Lately, I’ve been returning to the kind of cooking I did when I was a kid, the sorts of recipes that my mother taught me to get started for her when I got home from school, or the baking projects that I learned from the cookbooks that lived on the shelf above the telephone table in the kitchen.
Today, I improvised a clean-out-the fridge beef stew and it was reminiscent of the seventies-style stews of my childhood, rather than the French bistro classic style I adopted as an adult.
For dessert, I pulled out a very old recipe for applesauce cookies and was pleased to discover that it didn’t need any adjustment at all. It was rich with old school apple spices, with a party trick half cup of cold coffee thrown in for a little depth. Raisins and walnuts made for a nice textural contrast to the softness of the cookie. There’s something to be said for dipping back into one’s culinary past.
My favourite throwback recipe of the last little while was the soup I threw together last week. Homemade chicken stock, chopped leftover chicken, green split peas, smoked paprika, a rind from some smoked Parmesan, and a bunch of veggies and herbs – I may write it out as a real recipe at some point or just accept it as one of an infinite number of variations, rarely repeated. This iteration was so well balanced, I might have to try to recreate it, after all.
There are more sophisticated dishes that I can whip up without reference to a recipe, but humble, homely, ancient ones like these have a special satisfaction. It’s returning to the source so that, refreshed, we can regain our appetite for exploration and experimentation.