The second word in the title of “Farmhouse Rules,” the popular Sunday morning Food Network show that wraps its first season on Dec. 22, has a double meaning.
First, host Nancy Fuller uses the word as a synonym for “recipes,” just as her grandmother did. On another level, though, the word could apply to the down-home principles Fuller advocates in her comfort-food dishes from New York’s Hudson Valley, starting with “keep it fresh and natural.”
The season finale finds her focusing on the 13 apples of her eye — her grandkids — as she preps a kid-friendly menu that includes grilled meatloaf sandwiches, potato salad and a berry fruit cobbler.
Fuller, whose past career also includes running a restaurant and catering business, has made a few adjustments to her vintage recipes over the years, sometimes to make them healthier, but often “old school” has turned out to be better.
“I remember the doctor telling my grandmother that she should eat oleo,” Fuller says to Zap2it. “She would make sure there was butter in the house when I visited because she knew I absolutely hated oleo. And of course now we know that oleo is far worse for you than butter. It clogs your arteries. That’s the irony of it.”
She’s also a champion of a much-maligned holiday staple: the fruitcake.
“There was an era when they put those manufactured candy pineapples and cherries and such [in the cakes], and I think that contributed to the demise of really good fruitcakes,” Fuller says. “And you can’t make it two days before Christmas. You have to make it at least six months out, then moisten it with what I lovingly call ‘Gigi Juice’ and wrap it properly.”
You’ve said tarragon is your favorite herb. Why?
“I just love earthy flavors. I think we’re old souls, and we go back to the earth. I have a great affinity for burlap, too, and everything around me is antiques. My friends all tease me about being right out of the caveman era.”
What Christmas cookies will your grandkids be expecting when they visit?
“Since my babies have become mothers, the grandkids are growing up more with their mothers’ recipes than mine. My daughter-in-law Annie is the queen of cookies. They’re making their own traditions now.”
Do you have a favorite Christmas ornament?
“I have all the ornaments that my kids have made over the years. They’re my favorites. My daughter Ada made this wonderful Santa Claus. I’m going to have to put it in some sort of plastic to save it, because it definitely has seen its day. We have what I call a Fibber McGee and Molly tree. Nothing fancy.”
When do you decorate your tree?
“The kids will arrive on Saturday the 21st, and we’ll probably get the tree that Sunday. We’ll go into the woods and cut it down, then drag it home. We call my son Paul Bunyan, and he is, beard and all. If you looked at him, you’d think he was on ‘Duck Dynasty.’ “