But if titles using childhood nicknames that reference foods or their preparation is my goal, well, readers, I'll be honest at the outset here: this thing could have a good many. Susu may have been been the most frequently invoked, but my mother, father, and siblings had several others for me, among them Meatball and Muffin.
Spend five minutes looking through our family photos, and you'd understand that these weren't random terms of endearment. I was a kid who could eat. I was also a kid who didn't own a piece of clothing that didn't have some sort of ambiguous stain faded into its fibers: lo mein, perhaps, or chocolate sauce, hopefully? So, what parents would call " a good (if messy) eater."
Although my little brother would probably contest this, given that his dislike of any foods that weren't white or light brown led to a lot of crying and occasional gagging at the dinner table, it wasn't hard to be a good eater in my family. My earliest memories of my father involve accompanying him on trips to the grocery store and watching him chop, broil, roll out, saute, or food-process the heck out of something. He received cookbooks every Christmas and didn't throw out an issue of Gourmet or Bon Appetit from approximately 1985- 2002 (this isn't to say they were neatly catalogued; in the years before most were recycled during my parents' most recent move, they were stacked to 3 ft behind an old set of bar furniture in our living room--hey, this is going to be a food blog rather than a home-decorating blog for a reason).
While my parents' cooking changed along with the rest of America's over the years, as cilantro and fish sauce and salsa went from This Just In status to being mass-produced, certain things stayed the same. It was never out of the ordinary for my dad to spend his entire Saturday in the kitchen or to go to three different stores every Sunday for various ingredients. While I may have been the only one of my siblings to get very excited for Taco Night or to actually like steak, I nevertheless didn't understand why someone would spend hours on the hunt for the best Jersey produce stand. Like most children, what I didn't understand about my parents when I was small gave way to what I detested about them when I was an adolescent. I remember many a Sunday dinner when my dad's "Do you like it?" was met with eye-rolling and grunting of an intensity that only teenagers can muster.
So it was with more than a bit of surprise when one day, two years ago or so, as I was making caramel to dress a dessert course to follow three previous courses for a small dinner party we were hosting, that I realized I'd spent the past eight hours in the kitchen. That I'd sliced, roasted, and pureed the heck out of ingredients I'd gathered from three different stores. That I had flour underneath my fingernails and...was that...a piece of chicken fat on my jeans?
That I'd had a blast.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm still hard-pressed to pull things out of my closet that aren't stained. This is the kind of cook I am: diligent but imprecise, adventurous but untrained. My cooking philosophy errs to the side of "why not just pour the whole bottle in?" and "is sifting really necessary?" I'll be lucky if I ever develop the kind of skills wielded by a sous chef, but that's not at all the purpose of this blog. I'm here to write about good food and the things, or more properly, people that make it worthwhile. I am happiest at a table with family or friends, whether we're eating peanut butter toast or a country pate. Actually, how about both? Are you still there?
I don't know exactly what course this blog will take, but I hope you'll come along. All I can say now is that it will probably involve a scandalous amount of this:
A decent amount of this:
And a necessary amount of this:
Welcome to Chef Sue Sous. Here's to plenty of meatballs and muffins.