Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Did Suzy Become Such a Great Cook?

Last evening I watched Suzy make soup. She doesn't use a recipe, she uses her innate knowledge. I've known that. But when I saw her put half a block of cream cheese into the soup. I knew I had to take pictures!

This soup contained leftover roast beef, leftover chicken, an old grilled turkey frank, half of a gourmet sausage from Costco, vegetables from dinner out a couple of days ago, some frozen leftover chicken broth with rice, fresh onions and garlic and whatever else was close at hand, including packaged chicken broth, fresh spinach and some Sauvignon Blanc. Then came the seasonings from her vast storehouse.

If you've never eaten at our house, and I daresay a goodly number of you have never had that opportunity, you won't know what a great cook my Lady Suzy is. Why, just a few weeks ago (after she drove the motorhome 150 miles over some pretty skaggy mountain highway and some of California's Interstate Highways) she produced a monumental spaghetti that you'd have to pay a big price for in a fine Italian restaurant.

Why, that spaghetti was gone so fast I didn't have a chance to take a picture of it, but I did have time to consume it along with a glass (or two) of fine Cabernet Sauvignon.

What was special about that special spaghetti? Heck, anyone can boil some pasta, poor on some Ragu sauce and sprinkle with Kraft Parmesan cheese, right? Well, my personal chef used whole grain angel hair, a bottled of roasted onion and garlic sauce, a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and fresh chopped red onion, fresh celery, and curly kale. For seasoning, she added rosemary (from our garden) oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and cumin. For an extra kick, she threw in some freshly ground chipotle chili seasoning. Oh yeah, a serious dollop of red wine (the same Cabernet Sauvignon that accompanied the meal).

So anybody could use those ingredients, What made it special? Suzy comes from a family of chefs, and the knowledge just seeped in with her DNA. Her grandfather, Jacob, opened the dining room and kitchen at the Portland Hotel in Portand, Oregon.
That's Grandpa Jacob on the right, with his brothers Frederick and Frank.
This is how the brothers appear today on the menu at Tavern & Pool, on-site at the Portland Hotel;!

This was the original caricature from which the menu drawing was taken. Absolutely love it!
Suzy's father Franz opened and presented fine food at  The Rolling Pin restaurants in Stockton, California back when Stockton was a place to be proud of. He later operated a coffee house in San Francisco.

So Suzy has somehow always known how to put flavors, textures, aromas together with essential nutrients. Her Chicken Cacciatore passed the test with our Italian pastor who exclaimed it as good as his father ever put out. Suzy's mother's family was Lithuanian, but she never learned Grandma Zickus' secret for cooking a piece of round steak in a cast iron skillet so it was as tender as sirloin, or the combination of root vegetables you would eat until you were stuffed.

But mention sauerkraut --- and you'll eat Choucroute Garni, kraut and sausage, kraut with smoked pork, potatoes and carrots with a blend of spices that would please the culinary gods.

When we bought Rosie, our motorhome, I knew that the large spice rack built in would never be sufficient ...

So I designed and built this additional rack above the sink.

Guess what? Suzy filled that rack and still had seasonings, herbs, seeds and more leftover! When cooking, Suzy will take a whiff or a taste of what's on the stove, reach up and grab a bottle of something, shake it a few times over the dish and make it perfect.

Spaghetti, soup, chicken cacciatore --- what will we eat next in this phase of ... Our Life on Wheels?


  1. Cooking like that is a true gift and sadly, I have not been given even a shred of that gift. Way to go, Suzy!

  2. Friend Mary Russell sent this by email:

    My mouth is watering! - but how enchanting are those photos and drawings; what a delicious history :-) Continued buon appetito (?) to you always!!

  3. Daughter Deb remembers Mom's cooking:

    My stomach started rumbling just reading this post! Nicely written.


  4. Soup looks yummy! I tried to replicate my fav gazpacho from the Red Onion in Houston yesterday. Close, but not quite right. Next time will get closer...

  5. Now that's the best kind of cook. Season to taste. How we have lost the knack of tasty simple foods because we don't use our spices and herbs to advantage. The neat thing is you never stop learning and cooking becomes an adventure as well as a pleasure.

    I defintitely have to catch up with you two one day.


  6. I like this post, and that you are so appreciative of your wife's cooking. I have to say, anything with sour cream or cream cheese in it would be a winner to me. Good job, Suzy! :)

  7. Yum, you're making me hungry and I ate only a little while ago!


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