Can You Smell What The Gasbag Is Cooking

Rebecca and I are hooked on A Chef’s Life which comes on ETV. It’s a is a half-hour character-driven documentary and cooking series that takes viewers inside the life of Chef Vivian Howard, who, with her husband Ben Knight, left the big city to open a fine dining restaurant in small-town Eastern North Carolina, Kinston NC to be exact. Each episode follows Vivian out of the kitchen and into cornfields, strawberry patches and hog farms as she hunts down the ingredients that inspire her seasonal menus for their restaurant, The Chef and the Farmer. Using a chef’s modern sensibilities, Vivian explores Southern cuisine, past and present — one ingredient at a time. It combines the action and drama of a high-pressure business with the joys and stresses of family life and makes you realize you would have to be complete idiot to want to own a restaurant. Before COVID hit Rebecca and I has plans of going to Kinston to eat at her restaurant and maybe get an autograph. I guess you have to be a foodie to enjoy this so a foodie I am.

I think the reason I like the show so much is that it also takes me back to my childhood. To those hot, summer days working in my grandmother’s huge garden. I’m sure it wasn’t as large as I remember as a 6 year old but for a 6 year old it was the size of the Nappa Valley. I hated everything about it, especially hoeing row after row after row. The snapping, the shucking, the canning, the Japanese bean beetles but how I enjoyed the reaping of the benefits of fresh veggies.

“When the waitress asked if I wanted my pizza cut into four or eight slices, I said, ‘Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.” ……..Yogi Berra

My grandmother Addie Griffin was a product of the “Great Depression” and depression cooking. Nothing wasted. We watered down ketchup, we stretched our ground beef by adding oatmeal. I ate cooter stew. I learned that a chicken really can run around without his head. It wasn’t until I got older did I realize that salmon came without a can.

Every October 12th in honor of my grandmother’s birthday I have the wonderful breakfast of fried liver mush (Neese’s) fried onions with grits and eggs and then you mix it all up. For some reason I’m always dining alone on that day. There are other memories like a pot of butter beans simmering on the stove, the cornbread in the oven, just waiting on me to sop up all of all that wonderful pot liquor goodness. I am thankful that in spite of hating working in the garden I did pay attention and learned how to grow veggies and have had my own little garden.

I moved my mirror from my bedroom ceiling to my kitchen ceiling because that is where I do my work ……..James Gregory

I love to cook. There are many reasons. It’s an art because it can be done in several ways. The possibilities are endless. You can use your imagination and be creative. You can play with the ingredients and innovate. It’s also like creating a masterpiece. You can own it and no one can imitate the exact copy of it. It gives me a chance to be creative and I get to try new things. My friend Noi used to try to teach me how to cook Thai and I developed a love for Thai food and also Korean food even though I had to endure Noi’s abuse. I miss his abuse. I found out whether I’m eating a pint of Blue Bell ice cream or woofing down scattered, smothered and chunked at the Waffle House eating and cooking is therapeutic. I read in the Wall Street Journal that according to the counselors cooking can help “soothe stress, build self-esteem and curb negative thinking by focusing the mind on following a recipe.” I truly believe that.

The most dangerous food is wedding cake. —American proverb

Then there is the praise. Hearing the words,”that’s amazing” or hearing grunts and other noises I’m not really sure of as they eat. It just warms my soul when you prepare your signature dish for friends who have lost a loved one and during the funeral service they walk up to you and beg you to make that dish again for them and proceed to tell you how eating it changed their life. I don’t understand that but it really did happen. They were also prepared to fight for the last piece, if necessary. Nothing brings families together like good grub.

“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” “Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”……….Anthony Bourdain

Rick Bragg who is a wonderful author has written a book, The Best Cook In The World, Tales From My Mama’s Table. It is a book that I wish I had written. It’s about ordinary food. Country food. Southern food. Blue-collar food. No matter what it’s called, it is the kind of food that is flavored with love and sweat and ham bones. It’s isn’t a cookbook although it does have recipes but it is a collection of stories behind the food. We are southerners so there has to be stories behind the food.

“She can tell if her cornbread is done, and all the rest, by their aromas alone—that, or the angels mumble it straight into her ear. It’s not the clock that tells you when it’s done; the food does.”
……… Rick Bragg

I love to cook because cooking has opened my eyes, heart, and stomach up to a lot of different foods that I thought I would never like or make. … Cooking and food has motivated me to try different cuisines, foods, ingredients, and just be a little more opened and less picky. There’s so much about the experience of cooking I enjoy. It’s everything behind-the-scenes as well – the scent of fresh basil, the fragrance of cilantro, the taste of butter, the crackle from the cast iron skillet. Cooking speaks to all of my senses.

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food…….W.C. Fields

I helped start a soup kitchen in Greer SC many years ago and the powers that be thought they would honor me by naming the dining hall after me. It was a terrible idea and honestly wasn’t too happy about it and was embarrassed by it but I had no choice in the matter. Looking back now I find it humorous especially as passionate as I am about cooking that I would have a dining hall named after me. Life is funny sometimes. Fitting I guess but funny.

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