Friday, January 29, 2010

The World that Lives in You: Shoo-fly Pie

In the book "The Shack" there is a quote by Frederick Buechner:

"You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you."

The world that lives in us may be like the part of the iceberg that isn't seen, or like the part of shoo-fly pie, not noticeable at first glance, but underneath the top layer, ready to ooze out. Shoo-fly pie is part of the world that lives in me, in my stomach if I have to pick a region, but tied to the heart, and springing from the roots of my upbringing. I have memories of eating this pie at potlucks, friends' homes, and MCC sales.

And isn't it true that we may move far away from our hometowns, parents, siblings, and old friends? We may doff some traditions like we discard the clothes from our past. We begin anew. We claim our own beliefs, get new hairstyles, purchase new music and books, and cook new foods. But this world that lives in us is undeniably there. Let us be kind to it, to the lessons from our past, to love shared, and even to mistakes we have made.

The world inside of me honors the world inside of you. It is there, layer upon layer, in all of us. In our stomachs, hearts, and minds. It makes us who we are. This world, these memories and experiences, are ready to be shared and integrated into new and present realities.

Here is a recipe for Shoo-Fly Pie...from the world inside of me!
Bottom Part:
3/4 cup dark molasses or Karo syrup
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
Top part:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup shortening or margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pastry for one (9 inch) pie

Dissolve soda in hot water and add molasses.
Combine sugar and flour and rub in shortening to make crumbs (I used two knives to cut it in)
Pour one-third of the liquid into an unbaked crust.
Add one-third of the crumb mixture
Continue alternate layers, putting crumbs on top.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from the Shoo Fly Pie recipe in the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).


Monday, January 25, 2010

Filling them with Love: Barbecued Hamburgers

I remember once reading about the value of family meals. Someone once said, and I paraphrase as best I can recall, "When you gather around your family table, you aren't just filling your family with food. You are filling them with love."
That is why I preserved the tradition of the family meal.

So, too, I believe, there is more to cooking than just the meal preparation. When you cook, particularly with others, you aren't just making food, you are making memories. Since doing this blog, I have been grateful for recipes and memories shared in return by friends and relatives. Thank for joining me on this journey and sharing yourselves with me. I look forward to more fellowship.

Some of my favorite times when my children were younger were when I pushed a chair up to the counter, tied an apron around their waist (laughing as they tried not to step on it) and gave them ingredients to add to the mix.
They were expert egg breakers by age 6 and they loved tossing the shells to the sink after all the egg was drained out of them. They would help hold the mixer, all the while asking, "We can lick the beaters after we are done, right? You'll leave lots of stuff on them, won't you Mom?"

When they got older, they helped some- although not as enthusiastically! Many times, they perched on a stool nearby and visited with me while I cooked. Those were memorable times as well, when the conversation flowed, and they confided in me about hopes and fears. I remember stopping a few times during my stirring to wipe tears or give a hug. The other day, while I was making the recipe I am about to share, 24 year old daughter Emily was perched atop a stool talking to me while I cooked. It was a treasure, having her there, and we launched into one of our favorite topics-relationships. Even though she is an accountant and I am a teacher, we become Dr. Phil and Oprah as we take on all the challenges inherent to human friendships and romances. Emily did make an observation the other day while I was cooking, "You don't really measure things all that carefully, do you Mom?" Actually, exactness is not one of my most outstanding characteristics. In anything.

Sometimes, I cook alone now. That is when I listen and reflect. Most often, I reflect on experiences shared in kitchens in other houses, other towns, other states. There is something wonderful about cooking alongside cherished ones and sharing the experience. I consider myself richly blessed for the memories of cooking with grandma, mom, daughters, and friends.

Here is the recipe I made. It might be perfect for those Super Bowl watchers!

Barbecued Hamburger
2 pounds hamburger (I used half ground venison from son-in-law to be Chris)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
Fry onion and hamburger and venision until well done. Add other ingredients and simmer.

Fill some whole wheat buns with love and this barbecued meat mix!

This is adapted from a recipe submitted by Mrs. Norman Loux to the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

Yours in memory making,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Hankering for something Hearty: Whole Wheat Pancakes

See the above picture? Those are the pancakes I wanted. I did not get those pancakes. The pancakes I made this morning didn't look bad. They were just, well, heavy.

Grandma's cookbook was beckoning me to come and see. I hadn't opened the book for about a week and I felt the pull of nostalgia and adventure asking me to try a new recipe. So, waking up with a hankering for something hearty, I decided to try the recipe for whole wheat pancakes.

My husband pulled out a nifty little appliance we have called the Pancake Factory. It has served us well for years, cooking up those morning offerings made with, all due respect and contrite apologies to my Mennonite ancestors, pancakes from a box mix. I know! But to my credit, I throw in some wheat germ or flaxseed meal when I do use those convenient boxed products.

But this morning's pancakes were made from stratch and turned out thicker and heavier than the fog embracing our cozy little town. My husband, always a good sport, was fairly exhausted after turning these cakes on the griddle. He eyed them optimistically, lifted his fork, and toasted, "in for a penny, in for a pound." He wasn't counting on three pounds. But darn it, he means what he says and the man just kept going. Around his sixth syrupy bite, he looked at me and said, "I hope these aren't doing any internal damage." Mind you, he was still eating and smiling at me. After finishing his short stack and having more time for reflection, he said, "Maybe these were fed to the Amish men before a barn raising, you know, just to keep them on the ground." That they could certainly do. They didn't look or even taste poorly, we just need to lighten these cakes up!

I am sure not everything Grandma made turned out just the way she wanted. However, I don't want to give up on the idea of making whole wheat pancakes from stratch. I am hoping some readers will give me ideas for improvement. Life is about learning.
So, with a heavy stomach and a light heart, I submit the recipe I used for whole wheat, stick to your ribs, pancakes. I welcome your suggestions.

2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar (I used one cup of honey instead)
1 T butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used 1/4 cup wheat germ and 1/4 cup flaxseed meal) rather than 1/2 cup of the wheat flour)

Beat eggs, add sugar and milk.
Mix dry ingredients and add to liquid.
Add melted shortening and blend togeher.
Bake on hot griddle or pancake making appliance.

This recipe was adapted from one submitted by Mrs. Amos Leis of Ontario, Canada. It was submitted to the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

Thanks to my husband for being a trooper, always ready to help and taste!
Yours in cooking and learning,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Verb is a Noun: Scalloped Corn

I was thinking about all the verbs I have read in this cookbook. Verbs I haven't come across for awhile: scalding, folding, sifting. There are lots of actions required in cooking and attentiveness to these actions is essential. One must be astute when folding because it is not to be confused with mixing. I actually stood in my kitchen with a spoon practicing the folding action required for Spanish Cream. It was as if I were completing an "air cooking" activity to make sure I had the deftness required to properly fold.

One of my students announced to me recently that "verb is a noun." No, I kindly corrected him in my teacher voice, a verb is an action word, it is a different part of speech. He, just as kindly, because he is a patient young man resigned to teachers who can't stay ahead of his creative mind, " the word verb is a noun, I looked it up in the dictionary." I smiled at him and nodded in agreement. I hoped he wasn't ready to give up on the idea that I could perhaps teach him something too one day. It occured to me later, while I was thinking of all these cooking verbs, and this student, that truly students choose their teachers. For that matter, children choose their parents too. Children are born to or adopted by parents, students are assigned to teachers but to choose these people is a volitional act. To say, "this is my mother, this is my teacher, is to choose them. And what an honor it is to be chosen as someone's parent, teacher, leader, pastor, friend. It is more than biology and location. It is love, reciprocity, openness.

Sometimes it is saying, as my friend Martha told me recently, that love wins. Sometimes, relationships are difficult, even seemingly impossible. Then we have to say again, I choose to be here with you, in a new and real way.

Doing the mixing, stirring, measuring, and baking is helping me choose to be mother, stepmother, wife, daughter, neighbor, and friend because I am creating these recipes and offering them to the people in my life whom I choose. Why? Because love wins. And that is good news.

Here is the recipe that I made especially for my husband, two daughters, stepson, and soon to be son-in law. They liked it and it is easy. It rounds out a meat and potatoes meal in a warm and comfortable way.

Scalloped Corn
2 cups cooked or canned corn
2/3 cup cracker crumbs
3 T melted margarine
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 T sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. minced onion
1 cup half and half or milk

Beat the eggs and add milk and cracker crumbs.
Add the corn, onion, seasoning, and melted margarine.
Mix together well and pour in a casserole dish (lightly sprayed or buttered)
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Choose to serve it with love.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe submitted by Mrs. Walter Weaver and Mrs. Henry Huber to the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).

Keep choosing,cooking and loving,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Peanut butter cookies and the Gift of Imagination

When I was about 8 years old, the Easy Bake Oven was a hot item. Not literally, as it was only fueled by a light bulb. But girls my age had them and I knew that. I wanted one. I thought it was very cool that the oven was said to "actually bake" and that it came with mixes ready for the fixing.

However, my parents being of one mind with the Rolling Stones, on at least this occasion, let me know that we can't always get what we want. But if we try, we just might find, we get what we need. What I needed as it turned out was a sturdy wooden toy stove fueled by, as you might have guessed, my imagination. My parents believed in quality and sturdiness. This stove and the matching refrigerator were fine pieces of craftsmanship that withstood many hours of creative playing. They may have survived a Kansas tornado if they had needed to. I cooked and baked just fine without the Easy Bake Oven and although there is still a spark of curiousity about those boxed brownie mixes and how long it took a light bulb to actually bake them to a palatable degree of doneness, I am thankful for the respect my parents had for the the gifts of imagination, simplicity, and good sturdy toys.

These cookies are simple and sturdy. This is the best stick together, just the right amount of crunchiness, will hold together even if dipped in milk, peanut butter cookie I have ever produced.
I baked them in a real oven this time!

As I made them, I gave thanks for the gift of imagination and the ability to really see, when life is pared to the essentials, what may have been there all the time.

1 cup shortening or margarine
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
Cream shortening and peanut butter together. Add sugar and continue to beat. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Sift flour. Measure and add salt, soda and baking powder. Sift again. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix thoroughly. Chill dough in refrigerator for several hours.
Shape dough into balls 1 inch in diameter.
Place balls 2 to 3 inches apart of greased baking sheet.
Press flat with a fork.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
Makes about 7 dozen cookies.

This recipe was submitted to the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950) by Mary Brubaker, Sarah H. Gehman, and Mrs. Joseph D. Heatwole.

Wishing you imaginative cooking experiences and strong sturdy appliances,

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spanish Cream and Stirring without Ceasing

I wanted to make Spanish Cream today. I knew that it was something my mother made because my dad liked it. My dad ate it growing up and still has a fondness for it. Again, I remembered helping my mother make it but I have never made it all by myself. It was especially delicious when Mom would use the vanilla that my brother Phil and sister-in-law Magda would bring from Honduras. Spanish cream is light, exquisite, and it goes down easily. A lot like grace, you might say, which was on my mind today while I was cooking.

I got to the part where the recipe says, "Stir constantly." I half expected a voice thundering from the heavens, sounding suspiciously like Morgan Freeman, Girl, don't you put down that spoon. There is nothing more important than this, right now. So, stir it. It's a direct instruction, like "pray constantly" or pray without ceasing". I have never felt like I quite have the hang of that. I do strive for mindfulness, prayerfulness, and gratitude but find myself fearful and anxious too often. Maybe that is why Grandma hummed or sang hymns all the time. It was how she prayed without ceasing. She liked to sing Amazing Grace. The last time I saw Grandma alive, she was in a nursing home and had not been doing well. My parents were going to be gone one day and my mom asked to "go visit Grandma." I was 17 at the time. I went to the nursing home, sat by her bed and was surprised to see how poorly she was doing. I didn't know if she knew I was there and I quickly tired of the one-sided conversation we were having so I took her hand and sang to her. I sang all the verses that I knew to Amazing Grace. And I thought then and again today as I was stirring the creamy mixture, that Grandma showed me grace. In fact, life is full of grace. Most of the time, we get second chances, we are given grace upon grace, as so many spoonfuls of Spanish Cream. Both can be surprisingly sweet and clear and breath-taking.

Spanish Cream

1 T plain gelatin

3 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Soak gelatin in cold milk for 10 minutes. Add sugar and salt and stir until it is dissolved. Heat until milk is scalded. Beat egg yolks slightly and add 1/2 cup hot milk. Stir mixture into remaining milk and cook until slightly thickened (about 4 minutes). Stir without ceasing.

Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and vanilla. Put in a bowl and chill until firm.

It is important to serve this delicacy in a lovely glass bowl. Once when we were eating off of the good china, one of my daughters asked where the china was from. "From Grandpa's family" I answered. "It is so pretty!" she said.
"My mama was poor" my Dad stated, "but she had class."

So, here's to class, grace, and Spanish Cream.


This recipe was adapted from a recipe submitted by Mary Hostetler and Erma Ernst to the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).