I was just sitting here, praying for inspiration, and entering a few new cookbooks (yes, I went crazy again this week and bought some more!) into my data base. One of them, “The Kitchen Sink Cookbook,” got me started thinking about all of the interesting dishes that evolve in families and become standard fare that people outside that family have never heard of, or even eaten. Take me, for instance. When my mother and I moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Tyler, Texas, you can imagine the food culture shock we experienced. I’ve already shared with you my mom’s interpretation of “Chicken Spaghetti” in my blog entry on May 8th of this year. If you missed that one and need an “OMG” moment, you can dig back through the archives.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law is a born and bred in East Texas cook and my transition from Yankee food to southern cooking was made less painful because of her pretty darn good family cooking. However, I had never had a lot of the dishes she cooked, so meals at her house were usually very interesting. Her chicken spaghetti was amazing and her chicken fried steak didn’t take much of an effort to enjoy, because she served with cream gravy, and being a Norwegian, most everything we eat is either white or we cover it up with a white sauce to make it white.
But, there were all those peas and beans that kept showing up. The only peas and beans I was familiar with at that time were English peas and green beans. At her house I learned all about crowders, creams, black-eyes, purple hulls,and fields, and now my lovely ‘English’ peas were being incorporated into a salad along with little cubes of cheddar cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and mayonnaise. I still haven’t been able to make myself eat any of that. And, the beans? Well, now we were having pinto beans and rice, refried beans, and butter beans. And greens? I won’t even go there!
I will go to this book, though. “The Kitchen Sink Cookbook,” written by Carolyn Wyman and published by Birch Lane Press in 1997, encourages the reader to “put the fun back in your food!” While the recipes are all intended to be used, the author and publisher posted a disclaimer in the introduction that they will not take, or assume any responsibility for their safety or deliciousness. That in itself is a bit scary, and also what makes this one interesting read.
Among some of the more interesting recipes, and not necessarily ones that I would try to serve my family, are Burger Dessert Squares (yup, it calls for 2 pounds of ground beef), ‘Pooch Pāté’ (made with, you guessed it dog or cat food, but they do allow for a substitution of baby food for pet food), Corn Cob Jelly, Pollen Pancakes (main ingredient: cattail pollen), Black-Eyed Pea Guaca-Jell-O Salad, Chocolate Cricket Torte, Beer Sorbet, and Tabasco Ice Cream. Some of the less weird recipes included are Onion Sandwiches, Bathtub Bread, Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, and Apple Lasagne (which is a whole lot like Jewish kugel and is a dessert recipe developed by the North Dakota Wheat Commission).
Lest I gross you out any further, I would love to share with you my mother-in-law’s recipe for Red Beans. Because so many of my husband’s family seemed to develop gall stones, I used to joke it was because they all ate so much red beans and rice – that is, until I developed gall stones. Nothing funny about that! For her recipe start with 1 pound of dried pinto beans – the lighter colored beans are the freshest. Wash the beans and remove any stones – yes, there are sometimes stones in these dried beans. Put in a heavy, 4 quart pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Drain and re-cover with hot water and add 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours until tender, adding hot water as needed. Now, add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of ketchup. Simmer on low until ready to serve. She always serves them up with a big bowl of rice – it helps to sop up all the good sauce. Now, that’s some might good, East Texas kind of good home cookin’!