Peasant cooking

 I often rant on about how I hate to cook. That doesn’t mean I can’t or even that I’m bad at it. I just hate doing it. I didn’t always hate to cook it’s just something that has evolved over 60 years or so. I started ‘cooking’ when I was 5 or 6, shelling peas, making cookies from left over dough and progressing as I got older. By the time I was 12 or so I was doing entire meals for a family of 5. Not a big deal really. 

My parents still made the ‘big meals’ on the weekends and I was the helper. I learned to cook by watching and helping my parents. My mother was a peasant cook, my father was a much more elegant cook, like with that damn sauerbraten – meat must be marinated for at least a day, stored in a cool place and turned frequently – that was my job. Or when fettuccine alfredo was on the menu, mother would make fresh pasta and my father would make the sauce, just enough for one portion at a time, it was a little weird, only one person being served at a time but that’s the way my father said it should be done, and so it was.   

So the thing is – I have no hard and fast recipes. Ask me for a recipe and I’m lost. “I can show you, I can’t tell you” is my answer. Aside from baking, which is science, ingredients having to be in exact proportions, I do everything to taste. How much seasoning? How much do you like? Or what I happen to have in the fridge, throw it in a pan, every time is different. Nothing is complicated or sophisticated. Just peasant food. Poor people’s food. 

Which brings me to pickled squash.  Jean, of Cheerful Monk posted about squash, and I mentioned pickled squash in my comment. Now pickled squash is NOT pickled but it is so damn delicious that people ooh and aah over it. And then ask for the recipe. And then I’m stuck because there is no way I can TELL you how to make it. Folks think I’m being snobby or snotty or whatever – thinking I don’t want to share. I do. I’m fine with sharing recipes but when I try to tell them how to make pickled squash their eyes start to glaze over. 

How thick do you slice the squash? Well, you now maybe just this thick (thumb and forefinger just so wide apart). How long do you fry it? Well you know till it’s golden brown and soft enough but certainly not crispy. Squash can get crispy? Yeah, it can. You can burn anything. But what’s that about not draining all the frying oil off? Well, as you take the done pieces out of the pan you tap some of the oil off but leave some on the squash.  But how much do you leave? Eh, I don’t know, just enough. How much oil do you fry it in? More than saute but certainly not enough to deep fry. Of course we won’t even go into how much vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes etc to put in. There is just no way to say. I can SHOW you how to make pickled squash but I can’t TELL you.

Now I am totally craving pickled squash. Will I make some? Hell, no. It is tedious and time consuming. Slicing the squash, which by the way, it’s zucchini, is the least of it. Frying it is the killer, takes forever. Never mind the mess or the lingering odor. Smells great while it’s cooking, not so great after it’s done and the smell lingers. Lordy but I hate lingering cooking smells, except for baked goods. 

I can’t tell you how to make spaghetti sauce, or manicotti, or meatballs or even ravioli much less pickled squash but I can show you.  Anyone want to come over and make a mess in my kitchen?

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