Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sometimes you just have to jump

I hate the month of February. I find myself not only getting the seasonal "blucks" in February but I find that I get more introspective and not necessarily in a good way. I start thinking about squandered this and wasted thats. I say to myself, "Did I make the right choice about Opportunity A and what about Chance B?" I relive some of my more boneheaded moments and wish that I could climb into Peabody's Wayback Machine and fix what I did wrong. This year I seemed to think a bit more about the past than usual and now that it is March, the question, "What have I done with my life" is being asked by my inner-wench quite frequently. I'm afraid I don't think I have good answer for her.

I was thinking about my grandfather and my father today. I was thinking about all the things over the years they have taught me. My family is pretty sure I get my love of engineering and figuring out how things do what they do from my grandfather. He was a self taught tool and die maker who ended up figuring out how a lot of things on the dashboards of the cars we drive have to fit together. He was the guy who figured out how the push-button channel choice switches for the car radios of the 60's and 70's had to be made to actually work. And remember the AMC Pacer? Yup, that was his dashboard. He taught me how to fish, how to use a slide rule, but more importantly he never told me I couldn't do something because I was girl. He told me all I had to do was have a plan and once you have a plan it is just a matter of following that plan. He also emphasized that your plan had to be well thought out but also flexible because there were just some things you couldn't plan.

I get my sense of food, cooking and how recipes should go together from my dad. My dad has been baking since he was in high school. He ended up working as a cook in the Navy and eventually working as a chef and then food service manager. Somewhere there is a picture of me at about age 4, standing in the bowl of one his huge Hobart mixers in one of his kitchens. I don't think a weekend went by that my dad didn't make big pot of soup or stew. I remember getting up really early on Saturday mornings during the winter when the house was all dark and still and sitting at our kitchen table with my dad while he did his food orders for the week and worked out costs. He would pour some of his coffee, heavy on the sugar and cream, into a small little mug for me and then he would show me his recipes. He would explain how to figure out how many pounds of potatoes and onions you needed to make 150 servings of potato soup with ham from a recipe for eight or if you only needed 25 servings of Chicken Cordon Bleu, how you would break down a recipe that made 100 so that it still tasted the same. My dad taught me how to chop vegetables, make roux, and make chicken stock to die for. Everytime I make chicken and noodle soup for MBH I use his recipe; albeit broken down so I only make 4 quarts vs. 40 gallons. My dad taught me to take chances in the kitchen because sometimes your best dish was born from a mistake. That you needed a little pepper to make things zing. That if you put your metal/glass bowls put in the freezer first when making pie dough, the crust would always be flaky. Most importantly my dad has always been there when I needed his encouragement and even though he doesn't always say it, I know he is very proud of me.

A few weeks ago, I finally did something MBH has been pushing me to do for almost a year. I registered a domain name to start an online bakery; a place to sell small batches of my breads, muffins, scones and cookies locally. I've been wanting to do this for a very long time and I've been thinking about it and planning it for what seems like years now. Now, the time seems to be right to take the chance and see if maybe, just maybe, I can turn my love of baking for others into a career. I know I will need to keep my "day job" for a while but I know deep down inside I have to give this a go. So today, I finished the place-holder webpage, put the finishing touches on my business plan, ordered my business cards and I even have the promise of a first order from a colleague at work for muffins for a brunch she is having. And all day in the back of mind I could hear a voice chanting the advice my dad gave me when he was helping get over my fear of the high dive: "Sometimes, you just have to jump."

My Dad's Chicken Noodle Soup:
One 7 - 9lbs roasting chicken
1lb Celery
1lb Carrots
1lb Onions
2 Bay Leaves
1 large bag of wide egg noodles (or about 1lb homemade egg noodles)

Remove the giblets and neck from the roasting chicken. Place the neck and the entire whole chicken in a very large, heavy 5 quart stock pot/stew pot. Just cover with water (about 8 - 12 cups of water). Add bay leaves, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, one onion chopped into quarters, and 3 inner stalks of celery cleaned of any dirt/debris with their leaves still on to the pot. Bring water to boil and let boil for 20 minutes. Lower heat to simmer and let simmer for 3 or 4 hours until chicken is falling off bones. Let cool and remove chicken, chicken bones, skin, celery, bay leaves, and onion from stock. Put chicken in sealed container and store in refridge. Place cover on stock pot and place stock pot in refridge overnight to allow fat to float to top and harden. Next day, skim fat from top of stock. Stock should be clear with slight yellow tint. Cut carrots, celery and onions into bite sized chunks and add to cold stock along with 2 - 4 more cups of water (depending how long you boiled down stock) . Taste and add salt as needed. Bring to boil, turn down and simmer until carrots are almost soft. Add chicken, more salt/pepper if needed and egg noodles. Cook until noodles almost al dente. Turn off and let soup cool until serving temperature; the noodles will finish cooking. Serve with home made biscuits and honey.