Excerpt from: Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: A Memoir
When I first opened my bed and breakfast, I made everything from scratch including granola, muffins and cinnamon rolls. I even whipped my own fresh cream and made my own jams and jellies. I had pretty much always been a food snob and wouldn’t eat anything out of a can except tuna fish. I preferred to make my own soups and sauces and I was always very big on fresh fruits and vegetables, and meat and fish from a meat market. I even preferred to use fresh herbs from the pots on my back porch and grind my own coffee beans.
I guess I was influenced by my mother and grandmother. Even though we lived in Detroit, a fairly large city, I grew up during the second world war and we had an extensive Victory garden in our back yard. What we didn’t grow ourselves, my parents bought at fruit and vegetable stands which dotted the dusty country roads of Michigan. I remember taking long, leisurely drives and returning home with huge baskets of tomatoes, apples, and luscious purple grapes.
My mother did a lot of canning in the basement. And when you walked down the stairs into the cool, dark concrete, you could see what looked like giant cocoons of cheese cloth hanging from the ceiling. Underneath each one was a pail into which thick, purple, syrupy stuff dripped for hours. The mingled smells of plum, grape, and blueberry hung in the air like a sugary veil. She made the most delicious jams and jellies. I can still taste that wonderful flavor under my tongue, sweet and sour at the same time, making my mouth water like I’d just eaten a fresh lemon.
Sometimes, the smells changed to the more pungent aroma of vinegar and tomatoes or the sweet comforting fragrance of fall apples as they boiled together in huge metal pots on the stove my daddy moved down stairs and planted against the far wall. Shelves lined the opposite wall, as repositories for the rows of canning jars filled with everything imaginable. Mom lined them all up like soldiers with fat see-through bellies and rubber and metal caps. I’ve never tasted chili sauce and apple sauce like hers again.
During the war, our Victory garden had everything you can think of growing in it. In the summer, my sister and I gathered lapfuls of plump, ripe cherry and pear tomatoes and sat in the cool green grass of the back yard with a salt shaker eating and laughing. It was then I first developed my obsession with fresh fruits and vegetables ripened in the summer sun.
Although I’d been a “food snob” most of my life, staying a purest was next to impossible when we became busy at the Inn. I just didn’t have time to make everything from scratch, or to can and make fresh breads and granolas.
But breakfast at my Inn moved beyond bacon and eggs and I continued to collect recipes and try out interesting gourmet dishes. There was always the aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee made from the finest European blends with a dash of French Roast, and homemade muffins, waffles, French toast or pancakes. All four were favorites with my guests, but they especially liked the German baked apple pancakes made with Granny Smith apples.
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