Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I consider myself a bit of a "foodie." I am currently working my way through all of the fine dining restaurants in Seattle in alphabetical order. But I can't say I came from a family of "foodies," though my mother always cooked, mostly from scratch. We were a middle class family typical of the 1950's. There were five of us - my Dad went off to work every day and my mother stayed at home. I have an older sister, an older brother and I was the youngest. I used to feel my family was just like "Father Knows Best," except my mother wasn't as saintly as Jane Wyatt. I, of course, was "Kitten."
When my mother passed away, I saved her little box of hand written recipes and going through them is like going through my growing up years. All the staples of our diet were there -- the Swedish Rye Bread, the Johnny Cake, the Potato Chip Cookies and more. I am struck by the lack of diet friendly ingredients, and yet, I don't think people were any fatter then than they are now.
As I said, I am a bit of a "foodie," so naturally I not only like to eat food, but I like to read about it. I like to read memoirs, too, and fortunately for me, memoirs that talk about food and even include recipes are quite popular now. So I thought I would write my own little mini "food memoir" and share some of my mother's recipes.
Growing up I never thought we were poor, but when I look at some of the things my mother served, I wonder. Creamed Peas on Toast and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with bacon or hotdogs cut up in it were favorites. I would have "Johnny Cake" for lunch when I would come home from school (remember when kids could go home for lunch?), and it was basically corn bread with maple syrup on it. But I LOVED it.
History of Johnny
My mother's recipe doesn't seem to be exactly as described but here it is:
1 C. corn meal 3/4 t baking soda
1 C. flour 1 egg
3 T. sugar 1 1/4 C. sour milk
1 1/2 t baking powder 3 T butter
My mother had added a note to "Add molasses for 1/4 C sour milk"
I guess for the baking time, you are on your own since she doesn't indicate it, but I think corn bread usually takes about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Don't forget to serve it with maple syrup.
I remember many a Saturday night when my mother would put the ingredients together for the coffee cake so she could pop it in the oven on Sunday morning before church. Nothing like fresh coffee cake. Her recipe card even said, "Delish!"
1 C. milk, scalded 1/2 t salt
3 T. butter 1 cake yeast, crumbed in cooled milk
1/4 C. sugar 2 eggs
3 1/2-4 C. flour
Add butter, sugar and salt to scalded milk. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast. Add 1 C. flour. Beat with Rotary Beater (I loved that she capitalized that) until well blended. Add eggs. Beat again. Mix in remining flour. Let rest for 5 minutes. Knead and put in bowl. Let rise until double. Push down and knead slightly. Mike into coffee cakes. Let rise until double. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.
"Swedish Rye Bread"
Both of my mother's parents came from Sweden and my mother's rye bread was the best. Enjoy!
2 1/2 C. milk 1/2 t caraway
1/2 C. shortening 1 T. salt
1 C. corn syrup 4 C. rye flour
1/2 C. dark molasses 5 C. white flour
1/2 t anise seed
1/2 t fennel seed
Heat milk. Add shortening, molasses, syrup and spices. When lukewarm, add yeast and salt. Place the two flours in a bowl, mix and add liquid. Mix with hands. Let rise 2 hours. Knead. Break into 3 sections. Put in well-greased pan. Rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees 45-50 minutes. Brush 2 t. corn syrup and 1 T. water over top after baking.
"Potato Chip Cookies"
Who knew potato chips and sugar could be so good together!
1/2 C. butter 1 3/4 C. flour
1/2 C. margarine 1/2 C. nuts (optional)
1/2 C. sugar
3/4 C. crushed potato chips
Roll into balls and flatten with fork. Bake in 375 degree oven about 15 minutes.
"7-Layer Salad."This was my mother's favorite dish to take to potlucks. She would always come home and say that everyone "gobbled it up." My mother went to so many potlucks she had her own little round fabric carrying case for her plate and utensils. Not sure why she had to take her own plate. Anyone know anything about that practice? What sets this layered salad apart from the many other similar recipes is that my mother used a large straight-sided pan - 9 x 13 instead of the usual glass bowl.
Assemble in this order:
1 head of lettuce (ice-berg) broken into small pieces
1/2 C. chopped green onions
1/2 C. chopped celery
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 pkg. frozen peas, uncooked, sprinkled over lettuce
Speak 1 pint mayonnaise over this, then sprinkle 2 T. sugar, then sprinkle 1/2 C. parmesan cheese. Cover with Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight. Next day, sprinkle about 1/2 jar Bacos over salad. Then cook 1/2 dozen eggs (6), chop and put evenly on top of salad. Top with 4 thinly sliced tomatoes.
Finally, my memories would not be complete without my mother's "Tater Tot Casserole." I think she discovered this recipe after I had left home, because I can't really remember eating it, but thinking about this dish makes me laugh everytime.
1 1/4 lbs. ground beef, browned a bit
1 onion sliced over meat
1 can cream of mushroom soup plus 1/2 can milk
1 large pkg. frozen mixed vegetables (California Blend)
1 can cream of onion soup plus 1/2 can milk. Pour over vegetables.
Top with Tater Tots (large pkg.)
Bake 1 1/2 hours at 375 degrees covered half the time.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Tater Tots
There you have it. Thanks for joining me on this brief walk down the culinary lane of the 1950's and 60's.
Share your family recipes.
If you dare cook any of the recipes I have shared, let me know how they turned out. When we pass down recipes from generation to generation, some of the steps get lost, I think. With the Swedish Rye bread recipe, I'm not sure why it's divided in thirds. Three loaves? It's not clear. And the Johnny Cake...I guess you are just supposed to know how long to cook it.
Speaking of "food memoirs," here are some good ones that you can get at the library and read while you eat what you have cooked.
If you are a foodie, too…watch for our Foodie Book Group starting in October!
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
I Loved I Lost I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci
Tender at the Bone, Growing up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
Taking Big Bites, Adventures Around the World and Across the Table by Linda Ellerbee
Are You Hungry Dear? Life, Laughs and Lasagna by Doris Roberts
Under the Tuscan Sun, At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes
Monsoon Diary, a Memoir with Recipes by Shoba Narayan
Living in a Foreign Language, a Memoir of Food, Wine and Love in Italy by Michael Tucker