all of my heart. xoxox
I LOVE cookbooks and had a massive collection of them in my past life. Wherever I traveled, it seems I picked up a new cookbook and got to explore the foods and flavors of the places beyond the trip itself. I also chose cookbooks of places I hadn’t yet traveled, but LOVED the cuisines, like India, Thailand, Africa, the Mediterranean, etc. I kept a precious few cookbooks when I purged my belongings last year and gifted all of the remainder to charity – paying the incredible gift of amazing food with others who might not otherwise get to experience travel and/or a variety of cuisines of the world.
One of the best ways to get to know a country, a culture and its people is through food and drink. Everything we do socially is centered around them: a first date with drinks and dinner perhaps, holiday meals shared with traditional recipes and loved ones, bringing food to a family to offer comfort and support during difficult times, a business meeting over coffee or lunch, etc. Nourishing our bodies and our souls with good quality food is one of the most important things we can do to honor ourselves and to show our love for others.
It takes time to plan, shop for and prepare good food. The investment is worth it and cooking is one the things I truly love to do. It’s meditative and creative. Like anything, learning the basics and the techniques are important to make the process more enjoyable. Some people have a natural flare and others have to work at it. Absolutely no one knows it all and there is always more to learn.
I worked really hard to write my three cookbooks and I loved doing them. Been there, done that and wrote three books! Now, I’m enjoying preparing food from other people’s recipes or creating things in our kitchen from my imagination (or from memory of foods we’ve enjoyed). This is an exciting new chapter in my life and I’m enjoying trying new recipes immensely.
I’m travelling lighter these days with very few cookbooks but a world of recipes at my fingertips with the internet and some fabulous food sites. One of my favorites is the Cooking App from the New York Times. It has become one of my main sources of inspiration and an absolute delight to cook recipes from. We LOVE Melissa Clark and her fun, fresh approach to food. Her recipes are delicious and videos capture her delightful personality.
As I prepare and play with new foods and recipes, I promise to share them with you. I’ll share great food and hopefully save you the process of finding the best recipes, food and flavors as I find them. I hope you enjoy this journey as much as I delight in sharing it!
Our next stop was to stop to visit Ron’s amazing mother who lives in northern California. At ninety-three years of age (and very soon to be ninety-four at the time of this writing), she is an absolute inspiration! She still lives in the family home of over sixty years, drives extremely well (by anyone’s standards!) and takes great care of herself, her younger siblings and her friend and neighbor, also a Mary, who lives across the street.
Although her back is giving Mary some pain and trouble now and she uses a cane for stability if walking far, she is in amazingly good health. She attributes it to fueling her body all these years with great food, of which I’ll talk more about shortly. Her mind is razor sharp and she has a better memory than both Ron and I combined. Her skin is beautiful and she looks twenty years younger than her actual age.
Mary drives a great distance to do her shopping at many different stores as she knows which markets carry the best lamb stew meat (which is a different butcher than the one who carries the best leg of lamb, by the way!) and which carry the best organic product (this is all that she buys and uses and is, assuredly, what has kept her and the people she loves in such good health). Her preparation of the food she buys and cooks is representative of the care she takes in all things – “anything worth doing is worth doing right”.
Mary is Portuguesa with both her parents emigrating to the Silicon Valley area (when it was all still farming, orchards and dairy operations) before their children were born from the Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and is located about 1,360 km west of Portugal, 1,510 km northwest of Morocco, and about 1,925 km southeast of Newfoundland. Ron and I visited the Azores and the west coast of Portugal two years ago and were very taken with the beauty, tradition and majesty of this part of the world.
Mary is a FABULOUS cook: the food she selects and prepares is her way of expressing love and you can taste the care she takes in every bite. Her food is simple, with very little spice, but her use of the very best ingredients and her preparation makes each meal memorable. Some of the dishes that we have savored and enjoyed in her home are French toast (made with Trader Joe’s cracked wheat sour dough bread and cooked in olive oil – delicious!), rack of lamb, lamb stew, what Mary calls “boiled dinner” (corned beef with boiled onions, potatoes, carrots and cabbage), kale soup, chicken soup, vegetable soup, Portuguese omelet (made with onions, potatoes and parsley) and so many more! I’m starting to take notes and write down her recipes because one day she won’t be here any longer and it would be a tragedy to lose her recipes and reminders of such a great lady. Here’s Mary’s recipe for her famous and delicious roast beef:
Start with a center chuck roast and ensure that there is lots of fat on it for tenderness. Cut slits into the meat and insert chunks of halved garlic cloves. Heat olive oil in an electric fry pan and sear all surfaces of the meat.
Remove roast from pan and deglaze with burgundy wine. Add 6 whole allspice cloves, two smashed cloves of garlic and two bay leaves, add roast and cover with sliced onion (use two onions and let some of the onion cook in the gravy). Cook at a low, steady simmer (~275 to 300F) for 1 ½ hours. Turn the roast, add more burgundy as required and continue cooking. Keep covered to keep all of the moisture in the pan and to add additional moisture to the gravy.
Remove roast, bay leaves, smashed garlic and allspice cloves. Add a tsp. or two of ketchup (only add more to taste) to cut the acid and thicken with arrowroot (buy at a health food store).
Serve with mashed potatoes, green peas or French style green beans and boiled carrots. Simple, but absolutely delicious!
Mary is very particular about how things are done and there is an absolute right way (hers!) and many wrong ways to do things. I had to laugh when I went to cut potatoes when Mary was once on the phone, only to realize that I had done it incorrectly (by Mary’s standard!). It’s that strength that has kept her so healthy and strong all these years – I can only hope to be enjoying life as she is in forty more years myself!
We stop to see Mary to and from New York and try to spend as much precious time with her as possible. Ron is her first-born child of six and she so loves to spoil him and he so loves to be spoiled by her. I’m just grateful to spend as much time with her as possible. We love her very much.