Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Home Cooking

The Beautiful Wife and I are starting to socialize again. Invited to dinner, I offered to make dessert. Apple crisp was suggested, but I lacked a recipe. Recipes are a world heritage, the distillation of generations of cooking wisdom, but some are better than others. My habit is to study a variety of recipes and condense them into a healthier version. If I judge the improvement significant, I retitle it “Skip’s … Recipe.” It makes the BW laugh, something I work at, when I put my name on a recipe evolved through the work of thousands of cooks over generations. Google “Skip’s Homemade Applesauce” to find one of my creations online. The grandchildren love it, even ask for it on their birthday. So, I went to work on an apple crisp recipe.

A good apple crisp needs a chewy topping; it should be flavorful but not too sweet. I cobbled together a recipe with extra cinnamon and lemon to improve the flavor. I used old-fashioned oatmeal and a generous amount of walnuts for a chewy topping. Can you have too many nuts? The BW bought two kinds of apples for added flavor and I made a roux so the cooked apples wouldn’t be too watery.

After I put my dish in the oven I noticed half the apples were still on the counter. It had seemed a little light on apples, but what to do now? I retrieved the apple crisp from the oven, removed the topping as much as I could, and stirred in the rest of the apples. I now had apples mixed with topping for filling but realized this might actually improve the taste. I then restored the topping and got my creation back in the oven before the BW could discover my misadventure.

We are in Midway, Utah and dinner was with old Laguna friends, Tom and Karen Chesley. Karen is an excellent cook and we had a wonderful evening. Tom’s contribution was to remember good times in Laguna from the fifties. His favorite memories started at the kids’ hangout, Merle’s Drive In up Coast Highway at Jamboree, perhaps a diversion to Ford Road for some drag racing, and then a ferry ride to the Rendezvous Ballroom on Balboa Peninsula to dance the night away to Dick Dale’s pounding surf music. We enjoyed one of those evenings where time slips by and you suddenly realize you’ve stayed too long. The apple crisp was a success.

There’s a point to this: the healthy pleasures of home cooking. The BW loves going out to dinner but with restaurants closed we’ve all been eating more at home. There’s a silver lining, the health advantage of controlling the ingredients essential to good health and a robust immune system. A 2016 study reported by the New England Journal of Medicine found that a healthy diet combined with exercise (and avoidance of smoking) reduced the risk of heart disease mortality by 50%. Likewise, a Harvard School of Public Health study says half of cancer deaths could potentially be prevented through lifestyle modifications. Though the coronavirus dominates the news, heart disease and cancer are the main killers, accounting for 44% of deaths nationally according to the Centers for Disease Control. To live longer we should eat better. There’s meaning in that.

Bio:  Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip.  He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email:  [email protected]

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