Friday, December 4, 2009

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 20

#20 - “Sauces are just to disguise poor cuts of meat.”
Of course the irony here is that my generation of cooking is all about sauces, which begs the question. Were sauces invented to, as mom said, disguise poor cuts of meat, or to, as we are taught today, compliment cuts of meat, and is there a difference?

I Googled “The History of Sauces” (as I do everything), and sure enough, at What’s Cooking,
I found an entire page dedicated to what one would expect to be a rather obscure topic. First sentence, “The word "sauce" is a French word that means a relish to make our food more appetizing.” They go on to say, “Sauces are liquid or semi-liquid foods devised to make other foods look, smell, and taste better, and hence be more easily digested and more beneficial. Because of the lack of refrigeration in the early days of cooking, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood didn't last long. Sauces and gravies were used to mask the flavor of tainted foods.” Yikes! Click on Read More Below...

Anyway, don’t go to that website unless you want to blow an hour, because it is pretty fascinating. They talk about sauce history going back to 200 AD for Christ sake. I could barely tear myself away! Mon Dieu! The things I don’t know are just alarming!

Back to this one of one hundred things my mom taught me a million times. My dad was a grocery store owner and butcher in the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas during the 1930’s (before he became a rancher, horse racer, gold miner and construction company owner), so I think he taught my mom a lot about meat. I also seem to have a conspicuous number of childhood memories associated with meat. When and where I grew up, if you had meat at a meal, you were considered affluent, and mom was all about keeping up appearances, so we were captious carnivores.

I have a vivid memory of dad cooking a steak over a fire in a cast iron skillet. I always wondered why he didn’t just flop the steak on the grill like everyone else. Years later I discovered Steak Cordon Bleu, which is seared in a cast iron skillet, and realized that he was ahead of his time. Although Cordon Bleu (blue ribbon) cooking has been around for about 75 years, that technique didn’t surface in the US until the 1960’s.

And then there’s pork. I could never be Muslim for that reason alone. I love pork. Mom always said that the best meat is closest to the bone and gal-howdy, if there’s anything better than gnawing on a pork chop, I don’t know what it is. I literally cannot eat pork chops in public because I cannot resist picking it up and nibbling the tender little morsels of meat away from the bone.

More irony – we always had crème gravy with our pork chops, and that’s just a version of sauce. I love to tell the story of taking some New Yorkers to the Broken Spoke for chicken fried steak. When I asked them what they thought of the meal one gal said, I loved it, but the white sauce was a little thick.

So let’s just suffice it to say that mom was sort of right. Sauces can disguise poor cuts of meat, but they can also add flair to good cuts of meat.


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