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July 25th, 2017

Insight

Improve on 'Old Food'?

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published Nov. 11, 2016

When grocery shopping or dinning out I have become aware that food has changed considerably from what I consumed as a young lad. The food stores and restaurants today have things for sale that I would never have heard of in my youth, let alone eat.

Back in the day (as the kids say) we heard rumors that rich, fancy people actually ate snails and frog's legs and that fishy stuff called caviar, but that's about as exotic as it went. I was strictly from hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Back then organic was a biological compound containing carbon, not a way of life. Kale was something that they fed farm animals. Quinoa, tofu, soy milk, flaxseed, amaranth, yoghurt, and pomegranates were not foremost among the staples in our homes. Bread was something normal to eat, not something to be avoided at any cost.

Wheat and other grains were considered part of a healthy diet. Peanuts were fine. Milk was important. Beef was a good source of protein. Insecticides and preservatives were the way to insure that food stayed fresh and free of bugs. At our house we regularly upheld the 4 basic food groups; ice cream, potato chips, peanut butter, and cookies.

To this day I prefer the old food that I grew up with because I prefer food that tastes good. If you think about America's good old-fashioned food, and if you have any decency in you at all you certainly should, you have to agree that it tasted better than the slop we're told to eat now.

Yes sir, good old stick to your ribs American food. And nothing sticks to your ribs quite as much (or for as long a time) as a nice big plate of macaroni and cheese. As a matter of fact, it might stick there for the better part of the winter. And chances are it'll stick to a lot of other places too. It's one of the oldest and still one of the most beloved foods in America.

According to the Smithsonian, the exact origin of macaroni and cheese is unknown, but if you thought it started with Kraft, it didn't. The best guess is it came out of Northern Europe, with the earliest known recorded recipe being written down in 1769. We can thank one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson to be exact, for first introducing it to America.

Today macaroni and cheese has been "rediscovered" by big time chefs who attempt to put new spins on the classic, using brie or goat cheeses and adding figs, rosemary, and whatever else they think is hotsy totsy and hoity-toity. No thanks. Just give me my mom's recipe (actually from Kraft Foods) from the 1950's using Velveeta and get out of my way. The recipe also calls for crumbled Ritz crackers on top, which makes a crunchy topping. My lovely wife has been carrying on the tradition, lucky me!

You wouldn't expect to find chicken pot pie on the menu at today's tony spas or health resorts unless it was made with free-range chicken with kale and broccoli rabe in a rice vinegar sauce. That's precisely why you won't find me at a tony spa or health resort. Listen, just serve me the real deal with the peas and carrots in that rich broth. I'm a man of simple pleasures in case you haven't noticed.

Pot pies with birds in them go back centuries. "Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie." That's for real. In fact, during the Roman Empire pies were served at banquets with living birds under the crust. You can imagine the surprise of the guests when the crust was cut open and these birds flew out into their faces. Some fun, eh? Oh, those madcap Romans!

But the more traditional non-squawking pot pies have a long history in this country. The cookbook, "American Cookery" published in 1796 included recipes for chicken pot pie and beef pot pie. They also had a recipe for something called sea pie, but you really don't want to know about that one. Trust me.

Getting back to my main point of all this, (and there is a main point, honestly) old time food is the best. How can you possible improve on a golden brown roasted turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, hot buttered biscuits, and pumpkin pie for dessert? The answer is, you can't. Not even if you have birds flying out of the pie. In which case I'll have Thanksgiving dinner somewhere else.

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