After a spate of terminally hot days that closed Cornie’s Kitchen (no amount of hunger would have driven me to cook anything with heat), suddenly a cold front came through the condo garden. A bit of rain and thunder and some chilly nights and cloudy mornings were chipping away at the last days of summer. Then one dark morning I was sipping a hot cup of coffee while snuggled up in an old knit afghan Mom had made me the first year I went off to college. The sun had not yet burned off the morning haze, so my attention was more upon the silence and the sweet creamed coffee than the world outside. As I slowly sipped and came to life, I heard the honking of geese flying past my sixth story abode. At first I thought I had slipped back into a dream state, since I had recently watched THE BIG YEAR on TV, but since my cup was still full and not running over, I realized neither my mind nor my ears were playing tricks on me.
Geese are like people: some are over eager or over anxious, so they make the flight early on the first cold fronts that sweep southward. They like to get first dibs on the good nesting places along the major North American flyways. Others are more likely to travel in groups, like a bunch of friends in a highway caravan with all the fan paraphernalia flying from their vehicles as they go to the university away game. Other geese will wait until the ground is frozen over and all the blades of grass are buried under a deep snow before they shake the ice from their own wings to fly to warmer climes. Perhaps these geese only learn from experience, but having only a goose brain, they don’t remember from year to year. They remember the route, but not the optimal time to leave.
Cooking is fast becoming one of these lost memories I remember my Mom teaching me to cook and the derision my efforts received from my younger brothers. “Don’t listen to them, honey. Cooking takes time to learn.” I may have started on recipes too complicated for my skill. Over the years I’ve come to a understanding of who I am: I would rather present the food simply and as close to its natural form so that I and my guests can appreciate the variety of flavors that God’s generosity has provided us in nature. Covering these unique flavors and textures with fats, salts, sweets or heavy sauces disguises the tastes and tempts the mouth into thinking more about the cook than the food.
One habit I hope we all lose is our addiction to salt. My Mom added salt to the pasta water and more salt to the fresh green beans that she cooked to a pulp in a pot with a salted ham hock. The folks all had high blood pressure. Mine used to be high too, until I quit eating fast foods and processed foods. If it comes from a box or a can, I don’t use it. I use other dried spices to vary the taste of my foods. Once your mouth gets clean enough to taste real food again, it’s as if there is a silence in which you can hear the wild geese flying by on an early gray morning.
Recipe for low sodium pot roast: