Home cooked food generates a warmth in my soul that most life experiences find hard to duplicate. In particular are those meals made with the perfect blend of spices that come together making a gratifying, and of course memorable dish. The benefit of a home cooked meal goes way beyond the nostalgia. You garner an appreciation for the people responsible for the preparing and creating of the meal. It delights my spirit to know that the cook of said meal took their time, money, and such great care to create a gracious meal only to humbly offer it to me.
The soul of home cooking was brought to life by several of my family members. Most influential was my grandmother, Miss Doris Taylor. She was a master on top of the stove and in the oven. And of course my Uncle Clint’s Christmas morning brunch was his sole claim to fame among so many good cooks in my family. Many of us can recall specific people in our lives who stir up the soul of home cooking in our hearts.
But if you’ve got a Grinch sized heart and don’t give a hoot about nostalgia, let’s consider the tangible benefits of home cooking. In a world where fast food reigns king, we tend to forget that in the long run, a home cooked meal tends to save you money and a few inches around the waist line. Not to mention the fact that home cooked food is more nutrient dense and contains less artificial ingredients and potentially dangerous chemicals.
Many new to the pleasures of home cooking tend to forget a tertiary benefit: the ability to innovate! Tap into your creative side when experimenting with certain dishes or substitutes for various spices that you’ve never tried. If you don’t know how to get started, please remember the vast amount of resources at your disposal. Thousands of cooking websites and blogs, reality TV cooking shows, those cookbooks that have been collecting dust on your bookshelf, and let’s not forget the wealth of knowledge flowing from the elders that fed us from infancy and beyond. Once you feel the joy and satisfaction of a self made meal, you won’t be able to stop. Oh and finding a new recipe that is a hit with friends, family or the kids!… that’s a feeling that can’t be beat.
Home cooking seems to fall to the wayside in the USA but globally it is making a huge comeback. Home Food, a company founded in Bologna, Italy, is dedicated to the preservation of traditional home cooking by utilizing local cooks. These cooks are hired with the intent of cooking meals for both locals and tourists alike, allowing them to experience these meals in the home of the chef!
Some communities still maintain their familial culinary roots and pass on the joy of home cooking from generation to generation. Statistics show that 66% of Hispanic communities still cook authentic meals in the home using mortars, clay pots, and dry rubs. Through these tactics, they remain devoted to the heritage and historical richness associated with traditional foods.
Have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to gather your favorite people around the table for a family meal? If the answer is yes and yes, let me take you to the next step. A true home cooked meal only requires a few things.
Number 1: You must be at home.
This could be in the confines of your house or in familiar surroundings. A friend or relative’s house. Some people don’t consider four walls a home. It could be out in Appalachia with a roaring fire. It could be at the Jersey Shore enjoying the salt air flowing through the kitchen window of a summer rental while the kids are on the beach. To some people home doesn’t have a zip code. Home can also be a state of mind. Maybe you need to be surrounded by your closest friends, a spouse, your beloved pet. Or maybe you just need a glass of wine (or two!) As cheesy as it sounds, home is truly where the heart is. (FYI: In my opinion and that of my colleagues, nothing is more foundational to the soul of home cooking than understanding the importance of making stocks, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post!)
Number 2: You must have style.
What do I mean by style? Well my style involves the slippers my kids got me for Christmas last year, my favorite comic character t-shirt (Aquaman, Black Panther, The Idol O’ Millions Ever Lovin’ Blue Eyed Thing Ben Grimm, etc…) some dusty sweatpants, and classic rock, metal, or jazz playing in the background. Some people like to go full Julia Child, with the aquamarine dress, white apron, and wooden rolling pin to complete the look. Some love to rock it in the backyard with a cold beer and burning coals at the grill. Some feel most themselves in the classic chef’s toque, white jacket, and a pair of clogs leading young men and women in the near orchestral controlled chaos of a commercial kitchen in the background…this is my passionate familar. Choose your style and let no one mess with your mojo!
Number 3: You must have your own special blend of spices (a.k.a. “The Secret Sauce”).
Now I don’t expect you guys to have your own personal blend of herbs, my signature rubs, or garam masala (although home cooks should take a crack at making key spice blends)…but you gotta have the secret sauce. Everyone’s grandma has it. Every aspiring home cook and some chefs claim he or she’s got one secret ingredient that takes their dish to the next level. In-N-Out Burger, Wendy’s, even the Krusty Krab has a secret sauce. I admit, sometimes I think the secret sauce might be some type of placebo effect. They tell you it’s in there, and you swear there is some mystical ingredient in the pot but it could be the same ol’ rice and beans you’ve been eating for the last few decades. All I know is, you gotta have the sauce.
If you’ve got those three things, you’re 90% of the way there, all you have to do is crank up the stove and get to cooking! But for some people, having these three key elements just doesn’t cut it. In a world where the average family is consumed with long hours at work and school, many opt for quicker fast food options or take out. And there is nothing wrong with getting Zachary’s for quick takeout. Sometimes we just don’t have the time or energy to cook. But for those days when you feel the urge, those days when the stars align, when you’ve got on the right pair of slippers, your favorite glass of wine, and the best people in your happy place, the benefits of a home cooked meal are irreplaceable. So remember to have no fear. Make time to get in the home kitchen. Know that I am an email or blog response away as your biggest cheerleader…So as one of my friends and mentor Chef Paul Dillon has said to television audiences for years, “Let’s Cook!”
At Zachary’s my staff excels at bringing the comforts of home cooking to our patrons on a daily basis. This is apparent through our assortment of comfort food, smoked meats, fresh seafood, sandwiches, tasty sides, and down home desserts which are sure to suit just about every palate. The dishes range from bold and spicy to sweet and tangy. There are also various sizes to choose from to fit your budget and dietary needs. Our team works diligently to show the world that the soul of home cooking is found in every meal they create, which for Zachary’s is “not as hard as you think.”
Image: Zachary’s Green beans with smoked ham hocks, red potato and crushed red chiles
Author: Chef Keith Taylor (lucky kid from Nutley, NJ) & Tiffany Joyner (the great storyteller)