I love recipes. Actually I love to eat and a recipe is just a road map to a meal.

Over my lifetime, attitudes toward making a meal have gone through several stages. When I first became aware of a meal being prepared, my mother was doing it. The kitchen was the gathering place in my boyhood home. It was large by today’s standards. Our dining table was in corner of the kitchen and that was the focus point for conversation as well as eating.

My mother cooked from raw and unprocessed ingredients. Almost nothing was prepared in a box or or in a can. Now and then she did open a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup which she liked and which we ate. My memories of that consists mostly of salt.

My maternal grandfather lived next door and was a lifelong farmer. Even though he worked full time at Standard Oil, he cultivated as many as four full sized lots in our neighborhood. He grew everything and enough of it that we ate out of the garden the entire year. Unprocessed ingredients!

When I married and left home, barely post-pubescent, my new wife could boil water if she was careful. My mother took her under her wing and in time she was an excellent cook. This was happening in he 50s when we were being brainwashed by black and white TV that kept telling us that the modern cook would have it easy in the age of prepared or semi prepared boxed and canned foods. I remember it as being the age of Cream of Mushroom soup which was never consumed as actual soup.

The standard weeknight dinner was something in a casserole dish with a can or two of Cream of Mushroom soup poured over it and baked. For company we added tortilla chips and cloth napkins. It was a matter of homemaking faith that you could mix some Cream of Mushroom soup with a sack of marbles and it would be quite tasty. Throw in a hand full of Fritos and it was Fiesta time!!

We were not in the garden anymore, Toto.

Slowly we came to our senses lead by an army of nutritionists, food police and oncologists, all waiving flags on which were the words: EAT RIGHT OR DIE! All at once we were seeing menus that included Cajun style antioxidants and green tea.

I shudder to shake off the confusion spread by food writers and gastronomical pundits who seem to latch onto any recent “study” that shows some trend or remote connection between drinking coffee or eating raw cabbage and long life or clear skin or whatever. In my humble opinion if you make dinner from raw and unprocessed ingredients you can’t go wrong. My boyhood diet: eggs and bacon at breakfast, white bread sandwiches for school lunch and rice and gravy at supper – well maybe there was a pork chop in there – is, from time to time still resurrected in our house as a tribute to truth, tradition and the American Way.

Ding Dong – it’s dinner time.

Last evening, CA and I were enjoying a pre-supper appetizer along with an adult libation. She was dipping her favorite little puffy crackers into some spicy hummus and I was having a few slices of my favorite blue cheese on a Ritz, “Everything tastes better on a Ritz”. I mentioned that I had made some hummus from scratch a few years ago. She didn’t seem too impressed. Nevertheless, that thought lifted a rock somewhere in the backyard of my mind from under which crawled all these recollections of those times in my life when I felt that the essence of personhood consisted mainly of the practice of making it from scratch – doing it myself.

The modern D.I.Y. movement is, I believe, the attempt by modern humans to get in touch with the default human activity of making it yourself. Until very recently, everything was the product of a do-it-yourself effort. When it comes to making it yourself, I am a transitional figure. My childhood took place in the 30s when everything that appeared on the dinner table, for example, was made from scratch. Grocery shopping consisted of ingredient shopping. Mr. Galina would dip his scoop into the rice barrel, the flour barrel, the pickle barrel and yes – there was an actual cracker barrel. There was very little in the way of graphic art and packaging to misslead the appetite.

I can remember my stomach flip-flopping as I eyed all those wonderful edibles just lying in a glass case, barrel or big glass jar waiting to be scooped up, put in a paper bag for me to take home around the corner. It’s been a while since my stomach did anything like that in a modern market.

I have to smile as I remember when I first moved to Maine – the quintessential homemade state – that among the first things I wanted to do was to make cheese. That was over 35 years ago and I still can’t recall why I thought that making cheese would define life in paradise. Purchasing a little bottle of rennet was as far as I got.

I’ve been making bread for years. I am fairly competent at it. I remember once when a friend of mine asked me after she sampled my Anadama, “You made this with your hands?” I looked at my hands and showed them to her and said, “Yep, it was these two that did it.” She had this quizzical expression on her face that seemed to say, “I’m trying to decide whether or not you are jerking me around”. I was, of course. Poor thing – she was a sliced Wonder Bread baby.

One more thing: I get funny looks when I talk about one of my favorite homemade meals – rice and gravy. I just had a little for my breakfast. About half a cup of leftover jasmine rice that I made myself. Well I suppose I should say my Aroma rice cooker did it. But I could have done it. I stirred into the rice a dollop of my hand made roux based gravy that is so good that on occasion it has made people forget their names and addresses.

I’ll admit that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but, if it was, they would be better people. I usually make enough of it to freeze and have along the way as needed. If truth be known, and it should, of course, a little gravy is always needed.