I was reminded of a funny story today while I was stirring a pot of homemade tomato sauce. Many, many years ago, like before there were cell phones or internet, when I was a newbie to all things domestic, I was making a pot of tomato sauce. I went out to my “herb garden”, which was just a window box filled with your basic tomato sauce essentials at the time. I had oregano, basil, parsley and thyme planted. I snipped off what I would need to flavor my sauce, feeling very proud of myself for growing and using the best ingredients. Chopped them all up and threw them into the pot. They smelled so good and they were going to be the perfect touch for my homemade sauce. Several weeks went by and I was back at it. Out to my “herb garden” I went snipping my Italian herbs for sauce when upon closer inspection I realized what I had thought was basil all this time was really watermelon!! Yep, that’s right Watermelon!!! A seed was still stuck to one of the leaves so that gave me my first clue. Also it didn’t smell anything like what I thought basil would smell like! What the heck?! My kids had been spitting watermelon seeds into my “herb garden” the whole summer and I never knew. I just kept cutting it up and thinking it was basil and adding it to everything I cooked. I don’t think I ever told anyone that story. I was so embarrassed. What kind of good Italian was I if I didn’t know what basil was!! Apparently the real basil died and the imposter watermelon basil took its place. Sheesh! I guess you can use chopped watermelon leaves to flavor your sauce and it won’t kill you or anything, but if you have real basil it would be much better!
Now this reminds me of another story….When I didn’t know what the heck I was doing in the kitchen way back when, although honestly I still don’t know what the heck I’m doing in the kitchen, I should be out lounging by the pool or playing horseshoes with the man folk around here. Why is it that the women are the ones stuck in the kitchen? This isn’t the dark ages anymore! But I digress.. as I was saying, when I was still learning my way around the kitchen I used to call my mother for everything. “Mom, how do you make hard-boiled eggs? How long do I cook chicken? What on earth is gulf wax and why am I putting it in my dipping chocolate?” (ew, wax)?? So this one time she was teaching me to make chicken soup over the phone. She told me to boil the chicken along with all the other ingredients until it was tender than strain the juices just in case any pieces of chicken bone or yucky stuff was in there (I don’t think my mom said yucky stuff but you know what she meant right?), then add the noodles and vegetables along with the cut up chicken, put it all back into the pot with the juices and let that simmer together for a while yadda yadda yadda. Cool, sounds easy. I took out my biggest pot and got right to work. Chicken, onion, celery, carrots, check. Fill pot with water to cover everything, check. Add bullion cubes, bay leaf, salt, pepper, lots and lots of garlic, check, check. Now bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer until chicken is tender. Double check! Easy, got it, no problem. You still with me here, because this is where it gets funny. Next step, strain the juices, cut up the chicken, put back into the pot with the rest of my ingredients, add noodles, adjust seasoning… Ok so now what? What was it she said? Strain the juices? “Ma…Now what am I supposed to do? I strained the juices just like you said, I cut up the chicken, now what do I do next?” “Well Karyn you put everything back into the pot with the juices because that is your stock, add your noodles, adjust your seasoning”. Wait one minute here. Did she say something about “with the juices? because that is my stock?” Ya mean the juices I just strained into my colander, the thing with all the holes in it used for straining things? Like down the drain type of straining? Because “Ma, that’s what you said, so that’s what I did, I strained the juices”….right down the kitchen sink! So my mother being the smart, patient women that she is told me to just make a simple chicken and biscuits with all the chicken I just cut up. She told me “You simply just need to make a rue”…???? Huh??