Getting Started

This is a cookbook for times when your wallet is thin and times are hard but your spirit needs solace. It is about thriftiness, careful planning, and wise cooking practices, but it is also about enjoyment. In the hard times when we gather, out of need, in our kitchens to cook a holiday meal together, we learn more about the meaning of family and love. Good cooks with sharp eyes for bargains and a love of family helped us write this book. They taught us about how to cook and they also taught us about how to be happy, to find the good times in the hard times.

Most of these recipes have no exact measurements and lots of optional ingredients. You can use what you have and, within limits, as much as you have. In a recipe that calls for 'chicken pieces' use a whole cut up chicken or a package of wings, whichever you want. If you want to use mushrooms but only a few, go ahead. If you hate oregano or garlic, leave it out.

Hard times cooks think about who they are cooking for. They are cooking for family, for themselves, and for friends, not for the people who write cookbooks. They cook out of necessity, but also for fun, for the pleasure of creating something they and theirs like. This kind of cooking within a budget is challenging, entertaining, and social. While you can cook alone, it is better with a spouse, a child, or a good friend.

We were both born at the end of the 1930's depression. We were raised by parents and grandparents who remembered soup kitchens, apple sellers and CCC camps. We were raised by people who also enjoyed themselves, their friends and their families. Our grandmothers gave new meaning to the word 'thrifty' and our grandfathers never cooked with a book, just memories. We need to bring you much of what we have in our memories from their old times and to add some of what we learned and invented as we cooked together and with our children. We want to share with others like you who like good food, good friends and good credit.

There are some principles of Hard times, Good times and Old times cooking that we start from. A freezer, for instance, is not a luxury but rather it saves money and time, both of which we need in the days of two worker families. When we lived in Georgia, with three teenagers at home, we never knew how many people we would find around the house at dinnertime. We solved that problem by cooking in fairly large quantities and freezing leftovers. We got a side of beef, and cut up our own chili meat and stew meat. We made bread and pizza rounds and froze them. We bought large quantities of chicken parts on sale, for soup or chicken pie or chicken for salad and enchiladas. So get a freezer, even a small one. You will find that it pays for itself very quickly.

Because we 'remember' the Depression, we practice small economies. We cut up our own chickens and never buy one already cut, let alone stuffed. We keep a small paper bag in the pantry to dry bread ends to use in meatballs or to make breadcrumbs. We bought good knives some time ago and keep them sharp. We grow our own herbs and we look for places to buy fresh country eggs and bulk spices and grains.

A word about shopping.

Some people now say that shopping, not baseball, is America's national sport. If you take grocery shopping seriously,

This book is meant to be a starting place. Read it and enjoy it, and use it. Our cooking is limited to traditional New Mexican, some Southern Italian, some basic non-regional American, and Imaginative World Cookery. Think about what else you like, that we didn't include. Add your own ideas, your own grandparent's recipes for holidays or comfort food, your own ideas on those three by five cards that are well used.

You won't find a recipe for piccalilli in this book, or one for pie crust or Blanc Mange. You will find a section of Main Dishes that includes poultry, red meats, vegetarian, and low meat entrees. You will find some fast/slow cooking, that either needs a lot of attention for a short time or a lot of cooking and little attention. You will find some tips for The Good Times and The Hard Times, which are not mutually exclusive. You will find some of The Old Times, larded through the book like a good marbled rib roast. You will also find some menus, which have worked well for us.