I received a large hefty envelope in the mail recently from my sister-in-law, Julie, in Ohio. Inside was photocopy of the cookbook from Our Lady of the Incarnation Church in North Adams that I had lost in our house fire almost five years ago.
I had asked everyone in the area -- literally through my column -- and asked every family member (or so I thought) if they had a copy. A cousin and his wife happened to mention it to her on a visit last fall and guess what she had!
I am thrilled to have it again. The names in it are dear and familiar, and I’m not just talking about members of my husband Guy’s family -- his mom, Corinne Button; his maternal aunt, Laurette Genest, known to all as Bebette; and his paternal aunt, Edythe Teichert, who everyone in the family called Ede or CeCe.
When I first dated Guy I thought he came from a huge family, and in comparison to mine, it was. But what added to my confusion was all the nicknames everyone had. For example, his brother, Michael, was called Putta and Beda, so I thought he had three brothers; his cousin, Bill, was also called Bidgie, but I thought they were two separate cousins; another cousin was named after her aunt, Laurette, but was known as Suzie; his great-aunt, Anna, was known in the family as Aunt Uttye; his aunt, Eleanor, was called Ninore and her husband, Cyril, was called Sonny. It took me quite awhile to get everyone sorted out.
After we met on a blind date, Guy went home and told his mother he had met the woman he was going to marry. When I met Corrine for the first time, it was an instant bond. She was about 4 feet 10 inches tall (although, she told everyone she was a full 5 feet) and, with me being 5 feet, 9 inches, the top of her head came to between my elbow and shoulder. I could, and did, rest my arm on her shoulder like it was a counter. I was the one who gave her the nickname Short Stuff. She had curly gray hair and rosy cheeks. She was a loving and caring woman, who never said a bad thing about anyone.
She had a small swivel rocking char in a little nook off the kitchen and that was her throne, where she read her beloved books and her "trash" newspapers, "Star" and "The National Inquirer," usually with a cat in her lap.
She loved cats and at one time had four Siamese cats -- Ching, Chang, Chung and Irving. I have no idea where "Irving" came from -- but in a family where everyone had two names, it didn’t surprise me. When I was dating Guy, she had only two -- a Siamese, Lady Cat, who liked to jump off the top of the bathroom door onto my shoulder when I was entering the bathroom, scaring the heck out of me the first time, and Choo-Choo, a 25-pound Siamese/gray tiger mix who followed Corinne like a dog.
Corinne would often go to tag sales with her daughter, GiGi, and me. While she looked at everything up for grabs, she gravitated toward the books and serving bowls. The woman had more serving bowls than she would ever need. When she ran out of storage space -- or her husband raised the roof about them -- I often became the recipient of her overflow.
Her aunt, Anna or Uttye, was 100 years old when I entered the family. As a matter of fact, she had taken care of my dad when he was a small child and she was a young bride in Stamford. On one springtime visit to visit Aunt Anna, Corinne talked me into going into the fields surrounding the old farmhouse and picking a huge metal bucket of dandelion heads.
There was a motive to her madness -- she made a batch of wine that was unbelievable. It sat in a large stoneware crock on her kitchen counter for weeks. I used to reach in and pick out pieces of the oranges that were fermenting with the dandelion heads. More than two and I would get a slight buzz. I wish I had her recipe, but she was noted for not writing them down.
I lost my mother-in-law in 1992 from complications after coronary bypass surgery. I still miss her and can’t wait to retry the recipes from the church cookbook. So, without further ado, I bring you Š.
Corinne Button’s Pork Chop Creole
6 pork chops, 1/2-inch thick
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce
1 soup can water
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 green pepper, chopped
3/4 cup minced onion
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dredge pork chops with flour and brown them in hot cooking oil. Place chops in baking dish. Combine soup, sauce, water, celery, peppers, onions, salt and paprika and heat. Pour mixture around chops and bake covered 1 1/4 hours. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes more.
2 tablespoons melted shortening or cooking oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, lighted dredged in floured
Beat together the melted shortening or oil, sugar, egg and milk. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Combine mixtures and add floured blueberries. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.