Every blogger needs a voice–that quality that makes their writing distinctive. I like to think of my voice as playful, whimsical and adventuresome. If that’s your “cup of tea,” we can be great food friends.
I’m Jean Carnahan. You may remember me as Missouri’s First Lady during the 90s or the state’s first woman U.S. Senator. Over the last twenty years, I’ve published eight books, including one cookbook, Christmas at the Mansion: It’s Memories and Menus.
I no longer cook daily for a family of seven like I once did. I cook for one at my condo, eat out frequently, and entertain family and friends at my farm on most weekends and holidays. So I still have a spoon in the pot, so to speak.
Since my retirement from public life in 2002, I’ve lived in St. Louis and reveled in the city’s vibrant and extensive food scene. I’m not a restaurant reviewer or food critic, nor do I aspire to be. The folks over at Sauce, Feast, Alive, and St. Louis magazines are doing that quite well. I just relate the things I enjoy most about our local cuisine.
There are a lot of picky palates out there, so when it comes to home cooks, or the professional ones, I’m always affirming. I think anyone brave enough to take up a skillet and spatula should be encouraged in their pursuit. I merely pass on vignettes of my food experiences with friends and family. Admittedly, I engage in some recipe mongering and food nostalgia, which is allowed women of a “certain age.”
During my nearly eight years as First Lady of Missouri, I saw over the planning and serving of hundreds of meals cooked in the Mansion kitchen, mostly formal dinners and receptions, but lawn parties and barbecues as well. Anyone dining at the Governor’s Mansion had high expectations and my staff and I worked to make each occasion memorable. I soon found that people could unite around food and beverage far easier than they could around policy or politics.
Making Stuff Grow
Vegetable gardening occupied many of my summers. I still remember the year my family planted an acre of corn and harvested it before the deer and raccoons did. When I saw our pickup truck filled with hundreds of ears of corn, I was overcome with both joy and horror.
I called in “emergency help”—friends and neighbors—to help shuck, cut, and package it for the freezer. We had enough corn to supply our family and several others that winter. The downside was that my kitchen looked like an explosion had occurred at a food processing plant.
Cooking is Contagious
Growing, preparing, and sharing food has been an enjoyable part of our family tradition. My mother was an exceptional cook and my father and avid and prolific gardener. My daughter and sons and their spouses enjoy gardening and cooking as well.
Austin, my grandson, has a flair for ethnic cuisine and has on several occasions treated me to a superbly prepared Thai or Mediterranean dish. He also helped design and construct our outdoor pizza oven at the farm, an undertaking that required stomping the muddy mortar with your feet. My feet didn’t participate. It appears the younger you are the more you enjoy squishing mud between your toes.
Food: A Family Affair
My young granddaughters love Vietnamese food; when I was their ages, a treat was eating chop suey or chow mien from a carton with a wire handle. Our for-bearers were limited to produce obtainable within a ten-mile radius, most of it fresh; today there are international markets in major cities.
My mother seasoned with bacon drippings kept in a special metal can near the stove; but now, in the interest of our arteries, most of us have turned to healthier seasonings.
As a youngster, growing up in a working class, German-Irish family, I ate potatoes every day in one form or another: baked, fried, mashed, scalloped or slaked in mayonnaise. I would never do that now.
We all spend a lot of time thinking about food, its purchase, quality, preparation, storage, cooking, consumption, and sharing. This blog is about the re-discovery and appreciation of good, fresh foods, well prepared and enjoyed with family and friends. Each post is designed to convey a smidgen of information that might be helpful or bring a smile to your face. Hopefully, both.
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“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.” ~Cesar Chavez