Happiness is Homemade
Look at a menu in an upscale restaurant today, and you just about need a smartphone to decipher: “pipian”, “chimichurri”, “ganache”, “gremolata”, “foam”, “deconstructed”. What does it all mean? While sometimes it’s nice to go for pricey and pretentious, when it comes to dining, most of us find solace in familiar comfort foods. Honestly, where would we be without a $15 piece of avocado toast? Let’s take a moment to jump back in time and admire how we’ve evolved into a generation of foodies.
During the early days of grocery shopping in the US, it wasn’t uncommon for errands to take up an entire day, with each portion of the meal being acquired at a different shop, bakery, greengrocer, or butcher. In fact, in many rural parts of the country, patrons would frequent a general store for anything that couldn’t be grown or slaughtered at home. Then came the advent of the “supermarket”, a one-stop-shop for all of our grocery needs, often enabling customers to make it to checkout without ever having to engage in conversation. No longer would we need to allot shopping time to find out how Joe the Fishmonger’s wife was recovering from her surgery. What a time to be alive; we can find baby food, dog food, plant food, insect killer, clothes, auto parts, toys and home goods all within a span of a few hundred yards.
Luckily, food trends are beginning to shift, with a spotlight being put on local farmers markets above big box stores. If free range, organic chicken eggs, vegetables grown in composted manure, and naturally-fermented foods were good enough for our forefathers, they should be good enough for us. What was old is finally becoming new again as we search for healthier, less-processed foods to enjoy. After all, anyone who has eaten a tomato off the vine or a freshly dug potato understands the superior taste that is often lost in transport.
When most of us think of “home cooking”, it brings back memories of simpler times. We can reminisce of a time not too long ago when ingredients like sesame paste, Himalayan sea salt, fish sauce, and rice noodles were seldom found on supermarket shelves. However, as shoppers became more cosmopolitan with their dining out, they demanded more of these lavish products to use at home. This has ironically lead to restaurants of all sizes offering their own spin on home cooking. Consequently, a new difficulty has ensued: differentiating authentic home cooking from that of a clever marketing ploy. Take Wendy’s as an example. Once upon a time, Moms were seen the keeper of the kitchen and the founder of the feasts. As such, Wendy’s cunningly developed a logo with the word “Mom” incorporated into the girl’s collar to stealthily communicate their brand message of a comfortable and affordable food. Conversely, many eateries have genuinely tapped into their family roots to provide a modernized take on home cooking classics.
Steak, ground meat, macaroni, pasta, pie crust, cheeses, fresh seafood, and vegetables are all main players in what we consider home cooking. Using quality ingredients is the key to any delicious food, and simple preparation is the best way to highlight their flavors. While we all lead busy lives and often have no choice but to grab food on the run, the commitment to occasionally provide our family with a home-cooked meal eaten around a table is a gift we can give ourselves to reconnect and remember why food is nourishment for not only the body, but the soul. For those times when dining in is not possible, there is Van Brunt Grill. Our menu attempts to conquer this feat by featuring items such as jambalaya pot pie, tasty flatbreads, VB meatloaf and corn fritters with maple syrup. It’s stick to your ribs kinda food.
One of the easiest home cooking recipes to recreate is Macaroni and Cheese. Check out the recipe below for dinner tonight.
1 lb of elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 pound grated white NY sharp cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh savory herbs (dill, oregano, sage, parsley)
Cook macaroni per box instructions. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and continue until it begins to brown. Add flour blending well. Add milk gradually, whisking it into the roux until smooth. Continue cooking, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until incorporated. Add salt, pepper, and herbs. Pour over macaroni. If desired, top with bread crumbs and bake in a casserole dish at 350 until bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.