Guest blogger and Food Studio Associate Chef Cameon Orel shares her fondest of memories about fall and watching her Nana cook up wonderful meals.
I love this time of year. The long days of summer have now faded, and the bbq is no longer the main source of cooking equipment. Fall is crisp filled with the promise of a new year. Kids dressed for the school bus, trees turning to the jeweled colors of autumn and I am magically transported to my Grandmother’s kitchen. My Grandmother, let’s call her Nana, any other name would not be right. She had the ability to transform the simplest of foods in to a feast.
During this time of year I would find her surrounded by the harvest of the garden. She was a year round gardener. Her garden supplied our family and many other families in the neighborhood with a year round basket of magic. She would mindfully fill baskets with kale, chard, winter lettuces, squashes, zucchini, radishes, and the late round of beans-CSA before it was cool. I always enjoyed watching her out my bedroom window with her apron held up to hold the three types of apples soon to be turned in to a crisp for our dinner that night. Often she would sit with various cookbooks and clippings planning the next few weeks’ meals. As I write about this I am mesmerized by how effortless she made it all seem. At any given moment she could have a cake in the oven, cow’s tongue on the stove, cucumbers pickling to be put up, dark chocolate and vanilla pudding setting for a snack and my favorite cookies in the freezer ready to bake.
My most memorable meals in her home involved very few ingredients; a Hubbard squash that she made in to a curry spiced soup, green apple and winter kale salad with dried fruits and nuts, braised Ox-tail served with homemade pork sausage and braised small heads of romaine, potatoes still musky from the dirt slowly roasted with hand churn butter. These foods may not sound like a young girls dream but it was what I knew, I grew up smelling the simmering pots, the steaming vapor’s of a freshly opened oven. I held the jars as my Nana pickled and stewed pumpkin for her famous pumpkin apple spice cake.
Nana’s cookbook and notes – perfect for inspiring fall meals.
So as the trees begin to change, the light dims, and the sun glistens on the dew filled spider webs. I am blissfully happy to know that it is time to pull out my Nana’s cookbooks, filled with her notes of lower the salt, great with a touch of nutmeg, great recipe and must make this for Aunt Betty, exchanged recipes from dear friends. I thumb through these ear marked and yellowed pages I am inspired to fall in love again with the cycle of cooking. I am reminded of a woman who many years ago knew that the best food comes from the earth.
– Cameon Orel