August 17, 2006

Thursday Thoughts: My Personal Food History

My life with food started in the average way with being born and needing to eat an all. ;) I began to develop a real love for food, though, when I would go to my Meemaw's home to stay periodically. You see, I am a southern girl and I like my southern food. I know what black eyed peas really are and they aren't for cows! LOL My Meemaw could make them better than anyone on the planet. I also grew up with the wonder of buttermilk biscuits and homemade plum jelly. She could cook a chicken like nobody's business!

I was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas. I have a real stomach for the cajun and seafood things in life. I am also a spicy kinda gal with my cravings during pregnancies for the spicier things like Pico de Gallo and jalapenos in my food and a great deal of salsa poured over my plate. I grow things in my garden like peppers and tomatoes so I can have a fresh supply of it all summer long.

Back to my history...

I must admit that my mom was lacking in the gift of culinary arts. My Father and Meemaw, on the other hand, were fabulous cooks. I would spend weeks at a time at my Meemaw's house and would be allowed to hang out with her in the kitchen enjoying those smells and tastes that only she could bring to life. My Dad would cook that down home full bodied style of food on weekends when he was home. While I was growing up we had lots of things like homemade stews and soups, biscuits, cornbread, pot roast, meatloaf and other comfort type treats.

So, maybe I did not grow up eating super healthy but I did learn to love brussel sprouts, carrots, and broccoli. I enjoyed salads and chicken and fish. There were some healtier things in my childhood. Not all of it was cholesterol, sugar and fat - but lots of it was.

In my adult years I have had to learn several things. I have learned how to cook. I have learned how to eat healthier. I have learned how to feed my family differently than I ate so that they won't have to struggle with losing weight or health issues. My parents did the best they knew at the time and they eat differently now, too.

When I was in college I ate in the cafeteria at school. I did not have to think much about cooking. I had classes to attend and studying. I gained the typical freshman 15 when I started school and a late night pizza was all the rage during study session. I explored my freedom to eat whatever I wanted and I paid for it. ;)

I got that degree and lost 20 pounds for my wedding. I starved myself for about 8 months to do it but I made it into that size 6 dress.

After I married I had to finally buckle down and learn to cook. I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen outside the realm of boxed mixes, macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper. My precious husband was so patient with me. He even ate burned Spam without a word of criticism.

I buckled down and finally got out some of those cookbooks that were given to us for wedding gifts and discovered that I could really cook some things without a box and packets. I began to try out new things on my hubby and by the time our oldest was born I was getting pretty good. I had enough skills that I could make something for church dinners that would actually get compliments. I was also discovering that I really enjoyed cooking and baking. When our oldest was finally ready for solid foods I found myself making choices to make his baby food myself instead of buying those little jars. It is amazing how much more you pay attention to what is in something if you are putting it into your little ones. I wanted pure and wholesome stuff for them and had already chosen to breastfeed so this was a natural step for me. I read books on making my own baby food and gleaned tips from a variety of sources. My babies ate it like it was ice cream. Natural carrots, peas, green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocado, fruits of all varieties (except citrus) were so easy to make with a steamer and a little food processor.

Little did I know that the journey had begun that would bring me to the place I am today. During this time my Dad started a small catering business and did Barbeques for organizations and such. That was of great interest to me and I started picking his brain on how he did such things. When I had a culinary question I would get on the phone to get instructions and recipes from him. I learned to make those roasts and meatloaf. I started making briskets and chicken and a variety of other things that I thought were impossible at one point in my life.

I actually did finish college and got a master's degree in Special Education. I taught a few years before I had my first baby. We started contemplating homeschooling and my desire to ever teach again in the public schools had changed. I began to look at other things I was interested in and contemplating going back to school to do something else at some point.

Through the last 13 years of being home with my children my cooking skills have grown. I have taken on the task of running our church kitchen. I am the go to girl for everything kitchen oriented in our little church. I shared on that here...

Almost 3 years ago I began to investigate the idea of milling and baking my own bread for my family. We had experienced some allergies and health issues and this would be a very healthy and wise choice for us. I started playing with my bread machine, Kitchen Aid and some recipes and made some rather dense and heavy brick-like loaves. LOL I realized that the yeast I was using was not consistent so I began looking for better yeast. That made a difference but I still did not like how the loaves turned out from the bread machine. I found a local bread maker and teacher and began taking classes. I purchased my first grain mill and bag of grain, chunked the bread machine and I was on my way.

Since that time, I have broken the Kitchen Aid and purchased a Bosch mixer instead. The Kitchen Aid could not take the daily use I was giving it (but I would like to eventually get another one for other purposes). I bought a Whisper Mill, too and now I purchase a year's worth of grain at one time from Wheat Montana and a local cooperative as I need other things. I have been schooled on the kinds of grain and their purposes. My family eats ONLY homemade bread (except when we visit someone else's home). I make all my bread and grain products from freshly milled flour. That means everything from muffins, waffles, pancakes to cakes, tortillas and breakfast cereals and granola. One thing led to another and in January 2006 someone offered to pay me for bread and I was in business.

I am a Christian and decisions are made through prayer in my life. I felt God leading me to learn more about all of this - cooking and business and such - so I am now headed back to school to start a new career at the age of 39. Culinary school starts for me on Monday August 21st. I am a part time student working on an Associates in Culinary Arts at a local college. It is not a fast track program and it will take me 2 to 3 years to complete it all. That is ok with me, though, because I have a husband of 17 years and four children and they still need me. I am not in a hurry. I want to learn all I can and be as effective as I can in my job to feed others and do ministry. It is, afterall, a service industry. I have never been more excited about the prospect of school and working as I am now.

I think about cooking and meal preparation most of my day. I spend time pouring over cooking magazines and kitchen remodeling information. I am always bugging friends to show me how they made something. I will ask to watch them cook so I can learn what they are doing with certain dishes. My family LOVES being the guinea pig for all my experiments. I even started this blog outside of my main blog because I needed a place for a personal passion that would not overtake the rest of my life. Oh, and those few cookbooks I started with... have grown to over 200 books and I read those like other people read novels. LOL

What do I want to do with my degree? I want to be a home-based business. I want to be able to remodel my kitchen and work from home as much as possible (not the cooking but the business part with scheduling, menu planning and working on a cookbook or two of my own). I do have the church kitchen to use as my commercial kitchen when I need to do that. Right now I want to continue to sell bread and baked goods to friends and family. I want to do some small affairs catering and I would LOVE to teach others how to cook and do some personal chef work. Healthy whole foods for families is my focus. It is all in the Lord's hands and we shall see where He takes me in all of this...

Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Hey Leann,

    Am I the only person who has problems with your blog? Lots of times I see posts on Foodieblogs.net that I click through to, and then say to myself, "oh, rats, this is the blog with screwy formatting" and I click out.

    I looked tonight and I think it's one of the banner ads at the bottom (Christian SAHM network maybe?) that is pushing all your text to the right. Or it could just be *my* browser. I'm in IE. I should try it in firefox...

    Cheers,
    Fleagirl

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous11:52 PM

    Hello,

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    ReplyDelete