The best part of Thanksgiving Dinner came about a week later. The Soup.
My mother made the best soups. The soup made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass was the unrivaled.
My mother was of a generation where very little was wasted. Rotten bananas became banana bread. Stale bread became bread crumbs. Old apples became applesauce. Bones became soup.
I did not grow up poor. My father was a professional with a good job and healthy income. This stewardship of our food resources was something my mother learned from her mother, who in turn probably learned it from her mother. My mother’s mother was the youngest child in a large family, and the only child born in America. Her father and mother, straight off the boat from Denmark, worked as tailor and laundress. They scrimped and saved so that their children would have a better opportunity. I’m sure they didn’t waste food.
Today, I threw some apple peels in the garbage. Too lazy to walk down to our compost heap, it was simpler to just throw them away. I am such an American.
All this is to say that I’m struggling to get past the first few pages of Chapter 3 in Robert Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb. There he explains the difference between ferial and festal cooking.
To the extraordinary or festal cuisine are relegated all roasts, joints, chops and steaks, and, in general, any meats that are cooked in large pieces and carved at the table. To the ferial cuisine belong all the rest — the dishes which take a little, cut it up small, and make it go a long way.
The reason for the distinction is obvious: economy…
It leaves me pondering why, having been raised primarily on ferial foods, I feed my own family in a festal way.
He starts the chapter with a statement that answers my own question.
Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times is not simply a recipe. It is a way of life.
It is a way of life which I have abandoned, primarily because of laziness. With a large family, it is easier to put a ham on the table, than to chop up everything needed for even the simplest stir-fry. I rationalize that I can get a second meal out of the ham (how ferial of me!). I think if I studied Capon, I could get four meals out of that ham. It would just take some work and economy.
Am I feeling convicted? You betcha!
When I think about my mother’s turkey bone soup, ferial dining at its finest, I remember how wonderful it tasted. I need to put that memory on a post-it note and stick it to my refrigerator.
It’s worth the work, so worth the work.