Friday, July 30, 2010

Company for Dinner: Swiss Steak and Creamed Potatoes

This entry features two items which could easily be made for dinner guests. Part of the package of traditions that I inherited is that of having company for dinner. I remember many meals spent either at the homes of others or in our own home when we shared a meal with friends, relatives or out of town guests to whom we extended some homemade hospitality. I remember when we were the hosts, there would be a kind of buzz around the house. "What is going on?" one of my brothers or I might ask. "We are having company," would be the reply. Ah yes, of course. That explains the increase in noises and smells from the kitchen, the table extensions, the unfolding of the tablecloth. None of us were excused from the preparations and we knew that. We may be called upon to polish silver, scrub potatoes, cut flowers, or help set the table.

When we were the guests, there was preparation as well. Take a bath, wear clean clothes, comb your hair. On the way there... the manners discussion. Say please and thank you. Try everything. Ask to be excused and use, use, use your napkin. Any questions? "Yes" squeaked a voice from the backseat, "Do we have to eat spinach or liver if they have it?" Take a little and try it. Never say you don't like it, just say no thank you if you are offered more. These lessons in etiquette were delivered firmly but not unkindly by our parents when we were freshly scrubbed and earnestly hungry, a captive audience of three in the backseat.

The benefits of being guests and having guests for dinner are many: good food is shared, conversation can be enlightening and entertaining, and bonds develop or are strengthened around the table. We learn, we give, we are nourished in body and spirit. Recently, I was a guest along with my mother, at Cousin Elizabeth's house. She is a double cousin to my mother. I found out that this means that their mothers were sisters and their fathers were brothers. Cousin Elizabeth lives near Hutchinson now and recently invited my mom and I to enjoy lunch in her home. The food was homemade or homegrown and the joyful hospitality was wonderful. We shared stories new and old and a bit more of my Grandma Yutzy's personality was revealed to me through a story from Cousin Elizabeth. Just as I thought, Grandma was a spunky character. I left blessed and full, better from having had this visit and meal.

These recipes are two from the Mennonite Community Cookbook that I have made in the recent past for company dinners.
Swiss Steak
2 pounds round steak
3 T oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, sliced
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup flour
1 can mushroom soup diluted with 1 can milk
Rub salt and pepper into steak and dredge with flour.
Brown quickly on both sides in hot oil with the onions.
Pour the mushroom soup mixed with milk over the top.
Bake in a covered pan at 350 for 1 hour.

Creamed Potatoes with Parsley
3 cups new potatoes
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 cup half and half
2 T fresh parsley
Cook potatoes in salt water until soft. Add cream, seasoning and chopped parsely and bring to a boil.

Both recipes are adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950) and have been tested on guests. They are polite people (having endured the manners talk) so of course they said they liked these dishes! I liked them too though and will likely make them again.

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