Braly: Golden oldies inspire chefs

Braly: Golden oldies inspire chefs

October 26th, 2011 by Anne Braly in Life Entertainment

Friday will be exactly one year since my precious father went to receive his heavenly reward. In another two weeks, it will be exactly two years since my lovely momma preceded him. Wow, what a sad two years it's been.

Being the foodie I am, not a day goes by that I don't think about the connection between food and my parents. My mother was a wonderful cook, and I'll always remember the twinkle in Daddy's eyes when she'd include side dishes such as rutabaga and cauliflower at dinnertime.

My dad especially loved mustard greens. It wasn't uncommon for him to order a side of greens with a meal when we'd eat out, then tell the waitress to bring another side of greens for his dessert.

After Momma died, Daddy was my go-to man for dinner dates when I was still doing restaurant reviews for the paper. And I'd never seen a happier man than when pickled beets were on the menu.

Remembering those fun times got me to thinking about foods you don't see on menus much anymore. Once the Greatest Generation is fully gone, will they disappear?

Stephen Hengst, director of communications and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, doesn't think that will happen because chefs are constantly thinking up new creations. Foods no longer in the mainstream, he said, are great inspiration.

"Chefs will always come up with new ways to make old things," he said. "For example, here at the CIA, we are buying foods in season, and part of our new curriculum includes canning and preservation because it's a trend. People are realizing there's an inextricable tie between chefs and farmers. We want our students to appreciate foods like that. We've taken to teaching our students how to pickle, can and preserve.

He noted that certain varieties of tomatoes and squash were common to our grandparents, "but now we call them heirloom, and they're all the rage again."

"Turnips and rutabagas are uncommon, but chefs are going to rediscover them," he added. "Chefs always try to think of something different."

Pickled beets are back, too, as chefs create new brines for an old favorite.

"Foods are very cyclical," he said.

And they're also always linked to some of our best memories.

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