Hippies, theme parties, and a pot roast recipe that may leave your perplexed.
Amanda Cushman: I think dinner is a special thing. I love it.
Leigh Olson: I suppose that this is a statement that you would expect from a private chef and cooking instructor. But the reasons behind Amanda Cushman’s statement go far beyond her culinary profession.
It’s a belief. A belief that preparing a meal is about so much more than the food that’s being served. It’s about connections to the people that you share the food with.It’s about the connection to the food itself.
Amanda Cushman: That’s a meal we ways eat in this house. Even if we don’t eat anything else, we’ll eat dinner, because it’s definitely that feeling of the end of the day. Little reward for getting through the day. You have a nice meal. Something simple. It’s very therapeutic I find. Just because you’re nourishing yourself. I think that’s the neat thing is that you cook with that feeling of nourishing yourself and wanting to eat something really that’s going to feel good. Not something with lots of steps or big fancy thing.
Leigh Olson: Welcome to The Heritage Cookbook Project Podcast, where we document and preserve heritage by connecting with cooks across the country who share food memories, family recipes and a little bit of themselves. And I’m your host Leigh Olson.
Leigh Olson: Amanda’s parents were. in her own words, hippies. Like many of the members of the counterculture movement of the 60’s and 70’s, they navigated the landscape that looked at life from a wholistic, inclusive point of view.Food was a way to explore cultures.A way to connect with diverse communities.The food on their table was global, diverse and sustainable. But in Amanda’s mind, it was just normal.
Amanda Cushman: I grew up in N ew Canaan, Connecticut. This what used to be a small country town. Now it’s more of a suburb of New York. When I was a kid, It was like farms and really country. Everything was farm to table. Everybody had a garden. We composted, we had a small yard, not big, but we had enough room to grow a lot of vegetables. People had chickens. (Back to nature is how I grew up.
My mother made everything from scratch. We didn’t have any sugar. We’d no packaged food. We didn’t have anything from a can. And she would, she would mail away for whole wheat flour that you could only get from some special farm. She wanted all that stuff. But she wanted us not to eat white flour and all that stuff.
She was a big follower of Adele Davis. She was a big health food guru. She had many books and she was kind of like the leader of a movement of healthy foods, no sugar, no processed food. Just like what everybody is doing now. No stuff with chemicals in it. And she was big proponent of I wish I could remember some of her books, but she, my mom had a number of them.
So my mom read all these things and she was a big follower and should we did juicing that kind of stuff that was big now was big then, too. There was just, you know, a smaller amount of people following it.
I was brought up very hippie, which I loved it was great. My parents were not straight at all they were wild and crazy, they were very liberal, marching in the streets, and yeah.
They were both good cooks, actually. My Dad was a cook too, but not as much cause he was working all the time. They loved having parties and they had a lot of parties and they had theme parties, which was really fun.
She did a lot of international dishes.
My godparents were from Indonesia. My mother would have a Indonesian party. She’d do the whole rice table thing. The rijsttafel thing. It’s their signature dish in Indonesia. If you go to Indonesian home or a restaurant. Their thing that they often have is called rijsttafel which is basically rice table. It’s really incredible and it’s lots of small dishes. And the main thing is rice. You have rice on your plate and then all these little like dishes go around the edge. Like 20 of them. And you have a little different things of meat and, and chicken. And then you have all these sauces. You have grated coconut and raisins and spicy chilis and you put all that in with each little, you take it a little bit of meat, you put it on the rice. As you go around the table, you start it very mild and you end up with very spicy. So you have all these cooling side dishes with yogurt and things like that to make it cooler so you can eat it.
She would do Greek food. and like the Indonesian thing, which is a lot of work. And then she would do Mexican food and she would cover the globe and try really different things all the time. Spanish food. We lived in London for a while when I was a kid, so she kind of got good at some of the British, more traditional things. Old fashion British dishes.
They’d often have Halloween parties, they’d always get dressed up in costume. People would come in costumes. Um, and they, they just party on, you know, for hours and hours.
Amanda Cushman: My mom kept a journal of all her dinner parties. She used to write after every dinner party what the menu was, what worked, what didn’t work, what to change next time and what to take out and put in. She’d write who the guests were and who got along and who didn’t. And how not to invite this couple with that one because they didn’t like each other. It was really interesting. She wrote a whole thing after each party or “this was fabulous. I have to make this again next time. I want to make double it because it wasn’t quite enough or this needed salt or this needed to have more cream and I just, next time I’m going to add that” and she would do that for each. I have the whole thing. It’s handwritten it was great.
Leigh Olson: Coming up after the break, curdled milk, lemon slices and trusting that things will work out.
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Leigh Olson: Often times childhood food memories involve a grandparent or two. But with a father who was estranged from his family and a maternal grandmother who was a concert pianist, Amanda didn’t have a lot of opportunities to cook with a grandparent. But when Christmas rolled around it was a different story.
Amanda Cushman: I have one grandma and that was it. And she wasn’t, um, much of a cook. She was very, she was a professional musician. She was a pianist and she was a concert pianist. And so she was all about her music and her art and she didn’t really cook much.
She did a lot of that German baking. So we had a lot of classic German cookies and very traditional, especially at Christmas. We had all these really old fashioned cookies that you got in Germany and then Austria, she had also done a lot of baking from Austria.
And then my mother became the really good cook and she would always make, and we all did together at Christmas. We’ve made things five or six, kind of very classic, uh, German and Austrian cookies and we’d make them from scratch. The little hand done ones with the little, the icing on them and everything. It was great. It was really fun or a lot of work. We’d spend like a week making cookies.
My mother was an artist, so that was the big part of it was we’d spend hours with these little pastry bags with the little different colored icings and she do cookies that were works of art. Like you could have framed them. They were really beautiful.
Leigh Olson: Growing up with an artist has its advantages, Amanda’s house was filled with inspiration and wonder.adventures and possibilities. She learned the art of entertaining from a mother who paid particular attention to all of the details.
Attention that Amanda witnessed not only in her mother’s illustrations for children’s books and publications, but in her table scapes, entertaining journal, and the food that was prepared for parties.
One particular recipe, whose origins Amanda can only speculate, is for a pot roast that was served for formal parties including a very special memorial event.
Amanda Cushman: It was fancy it was really a lovely, elegant, and it was so, it’s so good. I have it right in front of me, which I love to see it because it’s in her handwriting, which is kinda kind of neat cause she’s no longer here. God only knows where she got this thing. I don’t know how she found this and I wish she’d made a little note. And normally she often did. So I dunno, this is strange. It was, um, you use a brisket or bottom round it says, and you put all these things and at the, I can’t even imagine where they ever had it, never occurred to her to do so. It’s cooked and sour cream with, with um, anchovies and soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and lemon and you cook it for hours and hours and hours. Oh, it says here four hours.
It kind of reminds me, there’s a, um, Marcella Hazan recipe that I used to teach in my basic Italian classes. It was a pork that was cooked in milk. It’s very simple. You cook it in a ton of milk and the milk curdles and separates. And then all the milk becomes kind of brown and caramelized from cooking and these curd that are left. And then that becomes the sauce and you serve with the pork and it’s really well known. It’s her signature dish of hers and it’s fantastic. And this is like that, this sour cream thing.
And at the end she says to serve it with noodles, which is how we always had it. Um, and then, um, you have like these lemon slices on the top. Is that odd or what? It was delicious. Absolutely delicious. I mean I crave this thing, when I think about it.
She even wrote on here very good with two exclamation points.
So this was one of the best things when my mother she the planned her own a memorial service before she died. Cause that’s the kind of person she was. And she wanted us to make this to serve at the dinner. And we did.
Leigh Olson: When I asked Amanda what words of wisdom she had regarding the making of this dish, she offered these words of advise, which could also apply to most anything we undertake in our lives.
Amanda Cushman: Not to be turned off by the odd combination of ingredients. And even if it looks like it’s kind of going to something weird but then it all comes together at the end. It all You just to have to trust the thing’s going to work out.
Leigh Olson: I hope that you enjoyed Amanda’s story about Pot Roast in Sour Cream and growing up as a hippie. If you want to hear more stories like this, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
The full recipe for Pot Roast in Sour Cream can be found at theheritagecookbookproject.com and don’t forget to register for access to the printable cookbook pages. Cheers.
The Heritage Cookbook Project Podcast was produced and edited by me, I’m Leigh Olson. Sound design and mixing also by me.
EPISODE 9: Pot Roast and Theme Parties
Amanda Cushman was brought up, in her own words, a hippie; and she loved it. Her home was filled with music, art, and food from around the world. Gregarious and inclusive, her parents often entertained a diverse group of people with vibrant themed parties.
Amanda learned the skill of entertaining from her artist mother whose dedication to detail was unparalleled and whose desire to expose her family to the tastes of world was evident at the dinner table.
Thank you to our Sponsor Bob’s Red Mill for keeping my pantry full of fabulous flours and baking products!
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Marilyn Hafner reading to Sam and her artwork of Emmet in the kitchen
Marilyn Hafner reading to Sam and her artwork of Emmet in the kitchen.
- 3 1/2 to 5 pounds bottom round roast or brisket
- 2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pint sour cream
- 1 lemon sliced (reserve 4 slices for the top of the roast)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chives
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 tin anchovies
- 1 pound quartered mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Cooked broad noodles for serving
- Pat the roast dry and season on all side with the Lawry’s seasoned salt and ground pepper.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add oil and sear roast on all sides.
- While roast is searing, in a large mixing bowl, combine sour cream, lemon slices reserving 4 slices for the top of the roast, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, basil, oregano, chives, curry powder, and mustard.
- Arrange the roast so the fat side is up. Pour the sour cream mixture over the roast.
- Lay the anchovy fillets and the reserved lemon slices over the top of the roast.
- Reduce the heat to low and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover loosely and cook until tender, about 4 hours. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the mushrooms.
- Serve with broad noodles and a green salad