Family Cooking Ties

IMG_0069“Do you think you will use that ham bone or throw it away?” asked my nephew Erik as he got ready to leave on Easter Sunday. I knew right away why he was asking.

I assured him that the ham bone would be put to good use. But if I wasn’t going to use it, he wanted it.

“What would you make with it?” I asked him.

He didn’t have a plan, but he knew there were a lot of options. He also knew that a good cook would never let something as delicious as a ham bone with a lot of meat still clinging stubbornly to it go to waste.

This past Thanksgiving, Court asked Jll a similar question. What are planning to do with the turkey carcass? Jll assured him she didn’t really have a plan, and as she has four kids Court Closeupand was entertaining Heather and Lauren and the two boys, she was desperate for refrigerator space.

“Take it,” she said with obvious relief.

Like, Erik, Court wasn’t sure what he would make, but knew a turkey carcass would make something good. I think that carcass turned into turkey noodle soup if I’m not mistaken. And it undoubtedly was good because everything tastes better if there’s bones involved.

I have said on numerous occasions that my mother was a very good cook. Though I never asked her, I presume she liked to cook, because I don’t think you can be a good cook if you heartily dislike it. Given all of that, I often think how happy it must make her up in heaven to see how so many of her grandkids love to cook – and do a bang-up job of it.

Christopher and porkNot only are they good cooks, but they appreciate the art of cooking and the gift of good food. Recently, when Jen was here, we had the family over for carne asada. Dave’s son Christopher had smoked a pork butt the day before, and had some left over. He brought it along, knowing full well that somehow that smoked pork would be eaten. It was. I put it in a fry pan, crisped up the bottom, and it became smoked carnitas. In addition to pork butt, he smokes a delicious brat. My mouth is watering.

Jen’s son BJ is happiest if he can throw a piece of meat that he has marinated for a few hours onto the grill. He makes up his own marinade using whatever he thinks sounds good. I would never be able to do that. I require a recipe. Jen sent him home with leftover prime rib from their Easter dinner. He sautéed onion, garlic, mushrooms and a jalapeno in some olive oil, then added the meat to warm up. He made it all into a sandwich.

Good cooking isn’t limited to the men of our family. Mom would have loved seeing Jensen17 (2)Maggie in the kitchen. I have watched Maggie mature into an absolutely splendid cook in the years since she’s been married. She is far removed from her post-college days when she would be cooking something in a fry pan and call her mother in desperation as smoke was rising from the pan. Jen could hear even over the phone that the meat was frying at too hot a temperature. “Turn down the temperature!” she would firmly instruct Maggie. “It’s cooking too fast.

It’s nice to see our love for cooking being passed down to our kids and even our grandkids.

I used up my ham bone last night preparing green beans and ham. Here is my mother’s recipe for Green Beans and Ham, in the exact words from her recipe card…..

Green Beans and Ham or Bacon
Sauté chopped onion in margarine, add flour and brown slightly. Add hot water and boil a few minutes. Prepare frozen green beans (or fresh beans). Pour the onion mixture into the beans, add ham (or chunk bacon cut in small pieces). Simmer about 30 minutes. Add water, if needed. Add peeled potatoes and continue cooking until potatoes are done.

Nana’s Notes: I sauté in butter rather than margarine. Rather than water, I use chicken or vegetable broth. Nowadays you can get fresh green beans anytime, so I never use frozen, only fresh. When I was small, green beans were only available in the summer. Mom would buy them from a farmer. I carefully cleaned them, always on the lookout for a worm!  I like to use new red potatoes or new yellow potatoes.