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GUYS & GALLEYS

He Learned Self Defense in Kitchen

March 30, 1989|MIKE SPENCER | Times Staff Writer

When people ask Joe Tracy why or how he developed his considerable cooking skills, his brief response precludes any further questions.

"I spent 24 years in the Army."

Say no more, Joe.

While he defends Army cooking in general, he does point out that it is institutional food and suffers the same fate of all institutional fare. It tends to be bland, overcooked and left a little too long in steam trays.

"My problem with Army food was that I came from Pennsylvania farm country, where wholesome food is a way of life," says Tracy, 58, of Capistrano Beach. "In addition, my family owned a restaurant, and so from the time I was a child, I was involved in the preparation and service of food--good food, I might add."

As an officer (he retired 4 years ago with the rank of colonel), Tracy generally had his own quarters and his own kitchen, which allowed him to try out the recipes he collected on tours of duty around the world.

A lifelong bachelor, he also enjoys entertaining guests with his considerable culinary repertoire.

"While I like to experiment, I really prefer the more simple and wholesome dishes," he says, "like poached salmon and different chicken recipes."

One of his favorites is the soup he shared with Guys & Galleys. "It's an old family recipe, handed down from generation to generation," he says. "Served with some fresh hot bread, it's the perfect main course for a cold and rainy day."

Although retired, Tracy is far from idle. He takes classes at Saddleback College, works extensively in his garden and hones his kitchen skills by attending gourmet cooking seminars.

"I'm even thinking of getting a job," he says, "maybe as an assistant chef in a good restaurant."

Each week, Orange County Life spotlights a man who enjoys cooking and features one of his favorite recipes. Tell us about your candidate. Write to: Guys & Galleys, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.

JOE TRACY'S SPLIT PEA SOUP A LA VERMONT

Ingredients

3 quarts water

1 large ham bone or ham hock

4 cups split peas

1/2 cup onions, chopped

1/2 cup carrots, chopped

1 cup celery with leaves, chopped

1 cup potatoes, mashed

1 garlic clove

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

3 cloves, wrapped in cheese cloth

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 ounce brandy

Preparation

Bring the 3 quarts of water and ham bones or hock to boil. While water is heating, thoroughly rinse peas in cold water. Add peas to pot, return to boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Add onions, celery, carrots, mashed potatoes, garlic, bay leaves, sugar and cloves. Cover and simmer an additional 30 minutes. In sauce pan, melt butter and stir in flour until it becomes thick paste. Swirl into soup to thicken. Add brandy and serve.

Each week, Orange County Life spotlights a man who enjoys cooking and features one of his favorite recipes. Tell us about your candidate. Write to: Guys & Galleys, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.

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