Maggy Button: Tips from mom for the kitchen


A friend recently emailed me a list of "Things your mother should have told you." My mom told me many things when I was growing up, including: My face would "one day freeze like that" when I was making a face at her or something I didn’t like at the moment; I should always wear clean, unripped underwear "in case you get into an accident" and I should "come in when the street lights come on." I also remember being told to stand up straight and keep my knees together when wearing a dress.

Below is the list with my comments in paratheses:

n Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips. (That’s never been a problem -- I don’t like sugar cones and the ice cream is never around long enough to melt!)

n Use a meat baster to "squeeze" your pancake batter onto the hot griddle and you’ll get perfectly shaped pancakes every time. (I tried this once -- how big was the hole on the turkey baster this person used and how runny was the pancake batter?)

n To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes. (Tried this one, too. No buds, but the apple rotted and took the potatoes down with it. Took me a week to get rid of the stench from the rotten potatoes.)

n To prevent eggshells from cracking, add a pinch of salt to the water before hard-boiling. (Oh, I guess Mom did tell me about this one ... I have had a few crack, even when using salt.)

n To get the most juice out of fresh lemons, bring them to room temperature and roll them under your palm against the kitchen counter before squeezing. (Ah-ha! This tip I use, but Mom didn’t tell me about it. I think it’s a trick Rachael Ray uses. You can also microwave the lemon for a few seconds and then roll it.)

n Spray your Tupperware with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato-based sauces and there won’t be any stains. (Now they tell me! I think every plastic food container I own is stained with spaghetti sauce. They’re also a little warped from going into the microwave.)

n When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and there won’t be any white mess on outside of the cake. (This one makes sense, until I realized the only time I pop a cake out a baking pan is when I’m going to frost the top and sides -- in which case the white mess will be covered.)

n If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it’s still cooking, drop in a peeled potato and it will absorb the excess salt for an instant "fix me up." (A friends’s mother also used to counteract the extra salt by adding some sugar to the pot.)

n Place a slice of apple in hardened brown sugar to soften it. (Again, the apple rotted Š)

n When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn’s natural sweetness. (I have a few friends who do this and they swear by the method. I’ve gotten into microwaving the ears of corn instead of boiling them.)

n Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away. (Being the victim of migraines, I gave this one a try Š half didn’t work and neither did a whole lime. Where was the tequila and salt when I needed it?)

n Don’t throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces. (People have leftover wine? Personally, I’ve never had that problem.)

n If you have a problem opening jars: Try using latex dishwashing gloves. They give a non-slip grip that makes opening jars easy. (Or you ask your big brawny son to open it for you -- or smack the bottom of the jar with the palm of your hand, works almost every time.)

n Ants, ants, ants everywhere Š Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. See for yourself. (Thank goodness I’ve never had chance to try this one!)

n Now look what you can do with Alka Seltzer:

Clean a toilet. Drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets, wait 20 minutes, brush and flush.

Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka-Seltzer tablets.

Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka-Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.

Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka-Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).

Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka-Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a cup of white vinegar. Wait a few minutes, then run the hot water.

(Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!)


Erik Thomas of North Adams approached me recently to ask if I was related to any Buttons in North Adams. Many people assume my husband had been related to the architect who designed the brick houses on Route 2 near the Williamstown line. So I was surprised when Erik asked if I was related to Hazel Button, who was my husband’s great-aunt.

Erik told me his family had a recipe for banana bread that was out of this world, signed "Hazel Button, 1953." Neither one of us has a clue how his family got it, or what their connection with Hazel Button was -- and she was long gone by the time I became a Button.

He gave me the recipe and was right -- it is an awesome banana bread!

Hazel Button’s Banana Bread

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour milk*

1 cup mashed bananas

1/2 cup chopped nuts

3 tablespoons shortening or oil

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

Beat sugar, shortening and egg together. Mix in all other ingredients and put all in a sponge cake ring or loaf pan. Bake at 350 defrees for 55 to 60 minutes.

* To make sour milk add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk and let sit for 5 minutes.

To reach Margaret Button, email or call (413) 496-6298.


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