Food for Thought

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You’re currently on a special page of OLLI Connects, the weekly blog of OLLI-USF. We’ve published some great food and cooking articles in our past issues. Scroll down and take a look. If you want more of anything you see, just click on the blue link at the end of each snippet.

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Pandemic Potato Salad

Why does comfort food trigger powerful memories? We know there is a link to sight and smells, and I am sure scientists can tell us about the physiology. But to me, comfort foods link to memories of gatherings. Of family occasions and tailgate picnics each Friday evening at Clearwater Beach.

And the potato salad recipe? It’s rare to have a copy of a recipe in her handwriting. I was delighted to have the recipe that was so lovingly handwritten. Each fold and stain is a memory – about how often it was pulled out, placed on the counter where ingredients were chopped, and mixed by hand. Ready for another memory. Now it has been scanned and sent electronically to the 2nd and 3rd generations of our families.

It reaches back over time and links us. Generation to generation. This is the potato salad saga of the pandemic and the comfort that it brought through generations past – and hopefully will bring to those to come.

Pandemic Potato Salad by Diane White

My Friend Fannie Farmer

Fannie Farmer isn’t really my friend, but if you are a home cook or know something about cooking in America, this should get your attention. In my mother’s kitchen, when she baked a pie and it emerged from the oven bubbling with juice, she would wonder aloud, “Would it meet Fannie Farmer’s standards?” Her The Fannie Farmer Cookbook was the reference for all good meals in our home.

That book was the successor to the original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1896. I learned this and more from an article by Julia Moskin in The New York Times last week. The headline called Fannie “Modern Cookery’s Pioneer.” Right away, I went to my shelf of cookbooks – did I mention that I’m an avid collector and reader of cookbooks? — to see if I could find the one book I have with Fannie’s name on it. Yes, there it is. The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham.

My Friend Fannie Farmer by Jane Applegate Belzer

How Sweet It’s Been!

The final entry in this month’s dessert compilation is the traditional Italian Easter grain pie, or Pastiera Napoletana. In keeping with ancient pagan customs combined with Christian symbolic gestures and respect for the liturgical calendar, Italians bake up an orgy of sweet and savory confections for Easter, often featuring grains, eggs, and pork products to signify the end of the fasting period and the rebirth of spring. Truly, my Italian food group posted mouth-dropping arrays of pies, cookies, cakes and filled breads. Since it was just “two little old people” at our house, I could only justify making one….but it is my favorite.

It is a two to three day process. The first step is making the grain. Traditionally Italians soak and cook wheat berries as the base for this pie. I have never had success with berries, and while many bakers simply buy canned precooked berries, I was determined to find an authentic homemade solution. Then one day after making a nice pearled farro salad I realized I had found Holy Grail. Now on day one I soak and cook farro with milk, sugar and orange peel without any pith, until the farro softens and the liquid is absorbed. I also make the pasta frolla (Italian sweet pie crust) at the same time and set ricotta to drain excess moisture. On day two one simply has to mix the drained ricotta, farro, eggs, cream, candied orange peel, orange and lemon zest and my secret ingredient, turn it into the rolled out pastry, make a lattice and bake. On day 3…you eat it. And on days 4 and 5 and 6.

How Sweet It’s Been! by Theresa Sokol


Upcoming Treats

We have two cooking and gardening articles coming up in our next two issues: one on apple cake and one on growing tomatoes successfully in Florida. If you subscribe to OLLI Connects, you’ll get an email notice the moment they’re published. One click there, and you’ll see the full story, just as one click brought you here.

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