Monday, April 18, 2011
The Truest Treat: A Family Meal
The Truest Treat: A Family Meal
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, “Pavarotti, My Own Story”
Family according to the dictionary seems pretty simple … hold up, wait a minute according to dictionary.com there are 15 definitions of family, some with multiple parts? How simple is that? It is not. Simple as that family is not so simple. Like many growing up family was considered your parents, you, and your siblings if you had any. For me that definition stood for over 18 years until the day the box that I called family expanded. Similar to the majority of marriages in the United States my parents got divorced. And with that my box, my definition, of family took on many new meanings.
Through my personal experiences, most of which took place while I attended college yet continue today, what I understood as a family grew and changed as I did. I learned that street gangs considered themselves families, as did “hippies” in communes, workers in an office or restaurant like the many I found myself in over the years, and even a close knit group of friends can be family. It is in this latter group that I found myself. I had realized, as I crossed into my twenties, that my family could be what I made it up to be. Although born into a family they did not have to be my only family I could add and remove members as I saw fit. While I have a certain responsibility to my family, in appreciation for them helping me get to the point where I took control of my own life, it is in the growth and expansion of my family that I truly began to understand myself. I created a personal hierarchy and rule structure to define my family for me. [I am a strong metal element and so specifics and details are important to me and highly valued. But the 5 element personality types from Ancient Chinese medicine are a topic for another day]. There are family, friends, associates, and everyone else. That structure along with simple criteria such as: How do they treat me? How do I treat them? What do they stand for? Whom are they willing to stand with? Is a secret truly a secret with them? How much energy are they willing to put in? Etc. This allowed me to better understand the people in my life and how they related to me and I to them. This is how I created and established the people in my family today. And yet, regardless of who is in my family there is one thing that tied us all together, food, the life source of humans and, in my opinion, the best time of everyday; the family dinner.
Food. No matter how you think of it there is one essentially truth about it. We all need it to survive. As James Beard said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” I grew up along with my sister in a family comprised of a mother and father who knew the importance of a family dinner. They were not chefs or artists when it came to preparing food but they knew food was important. My parents made sure that we had a family dinner every night. We talked about the past, the present day, and the future. Some nights my dad and I tired to watch a football game or the basketball playoffs but most nights we sat and enjoyed the time together. When it came to the food it was simplistic. The fundamentals were there, a starch, a veggie, protein and some grain. My mother had her classic dishes, chicken pot pie was one of my favorites. The creamy fillings with root vegetables and a nice thick breaded crust … mmmm … good stuff. My dad was and still is a skilled BBQ man. You always knew it was the weekend because the BBQ would be out. Just last month I was at my fathers house and he made a BBQ tri-tip … oh was it good! Nice crunch on the exterior with tender meat cooked to just above medium rare. Sure they each had some meals that they were masters off but even now when I look back what I remember the most is the importance of getting together and enjoying the time. The meals in general were nothing to write about but the values that took place are why I ended up here today.
As I grew up my employment took me into the restaurant industry at the age of 14. Between the ages of 14 and 24 worked in kitchens in retirement homes, made pizza’s, became a fried chicken master, became a lead night chef, became a cookie baking master, learned the secrets of pasta, said hello to fine dinning, and became a food writer. I took the importance of food and dining with friends that I got from my parents and started exploring all areas of food and seeing where they take me. I feel out of the food world after I graduated college and started listening to what others were saying … “get a real job” … after forcing myself through over a year and a half of a “real job” I began to realize what I had already known deep inside. I already had had a real job. I had already been doing something that I loved.
In the time that I have been around I have witnessed first hand the power of food. From the homeless persons belly warmed from a bowl of hot delicious soup, to a wealthy man eating the luxuries that food offers, to the family of any type food brings a smile to their face. Food brings them together. Food is a time to enjoy. It seems that lately many have forgotten that and have gone towards the fast, the cheap, and the easy. It is at those times that I remember you are what you eat. And if you are what you eat then take the time to feed yourself food of the highest quality and passion. If you feed yourself the right fuel it is easy to reach the stars.
My hope for True Treats to take our love of family, friends, and of course food and invite everyone that is willing to come and learn how taking control of your food and turning it into True Treats can help you take control of your life from the foundation up. Who knows one day we may end up becoming a family of our own.
Darren Van Lehn
To help you get started on creating time for you and your family here is a recipe for a classic family style meal:
1 ½ lb chicken
4 T Butter
½ c flour
1 ½ c milk
2 c chicken broth
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion
3 medium carrots
2 celery ribs
¾ c peas
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
2 ½ c flour
1 ¼ t salt
1 c butter
6-7 T ice water
Poach the chicken pieces in 2 c chicken broth.
Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt for the crust. Add the cup of butter, make sure that it is soften not melted. As the butter is blended, which should look like crumbles, slowly add the ice water. To make the water extra cold, add a ice cube to the water. Mix well until blended, and put into refrigerator.
After chicken is fully cooked, pull apart into shredded pieces. Add the chicken to a pan with the 4 T of butter. Let butter fully melt, and add the flour. Let the flour and butter mix well together, until it starts leaving a coat on the bottom of the pan (about 3 minutes). Slowly add the milk to the mixture, use a whisk to fully blend, and let thicken, about five minutes. Put aside.
Heat the oven. Roll out the dough, and cover a 9 inch pie pan.
Heat in a pan the olive oil, then add the vegetables and seasonings. Add to the chicken mixture and mix well. Pour into pie pan, and cover with another piece of the dough, cutting out vents on top. Place into oven and bake until golden brown.
Posted by Shannon Rodrigues at 8:36 PM