American Cooking, Time Life - Food Gypsy

Inspiration, by the book…

Published On June 28, 2011 | By Gypsy | Gastronomy, Reads & Resources

Knowing where you’ve been can help you plot a course for where you’re going… wherever that may take you.

Life and it’s shifts are not always constant.  Shift happens, sometimes rapidly and you suddenly find yourself questioning personal direction.  How much do you believe in… you?

These past couple of weeks as I have been recovering from a ruptured appendix I have found cause to step back and consider my the path I am on.  Not only did my body break down, my “good” camera (Nikon 5000) suddenly quit.  Is this a sign?  Is it worth repairing or should I just quit now?  Is there anything to say that has not already been said?  Anything new that I can offer?  Maybe I should just sell shoes.

I love shoes.   The arch of the instep, the perfect heel, the smell of leather.  But then I remembered that what I really love about shoes is BUYING them I believe I may be incapable of parting with them.  Scrap that.

As energy returned (and I stopped feeling sorry for myself), I sorted my recently unpacked cookbooks, long in storage, now ensconced in the new bistro-style Gypsy Kitchen.  I tore open boxes greeting them like old friends.  They have been resources for many years, some remain great favorites; among them one of Time Life’s Foods of the World” Series – American Cooking.    

Published in the early 70’s my Mother and had the entire collection; as each edition arrived we would pour over the pages and select a recipe to make together.  This was my first introduction to “international cuisine” at nine years old.

Little did I know that I was reading the likes of Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, James Beard, Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher and Dale Brown. Edited by food writer Michael Field, the series combined recipes with food-themed travelogues illustrating the cultural context of each recipe.

American Cooking, a source of inspiration.

Asparagus, $0.19 per pound… those were the days!

I reread “American Cooking” this week, cover-to-cover, and was reminded how far food in North America has come in just 40 years — from “cookery” to “cuisine” and there I found inspiration in the uniqueness of the voice that told the tale.  Perspective and experience is as unique as a fingerprint and it colours all that we do.  There is no other Picasso.  What if he had succumb to critical presser, we might never know him.

I saw in the pages of Time Life, the seed of who I later became, and the path of the food culture that has shaped us on both sides of the 49th parallel.

Until the 60’s, pie was a must at the breakfast table.  As pioneers, and immigrants, a woman was once judged by her peers on how well she cooked for her family.  Did her bread rise?  Was her pastry flaky?  What did her husband take to work in his lunch bucket?  Refrigeration, modernization, transportation and the many layers of cultural influence have changed us and the food we eat every day.  I found myself wondering what will change us next?  I feel that we are on the edge of global change.  That is a tale I want to tell.

There were other books in my collection that did not fare so well, that have since left my possession. Ring-bound grocery store finds that now fail to challenge. Why keep what no longer works?  Make room for the new.

My body will heal, my camera will be mended and I will find my way, I always do.  Let go and let the good stuff in.

Change, growth and evolution.  Honoring the past while making room for the present, is what creates a vibrant, abundant future.  In that there is always something to say, always something new based on the familiar. 

The wisdom of my Grandmother combined with a palate of global experience and a desire to create, some might call it “passion”.

Among the top talents in the industry today are those who have found a way to incorporate their heritage seamlessly with fresh direction to create new flavour profiles.  This has brought us from “home cooking” to “haute cuisine” and all that lies between.

Gordon Ramsay confesses that when he goes for dinner at his local pub he orders the same thing, every time.  Steak & kidney pie. Simple food, done well, never goes out of style.  We are simple creatures at heart.

Inspired by the past to move bravely into the future of what’s next.  Life is a joyful journey.  Let us feast upon it.

Further, I propose that pie is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food.  If it was good enough for Grandma, it’s good enough for me.  Pass the pie (or cobbler).

Grandma's_Rhubarb_Cobbler

Grandma’s Rhubarb Cobbler recipe, works with any seasonal cooked fruit. A family favourite, long since made my own. (recipe to follow)

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About The Author

"Gypsy" is not my real name." A freelance food & travel writer & photographer based in Aylmer, Quebec. Corinna Horton trained at Le Cordon Bleu, spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn, and is currently between big, shiny kitchens as she focuses on family and what's next in this delicious life.