Thursday, March 7, 2013

Inspired by the First TV Food Stars

When I was in grade school and on up through high school, I would watch cooking shows with my mother.  We used to tune in to our local public broadcasting station and watch Julia Child -The French Chef,  Graham Kerr -The Galloping Gourmet, the Cajun guy Justin Wilson (I gawruntee), Martin Yan from Yan Can Cook, Natalie Dupree, with her southern recipes, and Jeff Smith, who was The Frugal Gourmet.  These were the first TV food stars. It was these shows that were among the many things that inspired my love to cook and entertain. 

Watching The Frugal Gourmet wasn't like any other cooking show.  It was a cooking show and a history class all wrapped into one.  Jeff Smith brought his love of cooking and his love for history and other cultures together in a cooking series that was very popular back in the 80's. He said he, "became interested in the meaning of the event of the table and the concept of food has history", probably since he grew up in a mixture of cultures.  He learned to cook from his Norwegian mother and his Lebanese uncle.  He learned from his uncle that he should cook from his memories, something that partly led me to create my blog.

I hadn't realized how much watching this cooking show would have an impact on how I look at food and cooking as an adult today.  My table is inspired by many things, such as other cultures, my own childhood memories and family traditions.  "The Frug", as my mother and I would call him, disliked fast food, felt that cooking from scratch cost less, and that wine, family and children belonged around the table to relax and enjoy conversation.  He called himself "The Frugal Gourmet" not because he was cheap, but because he felt that you should use the best ingredients wisely with good use of your time and care.  He chose the word "gourmet" not to mean "food snob", but to mean a lover of food and wine.  He was truly an inspiring teacher of food. He always ended his shows with. "I bid you peace." It was a wonderful closing to a show that incorporated all cultures and religions, and something we could all use every day in our lives.

I chose to share this recipe because it is a favorite of  my parents. There used to be this cafeteria style restaurant in Florida called Piccadilly and they loved going there.  They served old fashioned rice pudding there.  It was the kind of rice pudding that was custardy, not loose like oatmeal.  My parents don't get to Piccadilly that often anymore, but this rice pudding is much like the one they served, and it brings back fond memories of our youth and winter vacations we spent in Florida.

Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding
(Adapted from The Frugal Gourmet)

1 1/2 cups milk
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons brandy, cognac or rum
1 cups long-grain rice, cooked
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 8 X 10 baking dish with melted butter. Mix all the ingredients except the rice and lemon juice and cinnamon.  Mix well and add rice and lemon juice.  Sprinkle top with cinnamon.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Serves 6 to 8

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