Thursday, February 23, 2012

Food Memories 2

Sunday Dinner is over.  It must be Sunday afternoon nap time.  Gotta love a good Sunday afternoon nap. It is quiet.  There was rarely anything good on TV Sunday afternoons - unless you wanted to watch sports, and that was never my thing.

But I did enjoy Sunday night TV.  Remember Wonderful World of Disney?  Only those of a certain age will remember Wonderful World of Disney with Tinkerbell flying all over the screen and lighting the Magic Castle.  The magic began with that intro!

And Sunday evening suppers were almost always roast beef sandwiches and tomato soup.  Roast beef with mayonnaise and dill pickles and Campbell's tomato soup made with milk.  I didn't even know you could make it with water until I was a grown up.  I think I actually prefer it made with water, but homemade cream of tomato soup is actually the best.  But that's not what we grew up on.  We'd have TV trays and watch Disney while we ate our sandwiches and soup.  I was never a crush a bunch of crackers into my soup kind of girl either.  That was just gross!  I was always a one cracker at a time sort of girl, and try to cut it with my spoon so I ended up with 4 smaller squares of cracker soaked in soup.  Ah...memories... 

Now Monday evenings were almost always chow mein made with the last of the roast beef leftovers.  Some of you may be thinking, "Huh?" right about now, but it's true.  Mother would take the roast beef and cube it up along with some of the stock from Sunday.  She would heat that up and then put in a can of Chinese vegetables.  Do they still sell those?  I haven't ever bought one to my recall, so I don't know.  She may have added some soy sauce, but we didn't grow up with things like fresh ginger in the house to add.  We'd serve the chow mein over the crispy chow mein noodles in the can, and that was often Monday night supper.  If we had anything else with that, I don't recall it.  Maybe we'd have banana salad that night, but I don't even know that for sure.

Banana salad, you ask?  Google banana salad, and you won't find images of what I have in mind.  Even if you Google banana and peanut butter salad, you won't see images of this.  Mother would take a banana and slice it longways.  Then she would spread peanut butter down the cut side and put the 2 halves back together before slicing into bite size pieces.  We didn't really ever have banana and peanut butter sandwiches like on Sesame Street, but we would occasionally have banana and peanut butter salad. 

I don't recall any other routine weeknight dinners, but we often had hamburgers and french fries on Saturday nights.  The Carol Burnett Show and Jackie Gleason would be on TV.  I always loved the Carol Burnett show, but the Jackie Gleason show was only ok sometimes.  But Carol was always good.  And if it was a night when Tim Conway got Harvey Korman laughing, that was The BEST! 

But back to the hamburgers and french fries.  Mother was always on hamburger duty.  We really didn't grill outside much, and even in later years when we would occasionally, Daddy wasn't on grill duty.  That would be me more so than anyone.  But growing up, Mother would cook the hamburgers.  And she'd almost always use the electric skillet.  Electric skillets were sort of like pressure cookers.  You couldn't do life without one.  If it died, you were out shopping the next day to replace it.  You just were.  Mother would cook the patties and then toast the buns.  Sometimes she would toast the buns with butter, but oftentimes, they were just toasted in the grease from the burgers.  (Like I said, the health department has banned this blog.  If you are reading it now, it must be without their knowledge.)  She'd only toast the bottom bun, but warm the top bun by sitting it on top of the toasting bottom.  That extra touch always made the burgers taste so good!

The french fries were Daddy's gig.  We'd use the frozen crinkle cut fries.  Daddy would use the electric skillet if it was a night when we'd fried fish in the skillet first, but if it was a burger night, he'd heat the oil on the stove, cause Mother was using the electric skillet for the burgers and buns.  He also had a favorite, long-handled, slotted spoon.  I can remember more than once when Daddy would call me to the stove to show me how to "feel" the french fries for doneness.  That old slotted spoon gave him the best measure of the crispness he was looking for.  His slotted spoon never let us down. Those fries came out great every time.

Sigh.  I am really waxing nostalgic, aren't I? 

Speaking of fish, whenever we would fry fish growing up, it was always perch.  And Mother would bread the perch with cornmeal only.  We didn't make hushpuppies.  We'd just have the perch fried in cornmeal and french fries.  I remember the perch would often curl up as it cooked, too. 

One more memory, and I will close.  About a year after Mother passed away, I was on a business trip to Bentonville, Arkansas - home of Walmart.  I had multiple memories of Mother on that trip - dogwoods in bloom, for one.  But the food on that trip also reminded me of Mother.  We ate at Culver's, and the butter burgers with the toasted buns brought back many memories.  And then we went to a place in Rogers, AR, a town that butts up to Bentonville, for catfish.  The real name is Catfish John's, but we could never remember that name, so we'd call it Gus's House of Cod - cause that was easier to remember?  Or maybe I have the names mixed up?  Anyway we went there for lunch one day on that same trip, and guess how they prepared their fish?  They rolled it in cornmeal just like Mother.  If I recall right, I even got perch that day along with crinkle cut fries.  It was like Mother was right there with me again on that trip.

I guess that's all for now.  Not sure how any of these stories would quite fit into the family recipe collection for my future daughter-in-law, A, but perhaps if she's reading this, and the health department hasn't closed down her Internet access, she'll at least catch a glimpse of the simple, loving family she is joining in only two short months. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Food Memories

Hi there!  I know, it's been like FOREVER since I posted anything.  I've had ideas, but I haven't fully formed them or taken the time to post even in unformed state.  But I have an idea that has been forming for a few weeks now, so I thought I'd post.

First I want to tell you about where the idea came from.  As you may recall, my oldest son, S, is getting married to his lovely bride, A, in April - in something like 60+/- days.  (Clearly I am the MOTG and not the B in this case or I could tell you down to the minute, I'm sure!)  A is truly a lovely girl, and I could not be any happier for the two of them than I am.  I'm tellin''s such an incredible blessing when you love the spouses your kids have chosen, and know that they are well suited for each other.  Last Thursday we had a family dinner at Olive Garden, and I got to sit across the table from K&S and A&S, and I got such a kick out of just watching them all interact and laugh and simply enjoy each other as couples and as family.  Thank you, God!!

Anyway some very wonderful friends threw a shower for A on Sunday.  (And PS - my son, S?  Oh yea...he is quite the romantic.  As we are leaving from the shower on Sunday a few of us ladies see the card that he has picked out and left for A on her car - a "Happy Shower Day" card.  Ladies, does it get more romantic than that?  Nicely played, son!  You did good!) 

Back to the shower.  My daughter, S, had a wonderful idea of putting together a collection of family recipes for A to welcome her to the family.  We have had so much fun remembering recipes.  Both of my nieces, A & L, have contributed recipes, including a cinnamon hallah french toast (can we say indulgent!) and derby pie - a Kentucky tradition that my sister, J, picked up years ago.  J has also contributed a number of things.  She reminded me of bean sandwiches.  Have you ever had a bean sandwich?  It's been DECADES since I had one, but they are good.  No truly, they are!  It's toast and beans and some cheese and some bacon.  Cheap, good eats.  But I'd forgotten all about them.  We actually collected so many recipes that her book isn't really "done" yet.  Which is not the same thing as not giving it to her, you understand.  See S made it so it can be added to.  Here are 3 pics before I go on with the real focus of this post.  (Have you forgotten the title?  We're getting there, I promise!)
This is supposed to be turned 90 degrees counter clockwise, but I have no idea how to make that happen...I'm blaming blogger...

Let's see if this one loads better...
Yes, much better.  You may not be able to read it, but if you do, the secret to many of the initials will be out!

She divided it up into sections - Starters, Entrees and Desserts.  And apparently we have more desserts than anything.  Can you imagine?  I can't either.  I think S is making that up...see, this one isn't a dessert...but again it needs to be turned 90 degrees counter clockwise.  Hey, at least I'm consistent, right?!

I thought it turned out really fun, and once we get the rest of the recipes formatted and printed, they can be added to the rings. 

BUT, there are a couple of recipe stories that did NOT make it into the book yet!  And these are some of the biggies!  Shameful, I tell ya, just shameful.  And it's not shameful on S; it's shameful on me.  Or shameful on me and J - we just didn't get them written down in time.  So with an apology to S and A both, here they are...good luck formatting these down to 4x6 to put in the binder...

Sunday Dinner
Some of you who read these posts are already smiling, cause you know where I'm going.  My mother would cook Sunday Dinner every week, and 7 Sundays out of 8, it would be Roast Beef, Mashed Pototates with Gravy, Green Beans and Fruit Salad.  There may be rolls; there may not be rolls.  If it was summer, there may be corn on the cob or fried okra, too, but you could always count on the Main Four. 

The key ingredients weren't necessarily the foods as much as the cooking tools.  The first one of these tools was the time-bake oven.  Remember those?  You set the timer for the oven to come on at a certain time and then go off at a later time.  For my mother's Sunday Dinner that was 9am for start and 12pm for stop.  Why you may ask?  Because she was at church every Sunday morning, teaching Sunday School from 9 to 10:30 and then going to worship service from 11 to 12.  And the roast was quietly cooking in the oven while we were gone.  She typically seasoned her roast (chuck, most often, cause it was often cheaper) with good old Lawry's seasoned salt and, of all things, believe it or not, kelp.  My dad was big into natural nutrients and read about the benefits of kelp.  It has a somewhat salty taste, so it was almost unnoticeable on the roast, and Daddy felt good that we were sneaking in some kelp intake.  Mother would season the roast, add water and then cover it with foil before putting it in the cold oven (remember the time bake?) and finish getting ready for church.  

The best part of the time bake oven?  Walking in the door.  You were already STARVING from church and then you'd walk into this most amazing aroma.  Makes my mouth water just to remember it. 

The oven would be off by the time we got home, but Mother would remove the foil to let it brown just a bit in the retained heat.  Daddy would do the carving, and he never seemed to notice if we came along and took a piece here or a piece there from the platter.  Oh, those were the best tasting pieces ever!

The second cooking tool that was vital to Sunday Dinner was the pressure cooker.  Remember those?  Trust me, my parents would not cook Sunday Dinner without one.  If the pressure cooker died, which was rare, but if it did, you'd somehow muddle through one Sunday, but you went out to the store on Monday and got the replacement before next week.  You just did. 

The pressure cooker was used twice each Sunday - once for the green beans and then for the mashed potatotes.  First the green beans - we always used fresh green beans, and Mother would start with a bit of bacon grease to saute a small bit of onion.  That is not to say that Mother fried up bacon every Sunday.  No, this was back in the day when people kept bacon grease in a can on the back of the stove.  Some of you are just about dying right now, but others of you are smiling.  It's amazing we survived them days, when I sit and think about it.  The health department is banning this blog now.  Once the onion was just beginning to brown, and depending upon how hungry we all were, Mother would toss in the beans with some salt, close up the pressure cooker and wait for it to do its thing.  But it was always Daddy's job to run it under the water to bring the pressure down at the end.  Then it would be time to dump the green beans out into another pan, so you could cook the potatoes.

I know, some of you are thinking, couldn't you just do the green beans in one pan and the potatoes in the pressure cooker or vice versa?  Well, no, of course not.  That would just be silly.

Fruit salad was whatever Mother had on hand - an apple, an orange, a banana, maybe some grapes, some canned pineapple slices.  No dressing, just toss the fruit together and serve. 

Those were good memories.  Most of the time, even after I was a grown up, and I'm ashamed to say this, we'd be in the living room reading the Sunday comics and the Parade magazine while Mother and Daddy were in the kitchen.  There was something so satisfying about the routine of it all.  It tasted good, and you knew you could count on it tasting good. Every Sunday.

I just realized how long this has gotten.  (Hey, I don't call these posts Deb Dissertations for nothin'!)  And I haven't even gotten to the Monday leftovers or the Friday/Saturday night burgers and fries.  But those can be a Food Memories Part 2. 

I think I need to make Sunday Dinner for everyone soon.  Where do I find kelp?