Joni Woolf: We are addicted to food
Published 3:05 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2015
A quick perusal of any of the current shelter magazines — Southern Living, Garden and Gun, Country Living, Southwest Georgia Living, and a host of others — might lead one to believe that readers are more passionate about food than they are about decorating, gardening, fashion, entertainment and a wide variety of other interests. Foods of all kinds — Mama’s home cooking, vegetarian cooking, farm-to-table cooking, organic cooking — the list goes on and on, from magazine to newspaper to television show to all the social media. We send pictures of the great burger we just put together, using tomatoes from the garden and beef raised right down the road in a “humane” sort of way. We take pictures of birthday cakes, alight with candles, showing the world the enduring evidence of a mother’s love. We go home for the holidays in the hope of recapturing that moment in time when everything was right in the world and the table groaned with the abundance of harvest. Little wonder that one of my early memories of Thanksgiving is a Saturday Evening Post cover featuring a Norman Rockwell painting that shows a contented family gathered around the table, and in the center a perfectly browned turkey about to be carved and consumed.
We are addicted to food!
As one who loves to cook, owns 50 or 60 cookbooks, reads them late into the night as some read novels and who feeds 40 or 50 as easily (well, at least as happily) as she feeds two or three, I was delighted to be asked to help create a food column for the Americus Times-Recorder as it begins its new and exciting life under new ownership and with increased frequency and circulation. In the days and weeks ahead, we will be asking our readers to suggest names of good cooks — those known and those perhaps not so well known — whose recipes and reflections on food and cooking appear in the newspaper on a regular basis. We will be featuring grand scale cooking, like preparing for that Thanksgiving feast, but we also hope to feature small treasures of new ideas — like a dollop of homemade pear preserves atop a soft, white cheese — perhaps from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville — as the perfect hors d’oeuvre to accompany a glass of white wine, or — what could be better — sweet tea with lemon?
The search for the perfect recipe, the perfect entree, the perfect salad, never ends. Those who love to prepare — and eat — foods of all kinds will never give up the hunt. Right around the corner there may be the very thing we were looking for: the perfect cut of meat, the peanut sauce that pays tribute to area farmers, the Lane cake perfected over 100 years ago by Emma Rylander Lane, a lady with Americus roots.
These days we find recipes on the Internet in abundance. I suppose we could do away with cookbooks and the recipe files with hand-scratched notes written long ago by a loved one who shared a favorite. Some 30 years ago my mother wrote on the back of an envelope a recipe for a delicious whole wheat bread loaf that she made. It reads: “Put yeast in 1/4 cup real warm water and 1 TB Sugar. Add enough warm water to mix. 4 cups of flour, 4 TB sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 c shortening. Mix all except 1 TB sugar. Let rise twice and cook in 400 oven.” Obviously much is left out by way of instruction — how long should I knead, on what kind of surface, when to roll out and cut, bake in what kind of pan, and what about that 1 TB sugar? We simply understood the spoken and unspoken language that transpired between mother and daughter.The folded envelope is stained with age and use, but could never be replaced with any of those neat, colorful, easily accessible Internet recipes. It transcends time and eternity, as she lives on in the bread I bake from this recipe whose written instructions grow dimmer every year.
And so we learn from the past and pass on the shards of that learning to the future. In the best of all possible worlds, our heirs will do the same. Like life, this endeavor is a journey. We invite you to join us.
Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved fro her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org