Rivka-pretends-she's-well-rounded meme III.

This time I'll tackle the food questions.

ailbhe and minnehaha K: Your dinner.

Tonight we had baked chicken thighs, Southern-style biscuits with butter, and carrot sticks, and ice cream for dessert. Dinner was cooked by Michael, who is getting to be a better cook every day. (Usually the cooking is my responsibility.) The chicken skin wasn't as crispy as I like it (my fault, not Michael's, because he was following my directions) - we probably should've upped the oven temperature. But overall, it was very good.

hobbitbabe: Do you have any kitchen appliances for mixing stuff up, and what do you make with them and should I buy one or more of them? (giant immovable mixer, food processor, immersion blender, old-style blender, etc).

I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, a generous gift from wcg a few years back. It is, as you say, giant and immovable. Unfortunately, it has to live in the pantry and be carried out every time I want to bake.

I use it to make cakes, cookies, and other desserts. It replaced an ancient underpowered hand mixer. The difference is most notable with stiff batters like cookie dough. I made pumpkin cranberry bars to give as Christmas gifts this year, another very thick-battered recipe, and found that my mixer could easily handle double batches. It's also excellent for things that need to be really, really, seriously, impressively well-beaten, like this gingerbread cake roll.

Oh, and the other difference I almost forgot about: because it has a paddle that is cleverly positioned in the bowl, rather than beaters, you almost never have to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl when you're mixing. Which is very nice. Should you have one? If you bake regularly, yeah, you probably should.

bcholmes: You seem to have a lot of things to say about food: different recipes, liking exotic vegetables, eschewing chef-boy-ar-dee. What kind of relationship did you have with food growing up?

It was uncomplicated, for which I am extremely grateful. My mother was a good cook in what I think of as the classic home-cooking style of the northern U.S.; her meals were simple (usually meat-starch-veg)
but well-prepared and tasty. Food was never in short supply, and we had free rein to help ourselves except for the hour before dinner, which was known as "starving time." I don't remember negative comments about people eating too much or too little or the wrong things, except in the context of taking more than your fair share of a scarce resource like leftover cake. We did have to accept on our plate at least a "no-thank-you helping" of everything served at dinner, and we were expected to at least taste some of everything on our plate. Oh, and we were required to have milk at dinner, but I loved milk so I didn't mind.

We had family dinner together every night. My mother would start watching out the kitchen window for my father's car at 5:55 every night, and the minute his car pulled into the garage she'd call us to the table. We rarely went out to dinner and almost never had fast food - not as a whole family, anyway. Just if we were traveling somewhere.

I ate a lot of junk food as a kid, and was really skinny anyway. I used to spend my school lunch money (65 cents a day, as I recall) on candy at the 7-11. I'd split it with kcobweb, and in turn she'd share the dessert from her packed lunch with me. That horrifies me today, but obviously I survived it and was reasonably healthy. My mother didn't buy tons of junk food - mostly for budgetary reasons, I think - but we always had cookies, chips, and ice cream in the house and it wasn't rationed. I remember being surprised to go to friends' houses and be told "you can have two cookies."

I have a lot of happy childhood memories about food. Holiday dinners, church potlucks, cookouts and picnics at the lake, standing on a chair to help my mother bake.

Grandma Susan: Given that there is so much conflicting information about nutrition and health, how do you decide what to believe and/or what to feed your family?

Honestly? I spend very little time thinking about nutrition and health. My impression is that this is an area where a lot of people, including health professionals, have very strong opinions - yet the data backing up those opinions is often weak. I think the whole food-as-medicine thing is hugely oversold in American culture. So I decide what to feed my family based primarily on considerations of taste. I try to avoid language about "good" and "bad" foods. I strive vaguely for balanced inclusion of a broad range of foods - proteins, carbs, veggies and fruits - but I don't worry about fat, carbs, sugar, etc. I wouldn't eat pork rinds 24/7 because it would make me feel like crap, but I'm not going to worry about the components of my reasonably balanced and varied diet.

I do try to feed organic foods to babies (Ack! We've veered into parenting territory!) based on the vague idea that pesticides may be more of an issue when concentrated into a very small form, but it's even more heavily based on the fact that Earth's Best organic baby foods taste so much better than Gerber. Oh, and I was careful about introducing potential food allergens into Alex's diet because of our strong family history of food allergies, and I'll probably do the same with Colin.
Re: Kitchenaid beater gadget
That thing is the best (and I got it on your recommendation)! It made baking all those Christmas cookies a breeze.
the food that was rationed at my house growing up was diet coke, although not until i was a teenager. and that was because i did and still do drink it like it was water, and my mother made a rule about how many cans of it i was allowed to have per day. i believe, however, it was because it was expensive, not for any other reason. (also, likely, hard to carry in from the car.)
My friend puritybrown was appalled to find that fruit was rationed in our house - fruit was expensive to us, and we'd have eaten tons of it if we could, but her home had a fruit bowl to which they had unlimited access, and they were encouraged to eat more than they wanted, sometimes.

Money has a funny effect on food. I find it hard to throw away out of date goods.
I grew up in a house with food issues, including the perception that we were picky eaters who needed pushing to get enough nutrition. When I was eighteen, I visited the home of a boyfriend whose family had money issues. We had make-your-own sandwiches for lunch, which I was accustomed to, but instead of the mother encouraging the little kids to have both sliced meat and cheese in their sandwiches, she was restricting them to one or the other. I was shocked, because my mother would have been trying to make my brothers take both, so they weren't "filling up on bread". I could see their issue right away but it took some years more to see my mother's.
I really will find and use a USian biscuits recipe someday. I've never met one.
But they're so yummy, either with jam on them, or with sausage gravy slathered over....

But biscuits are so much more tender than scones! Rivka, what recipe does your family use?

I bake a lot and I don't use a mixer, so I think a lot of it depends on what you're used to, and also what you bake. I don't make a lot of cookies, and some of the cakes I make are lousy if you do them in a mixer because it puts in too much air.
I forgot to mention yesterday, having a son who is a “good eater” can have its downsides when it comes to trying to not regulate food. Though I feel that we’ve parented him relatively the same as Henry, often Edward will just not.stop. eating until we take the food away. I hate having to do that.