Monday, December 4, 2006

This One is for My Dad

My dad (step-dad, really) died over 18 years ago. He was in his late 30's when his heart failed him. He was a pillar of strength and knowledge. It shocked us that he should be undone by his own body.

My dad was a phood phreek. Computers and food. That's what he did. I'm pretty sure I got those bugs from him. I was 11 when he married my mom. Until then it was mostly the three of us girls, Mom, me and my sis, but his influence was there from the time I was 3 years old. Mom put herself through night school in the years when I was young so my sis and I were latchkey kids before the term became popular. Since Mom was home late after work and school most nights, she relied on me and Sis a lot. At first it was washing dishes, setting the table and making the salad for dinner. As we became more able, we helped with preparing dinner. I made an excellent PB&J and, later, a killer baked pork chop. But it wasn't until Mom & Dad got married that I started to pick up on his phreekiness.

He loved flavor. He never ate anything that didn't taste good. He never settled for fast food or flavorless package meals. Everything had to be the best flavor, quality, the freshest ingredients possible. When Breyer's was the "gourmet" ice cream, that was the only kind we had. He was so adamant about flavor that he insisted on organic growing methods. We had a tiny but extremely productive garden in our city yard. When I was 16 he packed us up, moved from the city, out to a small farm. We farmed about 2 acres of the 40 acres we lived on. In the spring we planted peas and beans and had wild asparagus. In the summer it was corn, tomatoes, strawberries, and more. We put up food all summer and into fall, canning and freezing our bounty.

The first winter we lived on the farm, we had a snow storm that dropped 2 feet on us in the course of 3 days. We were stuck on our farm for 2 weeks. Thanks to my dad, we didn't worry a moment about whether or not we had enough to eat. We had a basement full of stewed tomatoes, plum preserves, frozen green beans and half a cow, free range of course, again, before the term became popular.

In the summers we would feast on Sundays. Dad would grill a giant chuck steak, 2 inches thick. Mom, Sis and I would make the sides, salad from our garden, home-made biscuits, steamed green beans or sauteed brussel sprouts. And Dad would make a giant pan of his barbecue sauce. He spent years perfecting that sauce. Trying different measurements and variations of herbs and spices to get it just the way he wanted it. Once he achieved it he finally wrote it down...on his usual recipe card, the inside of a panel from a carton of Winstons...teehee... I still have the last jar of sauce he made. Mom left it with me for safe keeping for a while.

He spent the same kind of time and energy on every recipe he created and more so on everything he did in life. He put his whole heart and soul into his work, his food and his family. I miss him as much today as I did the day we buried him. And I celebrate his zest for life with each new recipe I create.

I have been digging through our family recipes for the past few months, entering them into a recipe manager program, when I found two of his favorite dessert recipes. The first is Old Fashioned Marzipan. He made the best marzipan. It had a warm, sweet almond flavor with hints of cherry and rose. He made them into all kinds of shapes, some in candy moulds, some just with his hands. The other is Gingerbread. He liked his with peaches baked in, sweet and spicy.

Old Fashioned Marzipan

2 cups or 1/2 lb of powdered sugar
16 ounces of almond paste
1 tbsp strong rosewater and/or
1 1/2 tsp maraschino cherry juice
3 1/3 tbsp almond extract

Put all ingredients into a bowl and cut together with a pastry cutter until small pea size crumbs form. Knead with hands. Wash hands with soap and water often while kneading until mix is no longer oily. Shape and allow to dry. Once dry, paint with watered-down food colorings to decorate as desired. Store in an air tight container.


1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ginger
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup honey
2 cans sliced peaches
1 cup peach juice (from cans)

Melt the butter and add sugar and egg. Beat well. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Combine the juice, molasses and honey into another bowl. Add dry and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter mixture while beating on low. Pour into a 10X13 buttered pan and cover with sliced peaches. Bake at 350F for about 55 minutes.

Please feel free to make both of these for your family and friends. Give credit where credit is due and please do not publish or produce either of these recipes for profit. Enjoy!

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