Saturday, March 20, 2010

Food is Hello:Butter Horns

"Food has always been a hello, it's been a goodbye, and it's been part of the celebration." Lousie McKay
I saw this quote in the American Indian museum in Washington DC last week as part of a display about how different tribes are maintaining culture. Food, as we know, is a significant part of culture. One of the things I have learned while cooking memories these last months is that shared meals have been a kind of language as well. Food is an embracing, a way of saying, "come in and stay".

While visiting at my brother and sister in law's home on our trip to the DC area, we found this to be true. We were welcomed by a fragrant and delicious meal and given more of the same throughout our stay. My sister-in-law, Magda, can cook! Even now, my taste buds tingle upon the remembrance. When we arrived back in Kansas, my mother called to say that she would have dinner for us when we arrived back in town. Warm soup would bid us welcome. Such hospitality says hello, celebrates togetherness and tradition as well as sustains our physical needs. Many times when my own children come home, they peek their head in the kitchen wondering what familiar fare will greet them. Often when they leave, I say goodbye by handing them some homemake cookies or rolls for the journey. Food as goodbye.

Food as part of the celebration are delicacies that have special meaning for extraordinary times. Someone's favorite on his or her birthday, pies made only annually for the Christmas dinner, the remembered favorite when someone comes home from college. It is clear to me now, that cooking and sharing meals are of tremendous importance in my family when gathering with loved ones.

I thought of one time when my mom and I went to visit Grandma after my Grandpa had died. We got there about lunch time and there was not a meal waiting. Instead, Grandma asked us to go to the local grocery store for a deli chicken. Beg your pardon? I was startled because never in any visit to Grandma's had I ever had anything but homemade food. While Mom and I were in the grocery store picking out the chicken, I said to my mom, "This is just weird." I don't remember exactly what she said but she agreed with me that it was different and likely due to the fact that Grandma wasn't doing everything she used to do. It was a statement of acceptance that things had changed. Certainly hello can look like a deli chicken or even a frozen pizza. I didn't feel any less loved but I remember realizing that I had become very accustomed to being welcomed by food made in Grandma's kitchen. In some ways, the baton was passed. We did more in the kitchen that visit, she did less. It was time for that.

Here is a recipe for butter horns which will say hello to my husband when he returns from his work today and to my daughter Amber, soon to be home for spring break.
Butter Horns
1 package yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
4-5 cups of flour
Scald milk. Add shortening. when cooled to lukewarm temperature, add the yeast and water. Add sugar, salt, and beaten eggs.
Mix thoroughly.
Stir in flour gradually, adding enough so that dough doesn't stick to your fingers.
Cover, let rise in warm place until double.
Roll out dough into circles the size of a dinner plate. Cut into pie shaped wedges and brush with melted butter.
Start rolling at wide end and roll toward center.
Place on greased sheet or pan and let rise again until double.
Bake at 425 for 15-18 minutes.

This recipe adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

Hello, goodbye, and celebrate!

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