Writing 101; Assignment 10 9/29/14
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat that meant “celebration” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.
Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.
Not to brag overmuch but I come from a long line of talented home cooks and professional chefs. Our holiday and special occasion meals often ended up looking more like an All-You-Can-Eat Vegas buffet than a home-spun celebration – which was pretty awesome and certainly offered up delicious things for me to look forward to.
There was always at least two kinds of meat – Black Forest Ham and either Prime Rib or a Crown pork roast; sometimes all three. Of course the sides were there, thick gravy, rich au jus, mashed potatoes loaded with butter and cream, ginger carrots, pickled beets, grandma’s amazing stuffing, loaves of freshly baked bread and rows of piping hot pies, so many pies.
My favorite comfort food, however, didn’t come with the celebrations; it came with the jagged moment’s in-between; the bruised knees and egos, the illnesses, the broken bones, the heart-breaks.
My favorite comfort food from childhood (and beyond) is chicken and dumplings – yep, chicken soup, not terribly original, but truly magnificent; a classic for a reason. Mom makes it just like grandma did; just as I do now – loaded with celery, carrot, onions, tender shredded chicken and a handful of herbs from the garden. The dumplings are flour and egg, simple, old school and made of magic. Every dumpling is lightly golden from simmering in the vegetable and fat-tinted stock, soft and delicate to the bite; fluffy sponges of flavor.
As with all good soups, the second day is best. All those amazing flavors marrying together in a gastronomic symphony of mouth-joy; it simply can’t be beat. The best part of day – two chicken and dumplings is that most of the dumplings are gone by then, either consumed the night before or picked out as cold snacks on the go. Instead of making a batch of replacement dumplings, we serve the leftover soup on top of cloud-like mashed potatoes, which quickly soak up the broth leaving behind a bowl of creamy, dreamy chicken-stew like goodness.
I’ve had a lot of folks mock me when they hear of it… chicken soup OVER mashed potatoes? “What the hell” they exclaim, somewhat horrified… … until they try it themselves; then they totally understand why Chicken and Dumplings over Mashed Potatoes is my go-to, favorite-from-childhood, comfort food.