by Terri Blessman
The kitchen. Definitely the happening place in our farmhouse in upstate New York in the late sixties and throughout the seventies. My mother, Marie Carola, a New Jersey Italian, was transported to a farm when she married my dad in 1959. My city slicker mother was determined to recreate all her Italian specialties on that farm, and she did so in a kitchen the size of most closets today.
My mother loved to cook… pasta dishes, delicate meat dishes with olive oil and wonderful bread. I would sit on a small stool over a heat vent in the floor, my eyes level with a butcher block table where she would chop vegetables, roll dough and pound meat. Everything she made was delicious and was within a very tight budget. There was no money in agriculture even in 1970! We grew almost all of what we ate and both parents worked full time off the farm much of the time. Not only did I learn how to cook and prepare food in that kitchen, I learned the importance of family, the value of money and the importance of an education. The kitchen was where all the really important family values were passed on, too. My mother was far from perfect, but as I look back, she was an amazing woman who raised three children who grew up to be very productive people and good parents in their own right.
Marie married “late” by June Cleaver standards. She was 36 when she married my dad after having had a wonderful business career. She was definitely a woman before her time. She had me when she was 37; twin boys followed three years later. What the three of us adult children remember most about my mother besides her amazing sense of humor, was her cooking. To her, it was a way to show us she loved us. She passed away over twenty years ago now, but I realize that I′ve become a lot like her. While that used to scare the daylights out of me when I was younger, now I′m proud that I′ve inherited many of her good qualities.
One of my favorite recipes is braciole. It′s a dish I make whenever I′m feeling a little nostalgic for that New York farmhouse.
• 1 pound of very thinly sliced beef, pounded
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 can beef broth
• 6 slices of good white bread
• 1 stick butter
• ¼ – ½ cup milk
• ¼ cup of fresh parsley
• l clove garlic
• ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
• 1 egg, beaten
• Salt and pepper to taste
Saute garlic and onion in one stick of butter until translucent. Remove from heat.
Cut up bread into small pieces and soften with milk. Add bread to butter/onion mixture along with parsley, cheese and beaten egg in large mixing bowl. Mix well.
Roll stuffing mixture into beef and tie with string. Put rolled beef back into frying pan and saute until slightly brown on one side. Add beef broth and simmer about 10 more minutes until cooked completely through.