When I told my friend May that I was going to write a column about food, she was quiet for a moment. Then she gave me one of those sighs. I then reminded her that I sit most of the day in front of a television set doing crewel handwork.
While doing this, the most important thing I can plan is what’s for dinner. In other words friends, please bear with me, I’m an old lady writing a local column. I’m also what they call a “foodie” who has little else in her life to enjoy except for cooking a nice, enjoyable and delicious meal for my son Doug and me.
Last week one of our local markets had lamp chops on sale. Everybody knows how I love lamb; it runs right behind elk in my book with beef in third place. Those lamb chops were absolutely beautiful. I opened the package to divide it into halves – there were 10in total – and underneath the label; to my surprise; was a recipe for marinating the meat.
The directions surprised me because they called for dried herbs, while most recipes you see on many television cooking shows call for fresh herbs. How many of you are fortunate enough, like those cooking show hosts, that you can walk outside to your garden and pick a bunch of mint for that special recipe? I know I can’t, and I seldom buy fresh herbs, with exception of parsley.
However, here in these directions, it called for dried thyme and rosemary with crushed garlic and olive oil. Inside my kitchen cabinets were all the needed ingredients. On my counter, back in a corner is a container with a ton of garlic cloves. I was excited and mixed the needed ingredients into one of those plastic zip lock bags, added the beautiful lamb loin chops.
One good shake and I put them in the refrigerator to marinate the next six hours before dinner. Again I followed directions, browning those chops on all sides in olive oil, placing them inside a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. I also cooked my veggies, boiled parsley potatoes and chopped broccoli. When everything was ready I sat Doug’s dinner down in front of him and got my own plate ready.
Doug had hardly begun to eat when he exclaimed, “these chops are the best he’d ever tasted.” He kept repeating that over and over again the entire time he ate his dinner. From now on I’m going to marinate everything. All of this reminded me of a meal I had way back in 1945 in Fort Myers, Florida. My husband Don, newborn son, and I Don Jr. lived next door to a pilot.
This gentleman had just returned from combat in Europe. He was about to become a civilian having been in the service since before the United States had entered the war after Pearl Harbor. His story was fascinating. He’d joined the Canadian Air Force and flew for them in England until America entered the war. Then he transferred to our Army Air Force, as it was known in those days.
His story gets even more interesting. He was shot down over France, finding his way back to England via the underground. A book was printed about his heroic action and harrowing experience. Now being discharged after exceeding his military obligation, this honorable gentleman was going home. The day before he was leaving he’d invited all of his neighbors — there were about 15 of us — over for a fish dinner.
I’m certain there was some pull with the kitchen at his base because he had some items we had been unable to obtain. We started with a beautiful fancy salad with shrimp and tomatoes, there were hot rolls with real, honest to goodness, butter. The main entrée was beautifully cooked rice, fresh asparagus and a thick white fish he had marinated in some kind of oriental spices.
To this day I have never had a fish dinner that beautiful or so very delicious. The dinner ended with three kinds of freshly baked fruit pies. For those of us starving for a lot of the foods we were missing because of rationing, we were to remember that meal for a long time. Most of all, of course, was remembering just who had cooked it for us.
More important than the food, was its’ preparer, a real honest to goodness American hero who will forever live on in my memory.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org