First Taste Of Freedom - Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist Blog at - 273239

Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist

First Taste of Freedom 
Apr. 19, 2012 9:27 am 
Updated: Jul. 25, 2012 10:49 pm
I grew up in a small town in rural Minnesota in the heart of dairy and wheat country.  We were “townies” so even though the area was rural, I didn’t grow up on a farm or anywhere near one really.  We were a family with 4 kids, very middle class, small town, middle America, parents married over 60 years, lived in the same tiny cape cod house my entire childhood, Dad worked as an “ad man” at the local family owned newspaper and Mom stayed at home until most of the kids were grown and relatively self-sufficient.  Dad came home for lunch most days.  Our elementary school was 2 blocks away.  All the neighbors had kids roughly the same ages and we were allowed to run free around the neighborhood.  Curfew time was “when the street lights come on”.  It all sounds very “Leave It To Beaver” because it was.  Carefree, fun, sometimes boring and very laid back. 

But raising four active kids whose ages ranged over fifteen years on a single income was not an easy feat for my parents.  We were on a “budget” as much as anyone is today.  We didn’t have as much money as a lot of my friends, most of my early years my Mom sewed my clothing, we only ever bought used cars and I never had a new bike – only hand me downs from my older brothers. 

Because Dad was the advertising manager at the local newspaper, we always shopped the grocery sale items. My Dad would sit down with the local grocery stores (there were a lot of them in those days) and work with them on the items that they wanted to feature in their weekly ads.  These ads were NOT the color printed “inserts” you get today, they were handcrafted and laid out piece by piece by the local newspaper men and women.  I remember flipping through books (kind of like clip art) with my Dad looking for the right picture of a beef roast and the right font that screamed “sale” to fit the ads that week.  Dad basically got paid “by the inch” of ad space that he sold (and created) each week.  Needless to say, computers changed all that but as a kid I really enjoyed “helping” Dad at work.  Not all of you will remember when newspapers actually contained these types of grocery ads, but this was literally the “bread and butter” of our family income. 

As for bread and butter, two things I grew up loving and two things I always felt deprived of.  As a kid, I loved that super soft white bread – it was WONDERful.  But it was never on sale and if it was, it was still more expensive than the store brand, so it never crossed the threshold at our house.  I always figured that once I was living on my own, I would buy it in the super-sized loaf and no one could stop me.  The other item I felt deprived of was real dairy butter.  We grew up surrounded by dairy farms, you'd think it would be cheap and readily available.  At our house, it was a treat at holidays…period.  Margarine was the spread of choice.  It was always on sale somewhere (loss leader) so that’s what we used.  There was no brand loyalty relative to margarine, if it was the cheapest, it was what came home with us.  My Mom used to try to convince me that a new brand we tried was actually butter.  I think she thought she could get away with it beause it was a different color or shape from what we'd had last week.  I would ask her to prove it by showing me the wrapper, but she didn’t have to.  Sorry Mom, even as a small child my taste buds were finely tuned to detect real dairy butter.  I can also spot butter by just looking at it.  Even today, if butter is just a little bit soft, I can almost always tell you if its salted or unsalted just by looking at it. 

During high school, I started waitressing at the local pancake house.  What do you put on pancakes?  Well, yeah...syrup of course, but who cares about that?!?!?  Sorry.  No.  The best part about the pancakes was the sweet melting ooey gooey butter...and lots of it...with just a little bit of syrup.  For the most part, they really were only a butter delivery mechanism for me.  And the butter supply was seemingly endless.  No more need for butter at home, because I had access to it 30-40 hours a week at work.  For me, it was like the holidays every day.  I put it on toast, French toast, vegetables, mashed potatoes, in hollandaise sauce, slathered it on dinner rolls…it was endless. And so very satisfying. 

The summer of after my sophomore year in college, I got my first apartment.  For me, this meant my first real on-my-own grocery shopping trips.  First thing on the grocery list?  You got it…butter.  Even as a single gal, I bought a lot of butter.  Definitely more than your average small family.  Every recipe I had from Mom, I converted to BUTTER – no margarine, no partially hydrogenated anything.  Just pure lovely creamy smooth fresh tasty butter. 

Moving to and living in the big city on my own, paying for my own groceries, making my own car payment, furnishing my own place…all good memories of a young woman’s independence.  But being able to buy butter and always have it on hand literally was my “first taste” of freedom.   
Making Homemade Butter - because buying it at the store just doesn't cut it for slathering on homema
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Final product - Homemade Butter
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Apr. 19, 2012 10:38 am
I am with you pancakes are merely a vehicle for the butter - no syrup on mine thank you!
Apr. 19, 2012 11:07 am
BN - Just another reason to love you! ;-)
Apr. 19, 2012 11:19 am
That's a wonderful blog! You have a very good talent in writing. It sounds like you had such a nice childhood. I remember the come home when the street lights come on too! :-)
Apr. 19, 2012 11:45 am
Thanks BB - I loved that street light thing in the summer. Always after 9 pm. Felt like we were getting away with something when it was so late.
Apr. 19, 2012 12:43 pm
Throughout my life, pancakes had to be smothered in syrup. Recently, syrup has become a no- no for me and I have discovered the very thing you have reported; that being, butter makes pancakes a treat! The picture of your childhood mirrors my own and in retrospect, I learned so much more about life than my well-to-do childhood friends who had to re-educate themselves during the financial trials of recent years.
Apr. 19, 2012 12:51 pm
“Pimping my latest blog.” Great line for Las Vegas. . . chuckle, chuckle! Very well written blog and entertaining. You’ll bring back memories for many people who remember living in small cities/towns, and when times were much more relaxed and simpler. One Christmas at age 6, I received a Dremel shoe polisher as I wanted to shine shoes for the neighbors. With money saved up from polishing shoes and a money match from my parents, I got my first new bike and it was top of the line. You made me reflect on so many similar experiences.
Apr. 19, 2012 1:22 pm
Thanks for stopping by Mike. Those years of "wanting but not really needing" helped me prepare for the trials and tribulations of unemployment. Many of my friends today are wondering how its done. Fact of the matter is...I don't really NEED that much.
Apr. 19, 2012 1:26 pm
Thanks ConkyJoe. I first went to work at the pancake palce because I was 15 years old and dying for contact lenses (had worn glasses since 3rd grade) and my Dad thought they were a waste of money and that I was too young to wear them responsibly. I earned the $215 I needed to buy them and was ready to quit the job until I figured out the perks included "free butter" and late nights (it was open 24 hours) that I could be out and about as a teenager without breaking curfew.
Apr. 19, 2012 6:13 pm
Wonderful story! Thanks for helping us get to know you a little!
Apr. 19, 2012 6:40 pm
Hi there CUAS!! Long time my friend. Small town in Eastern Washington doesn't sound too much different than a small town in Minnesota. Almost identical upbringing. And for the record, if this culinary school thing doesn't work out, I would suggest you look into journalism. Seriously, not to take anything away from anyone else, but yours is by far the best butter blog out there. My pancakes are doused in the butter too....
Apr. 19, 2012 8:23 pm
Hi Avon - thank you my friend. You make me blush! You are right, small town eastern Washington does feel like small town Minnesota (except for all those great wineries out there now). No decent wineries in MN. Thanks for stopping by!
Apr. 19, 2012 8:25 pm
Hello Bibi, Thanks for stopping by. Always fun to share a bit of oneself.
Apr. 19, 2012 10:42 pm
Great blog, a talent for writing and cooking! I'm with you, just butter please!
Apr. 20, 2012 6:03 am
Awww shucks DMG. Thank you. Glad you stopped by.
Apr. 20, 2012 7:05 am
Great Blog, CUAS! - isn't it funny how the things "we" think are worth the extra money never match up with everyone else's? I catch myself rolling my eyes at someone else's extravagance, knowing full-well they'd be appalled at my own. Thank you for sharing!!!
Apr. 20, 2012 7:38 am
Staci - Amen to that! Sometimes I'm appalled at my own (well...after the fact anyway).
Apr. 20, 2012 4:16 pm
Aaaahhhh buttah!!!! I didn't eat it as a child, but can I tell, I'm making up for it as an adult! Great Blog CUAS!
Apr. 20, 2012 4:17 pm
Oh yes...we're having pancakes for dinner tonight! Please pass the Butter.
Apr. 20, 2012 9:06 pm
Oh Candice I love breakfast for dinner. Buttermilk pancakes?? You bet. Thanks for stopping by.
Jul. 6, 2012 9:20 am
I like it all...LOL. My parents had to put the butter away because I just said down and ate the whole dish. Who needs a carrying agent just put it in your mouth. Today it is not the same, but my close friends call me Butter. When we go out to dinner the first thing before ordering is to be sure they use real butter if not, out the door I go. Margerine is poison to our bodies but the government sold our parents a lie and it was accepted. Too bad for those who do not know any better.
Jul. 25, 2012 10:49 pm
Boy, do I know what you mean. I always loved butter. Back in the fifties when I was growing up my family also used whatever was on sale. I remember my mother bringing home a "new" type of spread. It was a plastic bag of a white lard type substance. The fun thing about it was it contained a small marble sized yellow ball. You squeezed the bag and broke the yellow egg and continued to squeeze until you distributed the color through out the spread. It then had a nice rich color to it but still tasted awful. Nothing tastes as good as butter. I consider warm breadsticks with a swipe of butter on each bite a delicacy. Thanks for reminding me of thse days.
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About Me
I am a mid-life career changer who has enjoyed cooking (and eating) good food all her life. My Mom went to work when I was in the 5th grade and most days when I got home from school, she'd have left instructions for me to get dinner started. Cooking never felt like a "chore" back then and it certainly rarely feels like one now. During my 20 plus year career in IT, I traveled all over the US for work. And for fun, I traveled internationally. I have a fairly broad knowledge of food, but when cooking, I tend to stick to comfort foods and pretty much anything Italian. I have a big collection of Asian or eastern foods in my arsenal and I absolutely love their flavors. I am a professional chef who runs her own personal chef service.
My favorite things to cook
Comfort foods, soups, chilies, baked goods, candies at christmas, anything Italian, pizzas, homemade dressing for big salads when good veggies are at their peak, potstickers. Anything I can bake that's bad for you like doughnuts, coconut cakes with whipped cream frosting or fresh artisan breads slathered with butter. When I cook for clients, I am forced to move out of my comfort zone and I love trying new things. I especially love coming up with streamlined ways to make seemingly complicated food easy and accessible for everyone.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Mom's Potato Doughnuts - she's frying them as she was going into labor with my younger brother and then wasn't home to monitor how many I was eating over the next several days. I rarely stray from the Thanksgiving basics I grew up with. I do switch up the veggie dishes each year, but the basics remain pretty constant. My own tradition (not one I grew up with) is making Turkey Wild Rice soup from the leftovers. No better way to extend the taste of the holiday for me. Making Chili on a cold winter weekend, in honor of my Dad who made a batch nearly every weekend in winter as I was growing up. I don't use his recipe (too much Chili Powder and Dark Kidney Beans for my taste), but I do think of him when I make it.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering Gnocchi - so light and puffy, they are like clouds. A killer Vodka Sauce - never ever have I tasted one better. It took me a lot of tries to get it right. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes - from the book of the same name. Fresh bread...anytime. I always keep a few batches (Wheat, White, Semolina) in the fridge. Heat up the oven, shape the loaves, bake...yum. Homemade Caramels at Christmas time. I make both Vanilla and Chocolate Caramels and they are to die for. I give the Vanilla ones away as fast as possible, as I cannot stop myself from eating them.
My cooking tragedies
So many to list, such little space to write in.
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