One thing about being back in the States is that we've been eating lots of what I call “nostalgic meals”. I'm not saying they're particularly healthy (although some are) or even all that good (some definitely are not), but they conjure up images of being a kid again … only I'm the cook.
Some recipes I still use on the boat like Lemay Special. Others I've adapted along the way to suit our taste … a bit spicier, different herbs, adding some garlic maybe. Thinking back, my mom certainly didn't have the herbs and spices as readily available to her as we do now. She was a working mom and had little time for preparing elaborate meals especially since there were no “convenience” foods back then. You want mashed potatoes? You buy potatoes, peel 'em, boil 'em, mash 'em and eat 'em. That takes awhile compared to buying them pre-mashed and seasoned from the supermarket cooler. We had boiled potatoes a lot. Want them mashed? Use your fork on your plate and mash them.
Nostalgic meals tend to be comfort foods. I was brought up Catholic, so Fridays were fish days. If we didn't have fish and chips from the local take-out shop, then it was usually macaroni with canned tuna fish mixed with some mayo (excuse me, Miracle Whip...yuck). I still mix pasta with tuna for a quick meal, but not necessarily on Fridays. I make a dijon/mayo sauce and add onion and chopped jalapeno peppers or sometimes other veggies. Still, it's the same old Friday night comfort food … with just a little twist and served on Tuesdays or Wednesdays or whenever.
Stuffed peppers fall into the nostalgia category as do Shepherd's Pie and American Chop Suey (macaroni with ground beef in spaghetti sauce...who knows why it's called chop suey). My mom loves all of these and I was making them to please her. It did, indeed, please her, but, quite honestly, we've grown to dislike them because she'd prefer these same dishes ... over and over … night after night. I finally set the limit to two nostalgic meals a week and Salmon Pie (mashed potatoes mixed with a can of pink salmon and baked in a double crust pie ), which she insists we all loved when we were young … and we never, ever did … has been avoided altogether.
I read an account of Beryl and Miles Smeeton, a pioneering cruising couple. Their boat, caught by a rogue wave off Cape Horn, pitchpoled and they were dismasted. Beryl was thrown overboard, but managed to get back to the boat. She also broke her arm in the fracas, but managed to bake a cake shortly thereafter for the crew. It was calming and comforting to be busy and return to some sort of normalcy after such a catastrophe. Maybe that's why some folks (like me, for instance) tend to eat when we're stressed or traumatized.
What was your favorite food as a kid? Do you still make it?
Here's my recipe for Stuffed Peppers … it's tasty, healthy and, yes, comforting.
- 3 large peppers (red, green, yellow or a colorful mix of all), cut in half lengthwise and cleaned
- 2 cups of cooked rice (white or brown)
- 1 lb (½ kg) ground (minced) turkey, beef or whatever meat you prefer
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 can (12 oz) chopped tomatoes
- 1 8oz can tomato sauce
- 1 cup picante sauce (see recipe below)
- 1 c shredded cheddar-type cheese
- Either steam or microwave the peppers till they're fork-tender/al dente. This saves time in the oven (and propane in the tank). Brown the meat with the garlic and onion. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir. Add cooked rice, chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir, then let simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Divide the meat/rice mixture between the six pepper cups. Top with picante sauce and cheese. Cook in a 350F oven for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender enough for your taste, everything's hot and the cheese has melted.