Marilyn's Cleaver Does It All (If you're a minimalist, get a cleaver.)

I cooked a Christmas lunch this past Saturday. I'm not sure if it was "duty" propelling me or the chance to flex my cooking muscles--proving to my sons that I could, indeed, still make some tasty dishes, cooking something besides soap.

And I pride myself on slicing, dicing, crushing, chopping, transferring all the food with one wonderful hulk of a slice of steel--my mother-in law's multi functional cleaver. I'm a minimalist sometimes. More truthfully, I can't keep a good knife in my kitchen, with all the "borrowing" that happens to prepare fish or to replace a missing flat head screwdriver--they just never get back to my knife drawer. But nobody bothers with Marilyn's Cleaver because it's not a traditional cutting utensil, apparently.

I love using things that belonged to other people who taught me something, and things that have many uses. The green tray is from my gardening guru grandmother, Lillian--used as a TV tray when we visited her and watched Gunsmoke or Gilligan's Island. The blue pitcher was given to me many years ago by my resilient sister Amanda.  The utensils are all from my mother, hand me downs from her closed-up-shop-because-I'm-sort-of-retired-bakery. When I'm finished with them, my sons can flip a coin for these family items, or toss them in a box for Goodwill. My sons may not be nostalgic about my things, and that's ok. Maybe they will covet their father's john boat, or his old tractor, or our healthy blue berry bushes (that were my grandmother's that we relocated), or our industrious wood splitter that once belonged to my grandfather. 

Marilyn's Cleaver 1

I love to cook, but I don't like to follow a recipe to the letter.  Reading a lot of different recipes, I can sometimes find a pattern and KNOW that I had better include a spice or ingredient if I want it to be good because the same ingredient is in Emeril's, or in Barefoot Contessa's, or in Alton Brown's rice pudding, for example.   I did some light reading the night before the lunch, googling information and recipes on turkey, turkey gravy, cornbread stuffing, butternut squash, fresh cranberry relish, and rice pudding.  Chef John from Food Wishes gives a low stress lesson on preparing turkey and gravy.  But I typically don't cook a traditional Southern turkey meal. So I Googled. I do know how to make my mother's sweet potato souffle, but I still refuse to turn sweet potatoes into buttery mush and then cover with marshmallows. I just can't do it--ruin a good super food with too sweet mountains of Ghost Buster Giant Marshmallows...

I love to watch interesting people talk about interesting things when I cook. I've been watching some of the recent meteorite shower and decided to see what astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson had been up to lately while I cooked lunch. But a dose of Anthony Bourndain while I cook--soap and food--is inspirational. He just lets go with his "reporting," and it pushes me to let go with all conformity and fear and formal recipes. So I Googled deGrasse Tyson AND Bourdain.  Oh my gosh, a Star Talk episode with Anthony Bourdain.

So while I chopped my onions and onions and onions, and celery and carrots and onions with Marilyn's Cleaver, which was also used by her mother, and while I sliced the venison tenderloin with Marilyn's cleaver, while I whittled away at broccoli stalks with Marilyn's Cleaver, and crushed and chopped garlic, fresh sage and my rosemary (started from my mother's rosemary bush) with Marilyn's Cleaver, I heard Neal ask Anthony what he thought about all the wave of kitchen gadgets. Bourdain replied, "In almost every case, they are completely worthless. This salad shooter...Is cutting lettuce soooo hard? ...Something cutting onions for you is completely insane...two good knives...is all you need, a cutting board, a few heavy pans...there's very little that you can't do."

Well, surely you can see my euphoria--Marilyn's Cleaver could do it all in my kitchen. And Bourdain would approve! Marilyn's Cleaver prepared the entire my-sons-are-working-on-Xmas holidays-so-I-cooked-early-holiday-lunch.

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Somebody butchered the turkey with Marilyn's Cleaver...

Somebody butchered the turkey with Marilyn's Cleaver...

Emeril, Alton Brown, and Barefoot Contessa, and my mother's rice pudding recipe with a twist. I used my Kitchen Aid whisk and ice cold metal bowl to show my sons and future daughter-in-laws how their mixers will work...the ones that are being Fed Ex delivered from Amazon on Dec. 24.  I hope long after I am gone, they will still be whisking away, ignoring recipes and trying something different.

Emeril, Alton Brown, and Barefoot Contessa, and my mother's rice pudding recipe with a twist. I used my Kitchen Aid whisk and ice cold metal bowl to show my sons and future daughter-in-laws how their mixers will work...the ones that are being Fed Ex delivered from Amazon on Dec. 24. 

I hope long after I am gone, they will still be whisking away, ignoring recipes and trying something different.

Here's a link to the de Grasse Tyson and Bourdain food discussion: Star Talk

I really enjoyed the interesting food talk science, cultural and food history, and the always present Bourdain frankness. The hybrid rice pudding recipe was the final pre-Christmas-lunch-Aahhhh-dish, showcasing finely chopped Ghirardelli chocolate and split, red juice spitting pomegranates. However, the lunch star behind the curtain was Marilyn's Cleaver.

Marilyn and her mother, Angie. Chicago, Illinois, 194O's.

Marilyn and her mother, Angie. Chicago, Illinois, 194O's.