When I first started this blogging series, the intent was to share specific experiences, beliefs, and sentiments that I draw upon to define my actions, that make me smile, and that help me to understand the embrace of life. The foundation is a beautiful palette of hues, colors, and flavors that prevail in living as represented in the picture of this beautiful dish of gumbo.
For those of you that know me, eating food is akin to experiencing this cataclysmic explosion of flavors that dance across my taste buds. With the right food combinations, my taste buds sing in harmony with the spices, textures, perfectly seasoned meats, and other provisions that makes the entree, the sandwich, the salad, the soup, or the stew perfect. Eating for me is not just for sustenance, it is to truly experience the combined food flavors. If the restaurant allows, I always ask for a special little tweak to the dish to make it uniquely for me. I am sure that I embarrass the guests in my party when this happens. But they know it is to be expected.
When I have guests at my home for dinner, my kitchen is my kitchen. I will allow company to do prep work – chopping onions, slicing and/or chopping bell peppers, and other tasks as these. But when it comes to putting it all together, that is my job. You see, I always have a plan. I know how I want the food items seasoned, I know how I want them to complement each other as I work through the different phases of the process, and I know what I want the end product to look and taste like – a beautiful presentation with layer upon layer of flavors that “when combined, make me shout and sigh with glee“; one of those culinary taste bud experiences that the table gets quiet, and the next sounds that you hear are “uhmmm”, forks and knives gathering perfect portions, and the body language equates to children in a rocking chair while the taste buds are singing.
My culinary skills represent a part of my “My Total Sum”. I remember the days of my youth when as a child, our family kitchen was special. Our parents had a lot of specialties which included the best fried chicken marinated in, well, don’t want to share that secret, oyster stew, homemade hamburgers, pot roasts, SOS, and freshly grown vegetables. During slaughter season, our father prepared the best (hog headcheese – souse meat; me; I didn’t eat that), Brunswick stew, pork tenderloins, and the most perfectly seasoned patty sausage. I would be remiss if I failed to mention “our” potato salad. We only ate freshly ground chuck, round and sirloin for our hamburger. I am sure that I can speak on behalf of my siblings when I say that we took for granted that vegetable garden in our back yard consisting of okra, tomatoes, corn, peas,and beans that we laboriously picked from the garden and canned. To this day, one of my brothers and I fight to prepare meals and we have two generations of that delectable potato salad. He and I are also working together to recreate Dads’ Brunswick stew. We still have some work to do.
So with food preparation now, I have culinary delights from my childhood to pull from as I create food that I like to eat. Now, all of the dishes mentioned above are mostly southern, but my taste in foods have expanded to incorporate foods from numerous ethnic backgrounds – with Southern, Greek, Indian, and Italian being my favorite. When I go to the grocery store, my favorite isles to visit are the ethnic food section and the spice section. I have garnered a wide variety of spices. When I get ready to prepare a dish, I open the cupboard, think about the meat, envision the dish, pull my spices, and create an explosion of flavors that make my taste buds sing.
My total sum with food – letting all of my taste buds work together, as I did with that pot of gumbo. Yes, and I even make a good spaghetti; like everyone. But, my version is a little different. The dish is a hearty blending of green pepper, ground beef, onion, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, black olives, capers, blanketed with another level of toppings which also include marinated artichoke hearts. I may or may not use sausage; it just depends. But whatever version, the base looks something like that shown below; Celeste’s Spaghetti.
The stages of preparation are represented. The first picture (upper left of the collage), represents the base for the sauce. It is a hearty combination of ground beef, onions, peppers, mushrooms, black olives, capers, tomatoes, basil, and other spices. Once the stock is simmering, my preference for an additional meat for my version of spaghetti are succulent Italian sausages that perfectly complement this hearty dish. With my spaghetti, I love an abundance of vegetables to top off the dish. I have used vegetables that are included in the stock – two different types of onion – yellow and purple, mushrooms, and peppers, and artichoke hearts, seasoned with a balsamic vinegar to create a contrast with other flavors of the dish.
The dish represents a harvest bounty. The dish represents a perfect blending of flavors reminiscent of the total sum of me.
I’ll be refining this section as the site evolves. The only thing I can request is to stay tuned…….