So much of life becomes better simply by changing your perspective.
In his book Yes, Chef, Marcus Samuelsson explains how the flavors of his childhood influence the way he cooks in his restaurant now. His Swedish grandmother’s roast chicken and potatoes shape the style of food he serves today.
That got me thinking. What are the foods that influenced my childhood? Was it my dad’s boxed mac-and-cheese with hot dogs? Or perhaps the “scrambled” eggs me and my brothers cooked in the microwave for Sunday lunch? While they are both memorable staples of my early years, those are not tastes I’d choose to recreate.
We fared a lot better when my mom was cooking. I remember being greeted after school with the smell of baking on my mom’s day off; she always seemed to be making a loaf of banana bread. We loved her chicken Oriental salad, her turkey stuffing, and her chimichangas. My dad was in the army when they were newlyweds, and they made their first home in Texas. When his two years were up, they headed home to Seattle with a baby boy, an old car, and a new-found love for Mexican food.
While my mom’s take on chimichangas was far from authentic–I doubt that most cooks south of the border add frozen peas–it was a special meal we always looked forward to. So last week, I shared a little of my childhood, the flavors I love, and the love I felt when I made some for my family.
Cooking becomes less of a chore when I look at it as a way to share with those I love. Maybe you’d like to share a little with your family.
Grandma Donna’s Chimichangas
1 1/2 pounds hamburger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 package frozen peas
Add all ingredients (except peas). Cover and bring to a boil. Break up meat.
Add peas. Turn heat to medium, and leave for 15 minutes.
Simmer and stir a bit. Drain meat.
Heat oil in a large skillet.
Put 2 tablespoons of meat in the center of a flour tortilla. Fold like an envelope, and place in oil.
Fry until golden on each side.
Serve with chopped lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.
I did tweak this a little by substituting homemade, gluten-free tortillas for the flour ones, adding a chipotle chile packed en adobo to the meat mixture for a little heat, and skipping the peas since we were out. Instead of frying, you can bake the chimichangas in an oven at 350-degrees for 10 minutes–flipping them after 5 minutes.
Perhaps I need to pull out a few more old recipes that speak to my soul.
What food says home to you?
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