My Story - Why The Water Is Smiling

Home Is Where My Story Begins - Part 2 - The Water Is Smiling and Dad's Poached Eggs

To read Home Is Where My Story Begins - Part 1 - click here

The first recipe is really just a memory.  The ten or so years following Captain Kangaroo are conspicuously void of recipes but there are a few clear memories of food.  My family was a traditional one; Dad went off to work each morning and came home every night to dinner at six o’clock in the evening.  Cooking was not part of his daily routine, but sometimes, on the weekend, he would make poached eggs.

Dad in 1965.

 A  teacher by nature, Dad never passed up an opportunity to teach us something, so I got the poached eggs lesson many times throughout my childhood.  "Fill the pan with just enough water to cover a cracked egg.  Turn on the heat to medium.  Wait for the water to 'smile'.  Crack in the eggs, wait for the water to smile again, then turn down the heat."

It was my job to watch the water and tell him when it was smiling. That meant when lots of little bubbles formed on the bottom of the pan and started rising.  But you couldn’t wait until big bubbles formed or then it was boiling.  It required careful watching and I took my job very seriously.  Every little girl longs to make her Daddy proud and I wanted high marks for my water-smiling skill.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”  - Plutarch

*****

Dad's Poached Eggs

2 eggs, room temperature water salt pepper

Fill a nonstick pan with enough water to cover cracked eggs. Turn the heat to medium and watch carefully until the water is smiling.* Crack in the eggs. When water starts to smile again (about a minute), turn heat down to low. Without touching or moving eggs, simmer 3-6 minutes (3 minutes is runny, 6 is softly cooked through). Remove eggs carefully with a slotted spoon, letting the water drain off before placing on plate or on toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

*Smiling is when lots of little bubbles have formed on the bottom of the pan and started rising to the top.  Don’t wait until large bubbles form or that is boiling.  In a 10” omelet pan, this takes about 3-5 minutes.

*****

To read Home Is Where My Story Begins - Part 3 - click here 

Home Is Where My Story Begins - Part 1

I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, my plate of scrambled eggs in front of me on the white leather ottoman, watching Captain Kangaroo.  My siblings had gone off to the elementary school across the street from 104 Sharon Court, an address my parents had me dutifully memorize in case I ever got lost.  Mom and I were home alone as we were every weekday that Fall of 1965.  Nothing special happened on that day; it represents a typical day during that time in my life, but it is the first time I remember loving food.  I loved my scrambled eggs prepared by Mom.  I loved sitting on the floor and eating off the furniture.  I loved having Mom and the house to myself.  And I must have loved The Captain.  Or maybe he was just what was there amidst all the other things that I loved. It was a wonderful time and the food was simple.

Julie, David and Little Billy going off to school.
Julie, David and Little Billy going off to school.

Mom got pregnant that winter, my last one home with her, and when my sister was born in September 1966, I became the fourth of five children and went off to Kindergarten no longer the baby of the family.   That was 46 years ago.  I sit here now, recalling these memories and savoring the moments of my life, like my time with Captain Kangaroo.

These memories seem to me like important moments, these ones that I remember, the ones that jump forward in my brain leaving behind the millions of other moments I have had in my fifty-one years of life.  You might assume these moments would include graduations, births, celebrations; all the events that impacted my life greatly.  The truth is, I never felt greatly impacted by anything in my life for the first 50 years, or more accurately, I didn’t spend any time thinking about an impact.  Life just moved along, one thing to the next and I gratefully went along with it.

Here I am!  Not a care in the world.
Here I am! Not a care in the world.

The things that I remember, my important moments, they seem random.   They are memories that I would think of from time to time and rearrange the narration in my mind as if I were crafting them into a book of short stories in my head.  One day, not long ago, I began writing the stories down.  I wrote them not because I needed to remember them or because I felt compelled to see my stories come to life on the page.  I began to write because my Firstborn Daughter, living and working in the real world and fending for herself after graduating from college, asked me to write a cookbook of my recipes.

Firstborn Daughter, Age 2.  She has always loved to eat!
Firstborn Daughter, Age 2. She has always loved to eat!

Firstborn Daughter loves the eclectic mix of foods I cook, developed over her lifetime with ideas and recipes from people I met in the twenty-or-so moves I made since my days with The Captain.  My favorite recipes almost always originate with a story, a history, an attachment to someone or someplace.  Recipes capture my heart and palate partly because they are unique and tasty, partly because they work without fail, and partly because of my attachment to the memory of a time or place in my life.    Sometimes when I make a dish, I tell my children one of the stories in my head, a story about one of my moments that I remembered from the recipe.  So when Firstborn Daughter asked me to do a cookbook, she said, "Don't forget to include the stories.”

So I began compiling recipes in my newly empty nest that was filled with quiet and memories,  starting each one with a story.   I hadn't gotten very far when I realized that the stories told much more than just the context of the recipes.  They were the context of my life.  And, for the first time ever, I starting thinking about how moments impacted me, where they led me, and what I believed about myself.  I felt compelled to start at the beginning, even before the recipes, and write about my life with food.

“Rarely if ever, moments come that are so defining in our lives. The years are glutted with benign matters which impact us more deeply than we could have ever imagined in our youth.”  - Joel T. McGrath

To Read Home Is Where My Story Begins - Part 2 -click here

My Food Baby Is Born!

Last September, in my newly empty nest,I needed a project to fill my heart with the daily inspiration that had once been my children. I started writing my recipes and related stories to organize into a book for my family and friends. And to spend time with my memories.

My inspirations - Firstborn Daughter, One and Only Son,  and Baby Girl.

The recipes piled up quickly and the stories flowed in rapid succession.  I relished re-living the underground nature of my high school cooking class, my luxurious yet dangerous life and the peasant food of Mexico, my enchanting and inspiring dinners with Julia Child, girlfriend parties in Santa Barbara (which I hope will never end), Thanksgiving traditions, working in New York City, living in Australia, and on and on. I knew the stories would amuse my children and the recipes would satisfy their palates.

But I had no idea what my little project would do for me.  At 51 years old, it finally dawned on me that I have a passion.  I have collected recipes my whole life, in every time of my life since I was 14 years old.  Recipes from my life and the people in my life.  My recipes tell my story.  My story isn’t that I am a great cook or I have amazing original recipes (although I do have quite a few).  My story, the story I want to tell through my memories and recipes, is that the sharing of meals is the reason we cook in the first place.

The meals don't have to be perfect.  Or complicated.  Or fancy.  But they should always be fun.  And if the fun is in the story behind the recipe, tell the story and share the fun with others.  Somehow the food always tastes better when you are having fun.

So I shared my stories as I wrote them.  And I was encouraged to share more. And meanwhile, I kept living new stories. My book became like a pregnancy...nine months of cooking and out came something nothing like I imagined. My book turned into a blog.

Today it begins.  Join me as I journey through my past and experience my future, all while savoring each delicious moment of the present.

"It is never too late to become the cook you could have been." - Cynthia Spivey 

To read more of My Story, click here