Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Letters From The Barn: Peach Cobblers, Oleo and Miracle Whip

Letters From The Barn: Peach Cobblers, Oleo and Miracle Whip

I tried to make peach cobbler the other day like my father used to. His "secret ingredient" was Bisquick. I've tried making it before without the Bisquick, but it never had that special salty taste that my dad's cobbler always had.

I often like food with no preservatives. I pick fresh greens for myself during the spring time and grow alfalfa sprouts on my counter during the winter. But, sometimes when you want a food that reminds you of growing up, you want it with all the chemicals and preservatives that it originally had.

For the same reason, I've always found it hard to adjust to mayonnaise. We grew up with Miracle Whip. I love the taste. To me, mayonnaise tastes bland and boring. But Miracle Whip, even though it is perhaps technically inferior, is exactly what I want on my sandwich.

In the same way, I've tried health food store ketchup before. And, even had homemade ketchup. But, it was NOT ketchup. There is something ketchupy about ketchup that can only come in a jar bought from the store. A homegrown tomato is much better, but homegrown ketchup is not.

Even though my parent's families grew up rurally, their generation fled to the city for better opportunities. In one generation, they became margarine aficionados instead of using homemade butter churned from the family (or neighbor's) cow. So, despite a very rural heritage, I grew up only have tasted margarine.

The first time I had real butter at a restaurant, I thought there was something wrong with it. It was the wrong taste and certainly the wrong color. "Butter" was a strong, chemical yellow, not a sturdy white pat that barely spread at all.

This is the one area where I don't prefer either my childhood version or the "better" version. To this day, honestly, I don't use either. Margarine really is pretty terrible to my taste and butter, well, I don't find that it agrees with my health.

Still, I find that I am drawn to words like "oleo" which was my family's word for margarine even though I would never actually buy it in a million years. What is it that makes the words and foods we grew up with somehow taste better than today's better, more expensive and healthier versions?

I sometimes feel like an odd mixture, a person who grows food from scratch but would push aside an old lady in a supermarket for the last jar of Miracle Whip if I had to. I guess there is tradition and there is taste, and sometimes, they are the same. 

Meriwether O'Connor