Monday, March 06, 2006

Food for thought

I have been craving mush. My dad used to make it when I was a little girl. (Yes, I was little once....ED! LOL) Anywayyy.....I am going to make some tomorrow. I know I could just buy some, but I think I'll make it from scratch. You know, "scratch" around in the cupboard until I find everything I need to make it! Har..har! It is so delicious with lots of butter and syrup.

Something my mother used to fix that all of us loved was "stewed potatoes". So easy to fix, so simple, and so good! You just peel and slice 6 or 7 medium potatoes. Put them in a 2 or 3 qt. saucepan, cover with water and add two or three slices of good bacon, cut into pieces. Cook the potatoes until tender but not mushy. As they cook, the house is filled with the most wonderful aroma and if someone would come into your house, they would think you were cooking something really elaborate, but it is "just" potatoes. I also make cornbread when I make these potatoes. When they are done, you can divy them up into individual bowls, add butter, salt and pepper and enjoy. We kind of mush them up a little. We also love them over cornbread. Some people call this kind of cooking "cheap eating". It doesn't matter. It is just good food. I usually fix smoked sausage with this, too. Just cut it into serving size pieces and brown it. This is a good meal on a cold, rainy Ohio night like tonight, but we had grilled hamburgers, chips and cole slaw tonight. We went to the grocery store and this is what we fixed when we got home. We almost always fix hamburgers after going grocery shopping because the meat is fresh and all.

I have such wonderful family memories that center around food. We always had beans and cornbread on Tuesday when I was growing up. You see, Mom would spend all day Monday doing the "washing" or laundry. She used an old wringer washer and rinse tub for years, but we finally got an automatic washer and dryer. She would dampen or sprinkle the clothes, then wrap them in a sheet in a wicker basket. This wasn't a fancy basket. It was a bushel basket that apples or potatoes came in. Then on Tuesday, Mom would spend the day ironing, because, back then, you had to iron everything. That was the reason for the "sprinkling and dampening" of the clothes the night before. We didn't have steam irons then. (Gosh, but this makes me feel kinda old, but I'm so thankful for the memories.) So while mom ironed all day, she put on a big pot of beans to cook. To go with the beans, she would fix cornbread in a big iron skillet. I can remember her putting bacon drippings in the batter and hearing it sizzle. The cornbread would have a hard, crispy crust on the outside, so we would scoop out the cornbread and we would save this "shell" to put butter and jelly on. It was yummmy!! That was dessert. Sometimes mom would make "potpie" and put it in the beans, if she was cooking pinto or brown beans, as we kids called them. The potpie was made of a simple mixture of flour, lard (crisco) and salt. She would cut it into squares and drop it into the boiling bean soup. Oh, we loved it! Mom could never put enough potpie in the beans to suit us kids! Most often, we would have spinach or fried cabbage or fried sauerkraut with this meal.

Mealtime was such a special time at our house. Dad would be home every night, without fail, in time to sit down to supper at 5:oopm. We each had our place where we always sat, with Dad at the head of the table. My place was between Mom and Dad. Go figure. We would talk and laugh and share the happenings of our day with one another. We made some memories there around the supper table. We called it "supper", not "dinner", like we do now. I'm not sure why. That's just how it was. We had "dinner" on Sunday at noon. *smile*

I can remember Sunday dinner so vividly, too. We didn't have alot of different foods to eat, like now. And everything was made from "scratch". Mother used to fix round steak and gravy in a big cast iron dutch oven. Whooaaaa.....was it ever good! Homemade mashed potatoes and usually coleslaw or cutup lettuce with a simple dressing made from Miracle Whip, milk, sugar and vinegar. No "store-bought" dressing.

For dessert at our meals, we usually had fruit of some kind, because Mom canned peaches, apples, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries. She froze strawberries. So for dessert, she would put out a big bowl of one of these fruits and would serve it to us in these little dessert bowls with ruffly edges. We usually poured milk over the fruit and ate it like that. On special occasions, we might have canned whipped cream to put on the fruit. Ooo-la-la!! *smile* I can remember Mom made Jam Cake with homemade raspberry jam and iced it with homemade caramel icing. It was the best!!!!

Mom made ice tea to drink but we didn't have pop or koolaid. Most often, we drank water and ice tea. Pop and koolaid was only for special occasions, like holidays or birthdays.

Another favorite Sunday dinner was fried Whiting (fish), homemade french fries, cole slaw and baked beans. Dad would buy a five-pound box of this fish. He bought Whiting because it just had the backbone it in, so it was really meaty. Dad always helped Mom fix this meal. I don't think they had all of the breaded fish squares and sticks then, like they do now. Dad dipped the fish in egg, then dredged it in cornmeal. There was always a plate of white bread on the table and stick butter on a plate. None of this soft margarine in a tub. I would always scrape my knife across the top of the stick of butter, because this way the butter was easier to spread on the bread. I always got scolded for doing this. Everyone else just cut a pat off of the end. *grin* I never knew what the big deal was. Mom could have left the butter out to soften, but for some reason, she never did this. I think it might have been because the butter then didn't have all of the preservatives in it that it does now, and it might have gotten what they called "rancid" if she had let it set out. I remember Mom even kept alot of canned foods and peanut butter in the refrigerator, too.

So, you can have your "convenience" foods and "eat out". I like alot of that stuff, too, but there's just nothing like good ol' homecooking. The kind of food that "sticks to your ribs". That's what memories are made of.

Cornmeal Mush:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup cold water
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Grease loaf pan. Mix cornmeal and cold water in saucepan. Stir in boiling water and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Cover; cook over low heat 10 minutes. Spoon in loaf pan. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
Unmold mush; cut as needed into 1/2 inch slices. Refrigerate leftover mush. Melt butter in skillet. Coat slices with flour. Brown on each side. Enough for 9 servings.

No comments: