You’ve heard of the blue-plate special, right? In the early half of the 20th century, restaurants and diners across the country often advertised a daily blue-plate special – a bargain-priced meal or daily selection that promised a full belly for a song. My own leaner times have compelled me to create what I’ve come to refer to as “the pantry special.” It’s all about making do with what you have on hand. Creating a pantry special goes something like this: open pantry, scan shelves, grab a few ingredients, and whip them into something edible. This resourceful kind of cooking was second nature for our penny-pinching, Depression-era grandparents or parents, but if you know the secret, delicious pantry specials are within anyone’s reach.
What? Brussels sprouts for dinner?
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Brussels sprouts? If your early experiences with them were anything like mine, you might shudder to recall a dull green, mushy, stinky excuse for a vegetable—something to be assiduously avoided at all costs.
As I noted in an earlier post, finding those unappetizing-looking orbs on my plate was cause for subterfuge…namely, stuffing them in my pockets when my parents weren’t looking, so they could be properly disposed of in the toilet. Others find them disagreeable because of their propensity to cause potential “embarrassment,” so you might want to stay away from them if you’re on a hot dinner date.
As an upstate New York native, I’m accustomed to having four distinct seasons and unlike here in Washington, DC, summers up north don’t wear out their welcome. Fall has long been my favorite time of year, and I can barely wait to see the landscape explode into a riot of colors. The days are shorter, the nights are cooler, and the urge to cook and nest takes hold.
When I think back to the autumns of my youth, I remember the excitement of heading back to school; rooting for our home team, the Purple Eagles, at Friday night football games; hiking at Letchworth State Park (aka “Grand Canyon of the East”) and collecting colorful leaves for pressing between sheets of waxed paper; gathering glossy brown chestnuts in big paper bags from the huge tree down the block from my grandparent’s house; and eating lots and lots of apples.