Cherished memories of growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts, still make me smile. “It’s almost time to go home,” I thought as I sat behind my desk in school. Always anxious to get home, I anticipated the time I’d spend with my grandmother in her kitchen. I wondered what meal she’d be preparing today! Perhaps she’d prepare Spaghetti and Meatballs, or Pan Fried Fish with Red Gravy and Boule, my favorite Portuguese flat bread cooked over the fire. I’d watch in awe as my grandmother would make this bread on top the stove. Once the dough hit the heat, bubbles began to form all over the bread! I could hardly wait to dunk this delicious bread in the Red Gravy I adored so much!
Fortunate to live upstairs from my maternal grandmother, I’d knock on the door the same time every day after school. Anxious to give me a taste of what she’d been preparing, I’d rush downstairs as I was greeted by the incredible smells emanating from her kitchen. With great fervor, she would say in a Portuguese accent, “Come amor, sit down and eat.”
For the next hour, she’d share with me the fruits of her labor. If I were timely, I’d help prepare the meal. At times I would just marvel at her amazing skills in the kitchen; her heart poured out into every meal.
The time my grandmother invested in me, set the tenor for my adult life. Committed to encouraging families to make memories by spending precious time together in the kitchen, I continue the tradition my grandmother left behind, not only with my family, but with others.
Under her tutelage, I learned not only the value of being an excellent cook, but that my grandmother and I had something very special in common; we loved people and we loved to feed them! The memories made in her kitchen have stayed with me throughout the years. There hasn’t been one day that I don’t think about her and the lessons she taught me. My grandmother met the Lord when I was nineteen-years-old, but my children truly know her because of her recipes and the stories behind them!
Enjoying a meal that was once prepared by my grandmother is like stepping back in time. Many foods are referred to as “comfort foods” because they stimulate our five senses. These serve as reminders of the past and those who nurtured us with their loving care.
Memories outlast a lifetime, so get into the kitchen and leave a legacy!
2 lbs. fresh cod, cut into serving pieces (remember that cod may shrink a bit in size when cooked)
Approximately ¾ c. unbleached all-purpose flour (just enough to coat both sides of the fish)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil or enough to coat the bottom of your pan
2 yellow onions, peeled, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ c. ketchup
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
1/3 c. white distilled vinegar
Be sure to remove all bones from the fish. Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a plate with a fork, or like me, use the best utensils, your fingers to move around. Coat your pieces of fish in the flour mixture and place in a heated skillet coated with olive oil. Lightly brown the pieces of cod on both sides and cook until the fish feels firm when touched about 10 minutes. Take fish out and set aside on paper towels. Add onions, garlic, ketchup, butter, lemon juice and vinegar to the pan. Watch your nose! The smell of the vinegar will grab you when it hits the pan! Stir and cook for five minutes more making sure to stir the bottom of the pan well to release the flavor in the bits at the bottom of the pan! If you want to thin the sauce out a bit, you can add a little water. I like my gravy on the thick side. Bring to a simmer and pour over your fish
We always serve this just like my grandmother did with her Spicy Boiled Potatoes. My grandmother’s recipe for Spicy Boiled Potatoes.
My Grandmother’s Stewed Potatoes
White potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp. saffron threads
Red crushed pepper
Water to cover potatoes
Bring to boil and cook until done. Drain and serve. You can add a little more salt if needed. Add parsley and green onion at the end. Wonderful accompaniment to her Portuguese fish! I can see my grandmother making this in her kitchen!
Tip: if you do not have saffron, you can use a little turmeric, but when you are able, the saffron adds tremendous flavor!