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I'm someone who loves to take ordinary dishes and turn them into the extraordinary. Taking the concepts that people are already very familiar with and taking them up to a level that they would never expect brings joy to some part of my brain that is obsessed with food. This is what I love to do year-round at dinner parties and when I'm just cooking for my family at home. But is there ever a time when it is appropriate to hold off on the ingredient accelerator and fire burning in my conscience to make a classic dish "that much better"? I've come to the realization that the answer to this question is, yes.
There's nothing wrong with using your own spices and techniques to put your own personal touch on things. However, on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the flavor that I'm craving is that of the recipes my mother and family used. These are recipes that any other time of the year one may look at and find 100 ways to make them "better". Now that I live hundreds of miles away from the place my wife refers to as "my homeland" of Wisconsin. I crave these simple dishes most this time of year. Many of which involve cream of mushroom soup at some point or another.
I grew up eating from what could've been cookbooks titled "the Encyclopedia of casseroles", "how to overcook pork every time" and "hot dogs aren't just for buns anymore". Some of these, mainly the overcooked pork, I will never crave. But the others, like tuna casserole and the odd uses for hotdogs as supporting players in a bowl of mac and cheese are flavors that I had on a weekly basis as a kid, now I have them once a year if that. These are my comfort foods.
So this Thanksgiving I'm opting for canned green beans, mushrooms soup mix, and the French fried onions to top it off. In years past I've made it from scratch using fresh beans homemade cream of mushroom soup, fresh spices... yada, yada. Every time it tasted wonderful. But it didn't taste like home. the same goes for cranberries. Sure I could brew my own batch up. They would taste amazing and wonderful. But they still wouldn't burp when they came out of a can or slice and sit nicely next to my turkey. The olive tray follows... Sure you can get great selection from the fresh olive bar. But would they taste like the canned unmistakable flavor of jumbo black olives that you remember sticking on your fingers and eating as a child? Of course they wouldn't.
Some things can certainly use improvement no matter what. If your family brought you up only eating "stovetop" stuffing. Trust me, you can make your own from scratch that will not only evoke the flavor memories of childhood, but it will taste 10 times better. That's one that I'm not afraid to play with, even though my mom made good stuffing from scratch. My new favorite is "crawfish stuffing".
So here's to taking a step back my foodie friends. Back to a simpler time when more ingredients came from cans, and recipes were found on cards stored on cards next to the spices. Here's to flavors you remember and creating new memories with them.