About De Ashton – A daughter, a sister, a wife, Mom, Mémé and Grandma, a teacher, business person, even a “Gatekeeper” but always a cook!
The hobby became a way to keep intact the tasty family traditions of my home in France. Later, I added traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipes of the DH’s family heritage .
To make my menus even more distinctive, I incorporated the familiar flavors of international cuisines from the many countries I called home.
Prior to 1970, my personal exposure to the United States consisted of very infrequent visits referred to as “home leave” – four of them to be exact. They were more like extended vacations to the United States.
During the mid-sixties, my family did spend a short tour in Washington D.C.
The year was 1965, and we lived in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of the District.
While waiting at a bus stop in front of a CVS® pharmacy, I noticed a rack with small booklets just inside the door. They included one of Pillsbury’s 16th Grand National Bake-Off. Hot off the presses. 50 cents. I had that in my coat pocket.
To this day, I can list the recipes in that little book but the one that started my cooking fancy was the Double Pizza Special. I arrived home announcing that I would cook dinner that night. Everyone laughed.
Today, family members still ask for the deep dish pizza, and I am on my third copy of what is now a truly vintage booklet.
Just over a year later, we were off again to part unknown. These countries became home and, as in the past, we relied almost entirely on the local food.
To my family, our home was anywhere, everywhere and where ever we happened to be stationed at the time.
Home included a long list of countries from post-war Europe to the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. It meant living “off the land” and eating the local fare.
Both my great-grandmother and grandmother cooked with the food that was available in a small country town in France during World War I and World War II.
I learned quite a bit about cooking on a wood stove and baking in an oven that also served as a source of heat.
Growing up, it was my job to run and fetch another log to crank up the heat for baking purposes. It was cooking by smell, taste, and sight.
Years later, I distinctly remember the day my Grandmère’s kitchen was upgraded to include a gas range and a refrigerator.
And so it was for my grandparents. During our close to 20 years living in third world countries, my mother cooked with locally available ingredients.
I’ve learned to cook more or less the same way – menus are created as I scan the meat, seafood, produce and dairy counters.
The easiest way to create meals was to eat the way the locals did so we quickly became accustomed to a wide variety of regional and international flavors, ingredients and cuisines.
These flavors became an integral part of our lives – part of each and every meal we prepare at home. Even today.
It also created a unique way of shopping for food and cooking a meal.
A trip to the supermarket (an incredible concept considering some of our past food sources) rarely includes a shopping list or a firm menu.
A recipe or menu can easily be scrapped at the sight of another cut of meat, another vegetable, or just about anything that screams cook this today!
Our daily fare is the legacy of years of shopping for food not knowing what would be available on any given day. I still shop nearly every day to ensure freshness!
About De Ashton’s cooking style… it’s also the result of having to be very creative with locally available ingredients.
One day, I’ll have to tell you of the real culture shock I experienced when I moved to the United States.
The thought of being to shop for any groceries, at any time of the day, in various markets was more than I could take in.
It took close to a year to realize that I could walk out of the house with a recipe in mind and actually be able to purchase all required ingredients – in one place. I’m ready to cook recipes from my personal cookbook.
À Table! It’s time for dinner and we hope you will join us.