José, my father-in-law, lived with us at the end of his life. He loved food and would tell me stories about the food his mother made. As he described the foods of his childhood, he’d refer to her as mama. Stories about mama and those meals brought a gleam in his eye and longing in his voice.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to cook the comfort foods he craved; I made the foods I knew: quiche, coq au vin. They were good, but not what José wanted, and this was a bone of contention between us. He’d watch me cook and talk about those great meals.
When he still could, he would go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients he needed to show me how to make some of his favorite recipes. Some were delicious and others I could have skipped: oxtail soup isn’t my favorite, but seeing the delight on his face always made it worthwhile.
His stories helped me understand the important role food plays in our comfort and its ability to evoke family memories. Each recipe José made was accompanied with stories and each story described details of his childhood that would make him smile. As he cooked, I watched with pen in hand, taking down everything he did so I could repeat it. I was aware I was being allowed to share something that was really important to him and therefore important to my husband and our children.
Now, when I make one of his recipes or share them our friends, I think of José and I’m so grateful that he took the time to teach me about the food he loved. .
One of my favorite recipes is this one for pork roast that has a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic that infuses it with wonderful flavor. Every time I make it I’m surprised at how good it is.
The simplicity of this marinade inspired me to change it a little and use it with lamb. You can’t go wrong with garlic, salt, and pepper, but adding rosemary is sublime with lamb and this is a great way to have those flavors permeate the whole roast.José’s Pork Loin
For the lamb roast, add 2 tbsp of chopped rosemary to the garlic mixture and follow the recipe above.
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Having a party again is simply wonderful. Every summer, Mark, my husband, makes a gigantic paella and we invite friends to watch the process (trust me, it is a show) and eat the amazing results. The party always occurs between the 4th of July and the 14th, Bastille Day. Are you wondering why we make a paella to . . .