Monday, July 30, 2012

Me....Just ME

Downtown Bangor

I have decided to be a little more personable here on my blog. I am usually sometime who sees things in black and white but I truly am colorful and artsy on the inside. I have been truly blessed with everything that has happened in my life, from my children to my parents. I grew up in Bangor and moved away for a few years during high school to Skowhegan.
My grandfather

My grandfather was my father's driving influence, ad Dad is mine. Grampy Sam died when I was 5 and what a shame it is I couldn't have known him. A world class violinist and chef. Although my biological mother divorced my father when I was 2, my stepmother stepped into her role as mother with dignification and fortitude seldom seen today.

My father, Jack, was to undergo many serious health issues relating to his drinking habits genetically handed him by my grandfather. The full potential was never realized by father and son, and I am going to break that awful spell.

Watching and mimicking everything my father did, I started playing the same violin that has been in my family since 1870 at age 5. Yes, 5 years old. I wanted to be just like Dad and Grampy. I also went into his first restaurant at age 13, the Treadwell's Restaurant. I missed out on a lot of kid stuff but I was extremely happy helping Dad wash dishes, peeling potatoes and scrubbing floors. It was because of this work ethic(and desire to be another Jack Bailey)that I am who I am now.

The great area of New England, in particular Maine, afforded me the demeanor of frugality, thrift and a dry wit. It is often said that us New Englander's don't believe in or like ghosts because they don't pay rent. That is spot on when it comes to our heritage and personality.
Although I have my favorites when it comes to television chefs, it is only those who know where they came from, give back what has been given to them and, above4 all, those that show no pretentiousness. If(I should say when) I am on television or become well known, the general public will see me as one of their own. I cherish that.
I mean really? Where else can you see sights such as this EVERYWHERE?

Sure, I could go retain a position at a Michelin-star restaurant in order to further my culinary pursuits, but the route I want is the hard way. The same way I got to where I am now. You learn and I love learning. Many come out of culinary schools with their diplomas thinking they could be a chef anywhere they so choose without even having flipped an egg in a restaurant setting or tagged along a sommelier for a time.

Or this?

I am happy to say I have gone from bleaching a toilet to peeling potatoes to the fry station. I have worked in every aspect of the restaurant and I would do it again if it meant feeding my family. Through the years of tasting my grandmothers blueberry cake when a teen to my first chefs position, I love what I do and I can honestly say I can make a soup out of a pot of water.
My grandfather and father are gone now, but there legacy remains, pushing me to make The Yankee Chef™ as [popular as I can.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Continuing with "It's An Old New England Custom"

"The seasons were not without their influence on the New England breakfast. Buckwheat cakes,

thin and crisp around the edges, were considered suitable only for a winter morning, as were also baptist cakes. Oatmeal,

which has simmered on the stove all night and it would have been sacrilege to call porridge, was supposed to heat the blood, so many persons did not eat it in summer. According to The Epicure, published by the famous New England grocery house of S.S. Pierce and Company of Boston,

the ladies of Beacon Hill in the late sixties[1860s-jjb] found the following dishes suitable for breakfast in autumn and winter; stewed pigeons with mushrooms, deviled gizzards, liver pudding, pork cheese, hashed poultry, minced veal, hash balls, game birds, venison pasty, tongue or ham toast, rice cakes, sausages, fish cakes and broiled tomatoes. Norwegian salt mackerel was a favorite breakfast dish with some men. But many families stuck to the same breakfast the year round. One family I knew never deviated winter or summer from hash and pancakes.
Codfish cakes, brown and crisp and fluffy, are still a Sunday morning tradition in many New England families, especially in the vicinity of Boston, since breakfast on that day is usually a more leisurely affair than on weekdays. When the English poet and critic, Matthew Arnold, came to this country to lecture and was confronted with fish cakes for breakfast, he is reported to have remarked to a table companion, "Try one of these buns. They're not so bad as they look".
Matthew Arnold came here for the first time in 1883. He wisely refrained from writing a book about America, but in his letters home he had a good deal to say about the country in general and American food in particular.

He was too kind a man to criticize our diet, but he did view it with surprise, and occasionally with alarm. In Boston he had a great dinner of venison and champagne with Phillips Brooks. The next day he left for Amherst to lecture. Here he stayed at the president's house, where he had to get up at half past five to catch a train. The president's three daughters breakfasted with him. "A porridge made of split oat groats," he writes, "which I am beginning to like(one takes it with cream), a roll and a cup of tea did very well for me. There was in immense beef steak, but that was too much for me so early."
A few days later he was at Andover, Massachusetts. "Called at seven," he reports, "breakfast with a party of professors and their wives-coffee, fruit, fishballs, potatoes, hashed veal, and mince-pies, with rolls and butter." When Arnold's letters were published posthumously a dozen years later, a cry went up from Andover. the pie was absolutely denied. Neither mince nor any other kind of pie, it was protested, was served for breakfast at Andover when Mr. Arnold was there. The poet perhaps had in mind some other New England breakfast he had recently eaten, and credited the pie to the wrong place, or maybe there were pancakes that morning which he mistook for pies. Large-scale pancakes were not unknown in New Engnad in the days of spacious breakfasts. In any case, it is amusing to think of the professors years later making a casus belli of mince pie.
By the time Arnold's letters were published in the mid-nineties[1890s jjb], pie for breakfast was rapidly going out of fashion, along with almost everything else on the morning menu. Why was this? During the last decades of the last century[20th century jjb] more and more Americans went abroad, and it was these travelers who brought home the idea of the Continental breakfast, consisting of nothing but a hard, cold roll and a cup of coffee. It became fashionable to denounce pie as provincial.
19th century pie safe

No one who wished to be thought sophisticated dared eat a big breakfast. One must do as they did in Paris-not Paris, Maine, but Paris, France-and conform to the Continental standard, low as it was. Instead of converting the Parisians to pie, these innocents abroad permitted themselves to be seduced into surrendering their birthright. It is a conspicuous historical fact that nations are apt to copy each other's worst features rather than their best."
19th century advertisement

Sunday, July 1, 2012

It's an Old New England Custom

Continuing on with the chapter entitled To Have Pie for Breakfast.

Another breakfast memorable for the circumstances in which it was eaten as well as the food comprising it was the one consumed at N. 92 Second Street, Fall River, Massachusetts, on a swelteringly hot August day int the year 1892, by Andrew J. Borden, his second wife, Abby L.D. Borden, and a guest at the house, the brother of Mr. Borden's first wife, John V. Morse.

The breakfast, probably the most hideous in New England annals, consisted of mutton Soup, warmed over mutton, johnnycake; coffee, and cookies. This horrid meal was eaten by the three persons mentioned about seven o'clock on the morning of August fourth. Two hours later Mr. Borden's daughter, Lizzie,

came downstairs and, declining the breakfast upon which her parents and uncle had regaled themselves, contented herself with half a cup of coffee and part of a cookie. It was a breakfast, says Edmund Pearson, well adapted to act the stage for a tragedy. And, as everybody knows, a tragedy was enacted in the house that same morning. Within the space of about two hours after Lizzie came down to breakfast, Mr. and Mrs. Borden were corpses, hacked to death with a hatchet. Today, more than fifty years after those notorious murders, people still get cold shivers reading about the warm mutton broth eaten for breakfast on the hot August day in Fall River.

A universal geography is scarcely the kind of work in which one would expect to find information concerning the food and drink taken by New Englanders for breakfast, and yet that is precisely what one does find in Samuel B. Goodrich's Pictorial Geography of the World, published in Boston in 1841.

"The breakfast," says Mr. Goodrich in the section of his work devoted to New England, "which, in the country, is held at an early hour, and often by sunrise, is no evanescent thing. In a farmer's family, it consists of little less than ham, beef, sausages, bread, butter, boiled potatoes, pies, coffee, and cider. The use of coffee in the morning, and of tea at night, is almost universal. At hotels and boarding houses, the standing breakfast is of beef, mutton, ham, broiled chickens, sausages, tripe, various kinds of fish, tongue, bread, butter, coffee, and cider."
But Charles Dickens,

who was more conscious of food than most authors, was not favorable impressed with the meals served to him at the Boston hotel where he stayed when he visited this country the year following the publication of Mr. Goodrich's geography. "In our private room," he says in American Notes for General Publication, "the cloth could not, for any earthly consideration, have been laid for dinner without a huge glass dish of cranberries in the middle of the table; and breakfast would have been no breakfast unless the principal dish were a deformed beefsteak with a great flat bone in the centre, swimming in hot butter, and sprinkled with the very blackest of all possible pepper."
This is unkind judgement, but not so many years later Mark Twain,

who lived a great part of his life and did his best work in New England, described with equal cander the beefsteak he had for breakfast on Dickens's side of the Atlantic. He said it was neither cut right nor cooked properly. It came on the table in a small pewter platter bordered with grease-soaked potatoes. It was the size, shape, and thickness of a man's hand with the thumb and fingers cut off. It was overdone, rather dry, tasted pretty insipid, aroused no enthusiasm.
Then with the memory of hundreds of New England breakfasts in mind, Mark Twain wrote a description of the kind of beefsteak he might have had for breakfast at home. It is the most mouthwatering description in literature. "A mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick,

hot and sputtering from the griddle; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining with the gravy, archipelagoes with mushrooms; a township or two of tender, yellowish fat gracing an outlying district of this ample county of beefsteak; the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the tenderloin still in its place."

To this magnificent breakfast steak Mark Twain added a great cup of American homemade coffee, with the cream afroth on the top, some real butter, firm and yellow and fresh, some smoking hot biscuits, and a plate of buckwheat cakes with transparent syrup. In short, the kind of breakfast to which New Englanders were accustomed.