Country Cook News – July 26, 2013

Hi Everyone!

First I’d like to thank everyone who participated in my “memorable” food survey. I appreciate you taking the time to revisit the fare of days-gone-by and then share that memory for Country Cook News.

The tally is in with hand-churned vanilla ice cream, fried chicken and pie (rhubarb, rhubarb strawberry and cherry) at the top of the list for foods that whisk us back to memories of yesterday. Apple dumplings and fried apple pies (hand pies), chocolate cake, cookies (warm chocolate chip, refrigerator, and sugar), deviled eggs, goulash, potato salad, meatloaf and watermelon trailed the top three. It was a fun exercise with more than a few surprises.

Most of the favorite, old fashioned food entries were accompanied with comments on who prepared the special food, for what occasion it was prepared and with whom the entree, dessert or treat was enjoyed. I’d like to pass-on just two of the heartfelt comments from readers who associated a loved food with a loved one, which to me, confirms that gathering around a table together connects all of us for life.

April Poirier wrote:

My mom was an excellent cook and she used to make fabulous desserts. Every night we would have some kind of dessert, and we had to finish our dinner and our chores to earn it. One of her favorites, and one she made quite often, was apple dumplings. I learned how to make apple dumplings by watching her. I still make them today, but unlike my mom, I only use a half of an apple per dumpling. Hers were so huge, I could never finish one. Each time I make them, I think about her and how much I miss her.

Carol Reed wrote:

I grew up in Maryland, where the summers were hot-and-muggy. Hand-cranked vanilla ice-cream was the seasonal treat that I most remember. Dad—who never cooked, and wasn’t even interested in grilling—took the initiative to make sure that the ice-cream happened. The whole family had their tasks. Mom agreed to cook the custard that would later be transformed from hot to icy cold. Dad had purchased a bag of chunky rock salt and a block of ice. Sweat poured down his red cheeks as he chipped the ice and gave the scientific explanation about why it was necessary to use rock salt instead of table salt. Once the custard and the ladder-like beater were in the central metal cylinder, Dad carefully alternated layers of the rock salt and ice around the cylinder. That left the dreaded task of turning the crank to us three kids. Of course, it helped that we knew that our efforts would be rewarded with dishes of rich, creamy vanilla ice-cream. Perhaps there was only one thing better—licking the beater when it was first pulled out of the ice-cream. 


My contribution to the memorable foods survey is my mom’s goulash, which for me was a comfort food. It seems today most people call the same dish “macaroni chili,” although Mom didn’t use chili in her goulash. Mom’s potato salad was my second memorable food, and something I’ve never been able to duplicate even though Mom gave me the specific ingredients numerous times. She made to-die-for fried chicken for most Sunday dinners, especially if we were having company. In the summer months the fried chicken was accompanied with her incredibly delicious potato salad and in cooler months with generously peppered, creamy mashed potatoes.

I’ve chosen fried chicken as the memorable food of the week. Contributors to the survey not only mentioned fried chicken but they also said it was a Sunday supper staple. Probably for health reasons, traditional fried chicken is a fond and distant memory. I’m going to share with you a recipe for Baked Fried Chicken. The recipe was given to me by my mom, via her close friend, Lucille Edwards. She devised a way to bake fried chicken as a time saver while raising her family that included three strapping boys. It’s a recipe I’ve made often that satisfies the craving for old-fashioned, Sunday-style fried chicken. This is a bonus recipe because it includes a story about the day I acquired the recipe. The same recipe and story are published in Pork Chops & Applesauce as “Part II of the Chicken Trilogy.”


Does Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Swiss Cheese Fondue, Wham Spam Pie, Lime and Pear Jello Mold or June-In-January Cake bring anything to mind? These were recipes of the day during the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.Yes, they were (going way back) “the cat’s meow” and the “bee’s knees” at dinner tables and fashionable events. We have Mid-Century Menu to thank for reminding us of all the recipes that were once considered the finest in everyday cuisine. Mid-Century really spices up those old recipe ideas with categories like “Hello Jello” and “The Best and the Worst.” In perusing the site I really had to ask myself if we really ate some of this stuff. The answer was a resounding, “Yes!” But seriously, seeing the Tuna Casserole, the Maple Leaf Cocktail from 1940 and Divinity Fudge, I wondered why I haven’t been making more retro, or vintage, fare.

The site has some scrumptious looking offerings: Tuna Casserole with Potato Chips from 1960, Pie Burgers from 1956, Grand Finale Peanut Butter Pie and cakes, such as yummy looking Lemon Rhubarb Cake. I especially enjoyed the images of old cookbooks and recipes that bring back memories of the good old cooking days. A couple of the cookbooks featured on the site were also sitting on my cookbook shelf. Mid-Century Menu is a reminder that cooking and baking, ingredients and the availability of fresh food items have come a long way. It’s hard to say what kind of advancements in cooking and baking we’ll be enjoying 20 years from now. But to me it will remain comforting to know those old recipes aren’t going anywhere, and at any time I can revert back to the tried and true meals, baked goods and treats Mom and Grandmother used to serve.


It’s official! In November I’ll be published in my 7th Chicken Soup for the Soul book. The upcoming book title is, Just Us Girls, and here’s a teaser to my story titled, Bitter Sweet Lemons.

“Honey, you need to dry your eyes and mix things up. Host a ‘Turn Lemons into Lemonade’ party and everything will change!” Char said. She went on to explain that each person invited to the party was to bring a friend that was unknown to other ladies and ask each person to make a “lemon” treat to share.

Char was like a second mother to me, and she was the sole person I knew at the time who had experienced the isolation of divorce. She, too, found herself divorced after a long marriage and was the only single-due-to-divorce member of her immediate family. She knew I’d been spending too much time alone, and lonely, and two years of grieving meant a social face-lift was very much in order…


Carol Weedman Reed gathers-up family, friends, recipes and memories as she travels from Maryland to Wyoming, Colorado to Virginia and then Alaska to Washington. Along the way she meets and marries her husband, Elbert, and they raise their family in woodsy locals that are in need of a forest ranger. Friends in My Kitchen: Celebrating Food, Friends & Nature Across America is a well-written easy-to-read book. While reading the book I could smell the Cowboy Cookies or Fudgy Snack Cake (recipes in her book) baking in the oven and filling the house with the familiar fragrances associated with home, love, comfort and security. Friends in My Kitchen is the ideal book for anyone interested in vintage recipes and everyday family life during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Carol paints beautiful portraits of nature from all the locations she’s lived. Her love and appreciation for nature and wildlife is evident and her descriptions are as crisp and clear as her glacial surroundings. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to ovarian cancer research. “Friends” sells for $18, a small ticket price for a journey through five west coast states with meals included. Click here for more info about Friends in My Kitchen.


FROZEN MOLDS: To remove frozen dessert from mold, place steaming hot towel around bottom of mold for a few seconds. Presto! Out it will come!


Ingredients: 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon table salt, 1 cup shortening, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons cold water and 2 teaspoons cider vinegar. Sift flour and salt together; cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat egg slightly, add to crumbled flour mixture along with water and vinegar. Mix well. Form into two balls on lightly floured board. Roll out with a rolling pin using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Yield: 2 crusts


Here’s a u-tube video of unique uses for the waffle iron, you know, the small appliance that’s probably sitting by itself on the very top shelf of your kitchen cupboard (at least that’s where mine can be found). These waffle making tips are a clever way to use this small appliance more than once every 5 years. Older kids in the family would consider this to be fun stuff.


Denise asked: Do you have a good recipe for Baked Alaska?

My answer: Baked Alaska fits right into my vintage foods newsletter. The dessert was invented by Benjamin Thompson around 1800 in Massachusetts and was originally known as “omelet surprise” and “Alaska-Florida Cake.” It was first prepared and served at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City by Chef Charles Ranhofer in 1867. In answer to your question, no, I’ve never made it, therefore I don’t have a recipe to recommend. Coincidentally, Carol Reed has a recipe for Baked Alaska in her cookbook/memoir (discussed above) where she states, “How can one bake ice cream? This elegant-yet-fun-dessert adds a ‘wow’ factor to any company meal.” In the cookbook, Grandmother’s Cooking Secrets (page 464) you’ll find excellent tips for successfully making this vintage, and still impressive dessert. Here are some sites on-line that offer recipes and tips: Chow, Martha Stewart, and Taste of Home. Good luck! And, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you. Thanks for your timely question, and your interest in Ask Cynthia A Question.


Till next time,

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