About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Private Chefdom- Part 5: Goin’ to the dogs

Part 5 of a 9-part series

Another of the house rule sets which directly impinged on me was that regarding The Family pets.  The pets I dealt with were the three dogs.  A trio of some small, shaggy, noisy, and obnoxious breed, no doubt of impeccable pedigree and ridiculous cost.  Papers or not, “Oopie”, “Doopie”, and “Poopie” (I have no recollection of their real names) were as annoying as can be.  I tried to hide it but didn’t like the little rats one bit. 
I think Mrs. Quire saw through my mock tolerance of them for soon they became my responsibility to feed.  And feeding these critters wasn’t just throwing some dry kibble in a bowl or even opening a can of “Stinky Treats”.  Heavens no, nothing like that was good enough for them.  I had to cook for the dogs.
So now every day I would have to prepare meals for not just the people in the house, but the pets as well.  Of course, they didn’t just get a small portion of what ever I was making for the two-legged Family members.  That would have been too easy.  They had to have their own menu.  It was made out periodically by Mrs. Q. including a meat, a vegetable and sometimes a starch of some sort (what, no desert?).  She designed them with the thoroughness of a dietitian working on balancing a school lunch program. 
My job was to prepare all the components, put them on a special shelf in the big Sub-Zero refrigerator.  She would then come in at their meal times, pull out the various ingredients for that meal, cut them up into little bite-sized pieces, and toss them lightly together.  She’d then put the food into their individualized little silver bowls and take them to where ever it was that she fed them.  Mrs. Quire made a major production out of this, invariably spreading her little project out over most of the whole kitchen, indifferent to anything that I was trying to get done there.  When she was finished she would breeze off to feed the dogs, leaving me with her huge mess to deal with.  My daily mantra of “This is her kitchen, she can do as she pleases. (repeat as often as necessary)” wore thin pretty quickly.
One of the regular menu items for the pooches was chicken.  Mrs. Quire would always have me buy fresh (never frozen or “hard chilled”) whole chickens.  Free-range and organic ones were preferred when available.  She then had me “Kosher” the chickens.  This is a process of salting down the carcasses for an hour or so, letting any juices be drawn out, adding more salt as necessary.  After the Koshering I was permitted to poach the whole birds (no cutting up was permissible) in a seasoned court bouillon (with a nice mire-poix, of course).  Once poached, the birds were cooled and the breast meat removed.  That was the only part that the dogs got.  I was not allowed to use the rest of the meat for The Family so the household staff got a lot of poached dark meat chicken meals.  From time to time I uesd some of that wonderful chicken stock in a dish for The Family, but I don’t think they would have approved, if they had known.

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