Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest Blog: My Mother, Dawn Goodman - My Food History

My great-grandparents, Ora and Rolla Goodman, at a family barbecue in Waller Park in Santa Maria, California.

Introduction - My Life in Food

I have very fond food memories from my childhood growing up on the Central Coast of California during the 60s and 70s. I grew up in the near-coastal town of San Luis Obispo. Even though I lived in other places as a child, it's my hometown. My mother, Dawn Goodman, was born in Santa Maria, a town further south on the 101 freeway; and her grandparents, Rolla and Ora Goodman lived in Orcutt, a small town just south of Santa Maria. Most of my memories are of my great-grandparents, their profuse garden and their sourcing of local-area ingredients for family meals. Their home was the locus of all family gatherings and many happy times were spent there. However, my mother, my sister, Traci, and I have our own food history of which I also have memories. My mother recounts much of it in this post: read on...

Recently I celebrated a 'big' birthday. My friend, Karen Roorda, devised the most extraordinary gift for me: my life in food. From childhood all the way up to this blog. She brought a large duffel bag to the party and proceeded to take out all manner of items related to my food, cooking and eating history including a Big Mac, large fries and chocolate shake from McDonald's. Was I surprised by this? Yes!! My mother had told her that we subsisted on fast food when my sister and I were in our pre-teens and teens. Karen had contacted my mother without my knowledge and gathered the necessary information to make this gift-presentation. It was an amazing surprise and a wonderful gift. Afterward I found out that my mother had written Karen an e-mail recounting my food history. I learned a lot from reading it, and remembered things I'd forgotten, and enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be fun to share on this blog. It also shows a bit where I came by my interest in food.

Before I let my mother take it away, I'd like to point out that she did raise my sister and I as a single mother without benefit of financial security. Food and cooking were not really a priority as she had a hard enough time keeping up with everything else. She did get us fed, she cooked often because she had to, we did eat out at fast food restaurants for awhile. I have no complaints. We all survived. I thank her for what she was able to do for us and show us about life. Now then, here's my mother, Dawn Goodman, writing to my friend Karen Roorda (I have inserted my comments in [brackets]):

Charles' History in Food by Dawn Goodman

Hi Karen:

What a wonderful thoughtful gift to give Charles. My problem is trying to remember 30 plus years ago, as well as having given Charles all his history (baby book, school records, photos, etc.) a long time ago, but I will do my best. Charles was nine pounds at birth and as a baby was not picky, he ate everything. At nine months he had to be put on low-fat milk because he was too roly-poly. He remained 'chunky' until junior high school when he shot up to six feet and thinned out. I do not remember him disliking any particular food although I'm sure there were some.

Being a single mother, working full-time, and keeping up the house and kids, I did not have much time for cooking. Also, Traci was a very picky eater, and as result we had a limited diet. I remember using a lot of Bisquick -- in pancakes with bananas, biscuits, coffee cakes, etc. But mostly it was the usual, over and over -- meatloaf, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages (pigs in a blanket), macaroni and cheese (from a box), spaghetti, tuna casserole, fried chicken, pork and lamb chops, turkey, beef stew, potato and macaroni salad, Iceberg lettuce salad, coleslaw, and pizza. We ate a lot of zucchini, in bread, as a pureed soup base, patties and in salads. When pizza first came out it was in a box with a can of tomato sauce and dough. The toppings were up to each person. This was just before pizza parlors became popular. We ate out more often than not. There was McDonald's, Chinese food, Taco Bell, A&W drive ins, Sizzler (they were just starting). I seldom used a recipe only because I made the same things over and over. This was when nearly every recipe was made with one or the other of Campbell creamed soups; and yes, every dessert had some Jello in it. We ate few sweets except for cookies. I did make a banana bread/cake. Traci took the recipe to 1st grade for a Christmas book of recipes the kids made for their families. In it was our 'Rotten Banana Bread,' as the kids called it.

I was not a good cook and did not enjoy cooking. Because I didn't, I think it was in junior high when Charles took an interest in cooking. He made up a recipe and entered it in the once-a-year recipe contest in the local newspaper [Telegram Tribune, San Luis Obispo, California]. He didn't win but it was printed. It was called Pizza Casserole. There was Italian sausage, onion, zucchini, and tomato sauce with Bisquick biscuits on top. We ate it often. It was good. One time I was busy painting the outside of the house when he came out with a picnic lunch he had put together. He made me stop, clean up, and go for a short ride in the country. We had a lovely lunch which I've never forgotten. After he had been in France and come home he started culinary school. When a close friend was getting married he and two other students did the entire reception as a gift. He has always been interested in good food.

We were lucky to live near my grandparents and uncle and aunt. Because the ocean was only a few miles away we had access to fresh fish, clams, and abalone. This influenced Charles more than anything. When he was born there were still clams to be dug up at low tide in Pismo Beach [Clamming is now restricted due to over harvesting]. Grandma Ora made clam chowder and clam cakes. The abalone were on their way out by the time Charles was aware but we did have them from time to time. Grandpa Rollie raised sheep which we ate [I assume it was lamb we ate vs. mutton], and all the vegetables and fruit came out of their garden. Charles' favorite item was the homemade jerky our Uncle Herman made from deer that he hunted. We also had wonderful barbecues at the local park [see picture above], on homemade pits, and even in the fireplace when it was cold outside. It was a way of life fast disappearing. Favorite family recipes made by grandparents and aunts: Tamale Pie, enchiladas, Heavenly Hash - a fruit salad, Macaroni Loaf, Mock Ravioli, Hot Fudge Pudding (I think I've seen this in a box by Betty Crocker now?), Velvet Crumb Cake, plus others.

Dawn Goodman

Please Vote For Me: The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook Contest: I have entered my baked papaya recipe, 'Chef Wally's Baked Papaya,' into the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest. If selected the recipe will be published in cookbook published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. To vote go to the top of my blog to the Foodista icon. Thanks!

My Status:
Continued wet, cold weather here in Southern California which is nice for a change. Planning to make some hearty winter dishes, recipes. Also new cookbooks to try, some to review; new kitchen equipment to try out. More cooking, eating, writing, blogging coming soon.

Upcoming Posts: Reviews: Cooking Light, a review of the redesign of the Time Inc. magazine. Cooking The Cowboy Way, a review of the new cookbook by cowboy-chef Grady Spears.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Review: 'Bread Matters'

Bread Matters - The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own. Andrew Whitley. Andrews McMeel Publishing. $34.99. (373p) ISBN 978-0-7407-7373-0

When I was a kid my sister and I baked all the time. That is we baked when weren't running all over Kingdom Come. We were latch key children being raised by a single mother. It was the 60s and 70s in small town California and it was safe to run all over K.C. with abandon, without worry. When we were old enough to care for ourselves my mother gave us house keys which we wore around our necks next to our skate keys on those metal ball chains like soldiers use to wear their dog tags. Running all over K.C. was pretty much a full-time activity but on those days when the weather was inclement, where we had to stay indoors, my mother often came home at five o'clock to two dozen chocolate chip cookies that we'd spent the wet afternoon baking. We simply followed the directions on the back of the Toll House chocolate chips package (still one of the best recipes for chocolate chip cookies ever!) and voila! Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Even though my mother could barely keep up with it all she did manage to always have flour, white and brown sugar, baking soda and powder, oil, butter and Crisco on hand. If we were running low on a precious baking necessity Traci or I added it to the grocery list on the refrigerator. If we weren't making cookies it was cupcakes, or full on cakes from those Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines boxed mixes. We had no fear, we pretty much baked anything. Our solo forays did stop at yeast baking however but I do know that on more than one occasion we made bread with my mother. I have fond memories of slicing the still hot loaves and slathering butter all over them, and gobbling them down. Those were kitchen events where we all baked together as a family.

And then for some reason as an adult I did a whole lot less baking. I did bake massive amounts of sourdough bread at my first restaurant job as a cook which was both a challenge and a lot of fun. The place was called Sourdough Jack's and fresh-baked sourdough loaves were the first item put on a diner's table. But after that both personally and professionally I moved over to savory cooking; cooking the first courses, main courses, and sides. My culinary interests solidified. I didn't actually find the time for yeast baking and it sadly fell by the wayside. So when I received 'Bread Matters' to review from Andrews McMeel Publishing I was excited. I looked forward to reading it and to trying the recipes. 'Bread Matters' is not just a book about baking -- it's a book about a lifestyle. Author-baker Andrew Whitley has owned an award-winning bakery near Cumbria, England since 1976. He has devoted over twenty-five years to perfecting the craft of baking bread. In 2002 he founded Bread Matters, an organization devoted to improving the state of bread. He is also a founder of the Real Bread Campaign in Great Britain which started in 2003 and aims to encourage the increased and local consumption of 'real bread' in Great Britain.

The first three chapters of 'Bread Matters' are devoted to the issues surrounding the production of commercial bread. Whitley believes that store-bought bread has little nutritional value and unnecessary additives, and that it is made too quickly. He advocates that slowing down the process makes for better tasting, more nutritional bread. Chapter Three - Taking Control is a call to action: leave the store-bought, commercial stuff behind and buy or bake your own organic bread. The rest of the book tells you how with over fifty recipes. The book is for all levels of baker from beginner to expert. The first recipe I tried was from Chapter Six - First Bread and Rolls and is titled 'Basic Bread.' For not having made a yeast bread in a very long time it was just like getting back on the proverbial bicycle. It took several hours but they were relaxing hours; once I set the dough to rise on the back of my stove there was a giddy anticipation of will it rise properly, will it work? And it did, my basic bread loaf was a beautiful sight and tasted even better. Whitley's recipe and explanations were clear and straightforward. To have a complete experience I kneaded the dough with my hands vs. a mixer or Cuisinart and I am glad I did. It put me in closer touch with the process and it was fun!

What I like about the book is the detail to which Whitely goes to explain all the technical aspects of yeast cookery. Types of flour, water, yeast, baking equipment, essential ingredients, temperature, ovens, nutritional value, troubleshooting -- he even includes a section on gluten-free baking. While making my basic loaf I had a question about the process and quickly found the answer in another section of the book. I tried several other recipes including Baps (Small Rolls) and a recipe for calzoni; all worked beautifully. Next on my list of attempts will be something with sourdough and possibly croissants. The book is thorough, well-organized and full of great information on baking and yeast cookery. Whitley walks readers through the baking process with chapters like Starting From Scratch, Bread-A Meal in Itself, and Easy As Pie. If you don't already own one of the many yeast cookery books out there, or are looking for a good primer, I highly recommend Bread Matters. If you already have one or more of the others out there, this will make a perfect addition to your library. It's always good to have more than one source, isn't it? Andrew Whitley absolutely knows what he's talking about.

My Status: The cold weather is here in Southern California and I'm loving it. Time to pull put those winter dishes, recipes. Also new cookbooks to try, some to review; new kitchen equipment to try out. More cooking, eating, writing, blogging coming soon.

Upcoming Posts: my personal, childhood food history as told by my mother, Dawn Goodman. Reviews: Cooking Light, a review of the redesign of the Time Inc. magazine. Cooking The Cowboy Way, a review of the new cookbook by cowboy-chef Grady Spears.

Bookmark and Share