If you think about it

you probably would never eat an animal product. Or that could just be me. I do not wish to be reminded that what I’m eating used to be alive or is produced by another mammal – you know like milk, or – eggs. Think about what an egg is – eww! I can’t cook a whole chicken because even after it is de-feathered and cleaned up it still looks like a chicken.

Still –

Today I made my favorite meal for lunch (we eat our major meal at what most people would call lunch time) – boneless country pork ribs and mashed sweet potatoes.

Which brings me to the topic of BBQ. I love me some BBQ and I’m not fussy what kind, Texas BBQ, Southern BBQ, even Carolina BBQ. Without doing any Googling, and from memory and common knowledge, I can tell you: Texas BBQ is beef with a tomato based sauce, Southern BBQ is pork, also with a tomato based sauce but different spices and Carolina BBQ is usually pork with a vinegar based sauce. (OK, here’s a link to some BBQ info.) I will eat them all, no preference really, tho I tend towards pork with a tangy sauce – I don’t do sweet BBQ sauce as a general rule.

I have never cooked food outside on a portable stove ie: grill over an open flame. I don’t even like eating outside, much less cooking outside – I don’t get the attraction. I do prefer a gas stove inside but I do worry about it – fire – inside….ummm, no, scary. (Don’t even start with the cozy fireplace nonsense – why do people start fires inside their homes, isn’t that something we all try to avoid? Oh yes, there are pyromaniacs and insurance cheats, wait, I’m getting off topic here.)

So -on to my boneless country pork ribs cooked inside on a gas stove.  First you get your stainless frying pan, slick it with some olive oil, brown your ribs (having sprinkled some garlic powder on them). Add some white wine and some BBQ sauce. I like Sticky Fingers Memphis Original myself. (And yes, Memphis BBQ is top notch – top notch! Ate myself sick on it the one time I was in Memphis). Oddly enough pork is rather lean and you always need to cook it with some liquid. (Yes, you can smoke pork but that is a whole ‘nother cooking technique not available to the majority of us on a regular basis – Sheesh!) Pop that pan in a 350° oven until the internal temperature of the meat is about 150°.

Put the ribs on a plate and cover it loosely with aluminium foil. Put the frying pan with the liquid on the stove top and reduce it to a nice thick sauce – takes 4 or 5 minutes, depending on how much liquid you put in originally, also how high you have the flame – technical stuff here, if you know how to cook, you know what I’m talking about.

Now, sweet potatoes – ah! I’m a philistine – I cook mine in the microwave. Yes, they would taste even more wonderful if I baked them in the oven but that would take a lot more time than 10 minutes in the microwave – So sue me. I do the potatoes way ahead of time so they can cool off a bit before I scoop the potato out of the skin and mash it.

Fun part – I add a few pats of butter, for my husband not for myself particularly. I don’t need butter on my sweet potatoes but it does make them a little easier to mash. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper. (Black pepper MUST be freshly ground – don’t argue with me. If you are using the already ground stuff from a can – Stop That!. You can easily find peppercorns that come in a grinder, so you don’t need to buy a special pepper grinder if you don’t want to. Me, I buy Trader Joe’s, comes in a grinder.) Then you just mash it all up with a fork or the back of a spoon. Cover the dish with some plastic wrap and set it aside.

While your sauce is cooking down, pop the dish of sweet potatoes back in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes to warm them up and Voilà. Mashed sweet potatoes tasty like candy.

You will notice that nowhere in these descriptions is there a mention of salt. I don’t do salt. You can add some if you want but you don’t need it – not for the taste and certainly not for your health. Just sayin’

So on this most gorgeous day of perfect weather I had a most gorgeous lunch. You should all be this lucky!

I’m not a morning person

I do not thrive in this, for lack of a better description, 9-5 world. Any thought that retirement would afford me the freedom to live on my own schedule was just that – a wistful thought because I am married and accommodations must be made.

About a year and a half ago I upended years of tradition by moving our main meal of the day – the old protein and veg cooked meal – to the middle of the day instead of 7pm, our long-standing dinner time. That at least was doable in retirement.  Eating that late in the day was not good for my health quite frankly. Nor was still doing “chores” at 8pm good for my mental health (chores being the whole dinner/kitchen clean-up routine.)

I don’t have an in-unit washer and dryer so twice a week I get up early to get the laundry done – the community laundry room most accessible at 6:30/7:00am. And besides it’s a major chore done. I sometimes start cooking at that time of the day – when it’s something that needs hours to simmer.

This morning it was meatballs and gravy – spaghetti sauce to you non-Italians. Right now my apartment is smelling really good – if you like the aroma of Italian food.

I make peasant style spaghetti sauce, as learned from my parents. I’ve read recipes that include onions, carrots, all manner of odd herbs (sage? rosemary? – no.) It’s not that there aren’t ‘sauces’ that include onions and other things but they have their own specific names and aren’t ‘gravy’. The difference between ‘sauce’ and ‘gravy’? Meat. In the old days you would go to the butcher and ask for “a piece of pork and a piece of beef for gravy” and the butcher knew exactly what you wanted. Meatballs in our house were just ground beef or chopped meat, however you call it. Some Italians use a mixture of pork/beef/veal, my parents didn’t so neither do I.

A young woman in the grocery store I frequent once asked me for my recipe for ‘Sunday Sauce’ ie: gravy and I laughed and said “I can’t tell you but I could show you”. Same goes for meatballs – I have no idea how much of anything goes into the pot or the meatballs.

My mother always fried or baked the meatballs before adding them to the gravy. My father always put the meatballs uncooked into the gravy which is how I do it. Simmering in the gravy for 3 or 4 hours cooks the meatballs and keeps them moist (whoops, there’s that word again) and they absorb the flavors of the gravy.

Peasant style spaghetti sauce? Crushed tomatoes, red wine, water, garlic, basil, oregano, salt. pepper, sugar. How much of each? Your guess is as good as mine. OK, so for every 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, you use 1/2 a can of water and 1/2 can of wine, the rest of the ingredients – as much or little as you like to have it taste the way you want. Not exactly the way my parents made gravy but close enough.

As for meatballs – since they are going to cook in the gravy I don’t use as many spices/herbs as I would if I were going to bake them. Chopped meat (beef only), an egg for every pound of meat, salt, pepper, loads of fresh parsley, grated cheese, bread crumbs. How much of any of this? Who knows, it’s like making bread, you know by the texture, how it feels in your hands when you’re mixing it. For baked (or fried, if that’s your choice) meatballs I would add garlic and basil and oregano.

I can give you very specific recipes for desserts because baking is science. But for cooking – I can only show you, can’t tell you. I make a macaroni and cheese that will knock your socks off but it’s not like anything you’ve ever eaten before because it is MY concept of macaroni and cheese. And as my husband’s brother said “This is delicious but it’s not mac ‘n cheese” And yes, he asked if he could take the leftovers home.

I always say I hate to cook, and I do. I didn’t always hate to cook, but after years (and years) of cooking I’m over it. It’s just a chore. Plus, living where I live and not being able to get the foods I’m used to eating – the whole thing becomes – Meh.

I’m not a great cook but no one has ever gotten up from my table unhappy or unsatisfied. Besides there would always be dessert!