Russell Schwem has cracked a few eggs in his day. The Inverness man enjoys making breakfast for his grandchildren and sometimes serves up his Tasty Sour Eggs.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
Tasty sour eggs
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
Russell Schwem serves up "Tasty sour eggs"
Retirement gives culinary convert chance to experiment
Nearly four decades after his wife, Carolyn, was featured as a Cook of the Week with peanut butter pie and pork chop suey, 76-year-old Russell Schwem is following in her faded footsteps.
Since his retirement 10 years ago, Russ has "taken up fancy cooking with a passion," says Carolyn, who still handles most of their day-to-day cooking.
"We both enjoy eating out," Russ says, "but you're not going to get any 'atta boys' doing that."
In fact, as we talked, Russ was preparing Tenderloin Chasseur with red wine and brandy sauce for 12 people, a recipe from another, more recent Cook of the Week.
The previous month he grilled lamb that had marinated in red wine, soy sauce, mint, rosemary and other goodies for a dinner party of eight.
Before retirement Russ' culinary escapades were limited to brawny, Sunday morning breakfasts with their two kids, "a tradition that continues today with our grandchildren (five girls) on sleepovers," he says. The menu ranges from pancakes to crepes, French toast to Belgian waffles.
Russ may be a late arrival to the kitchen, but he brings the enthusiasm and energy of a fresh convert.
It all started, he says, with a newfound interest in supermarkets.
"I find them rather fascinating," says Russ, who prowls the aisles of Trader Joe's and a nearby Asian market.
From there he gravitated, naturally enough, into cooking and "that escalated into a lot of fun."
Russ has experimented with Japanese and German cuisines, slow cookery and a new waffle iron.
"He likes Brussels sprouts," Carolyn sighs, "but our family can't stand them. We've probably gone through eight of his recipes for Brussels sprouts."
She still hasn't learned to love them, but after nearly 50 years of marriage, she still loves Russ and his sense of adventure. A couple of nights a week her spouse prepares dinner for two.
"I've tried to focus on recipes that are easy to prepare, with an emphasis on readily available ingredients," he says.
Recent successes include a cranberry-glazed pork tenderloin seasoned with cumin, coriander and paprika.
Another winner: turkey breast marinated in lime juice, cumin, sage and chili powder, served with a homemade peach chutney.
German cooking continues to rank high, "thanks to my German heritage and two years in the country, courtesy of the U.S. Army." He swears by "Best of German Cooking" by Edda Meyer-Berkhout as a favorite recipe source.
From that book he developed Bavarian Roast Chicken with Turnips, a cold-weather meal packed with vegetables and splashed with sherry.
Today he also shares Tasty Sour Eggs, a distant German cousin to eggs Benedict. In this version the sauce is laced with tarragon vinegar and eye-popping Tabasco.
The Sparkling Shrimp Fettuccine "is one of my more colorful presentations," with red pepper and green onions.
While we try these, Russ will be searching for recipes to prepare the quail he bought last fall at the Daily Herald Cooking Expo at Harper College, and he wants to test a new recipe for grilled oysters and shrimp with Thai Creole sauce the next time he and Carolyn visit friends in Mississippi.
"Retirement allows me more time to expand, explore and prepare, particularly during winters and on rainy non-golf days," Russ says.
And the best part, Russ says: "Carolyn has been most supportive, even finding humor in my 'bummers.'"