Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: Retro dishes bring back memories
When I was a child, back in the dark ages of the 1960s, we ate supper together as a family, every night promptly at 5:30 p.m. My dad got out of work at 5 p.m. and we all sat down to supper 30 minutes later.
Eagle food columnist Robin Anish, last week, wrote about Salisbury steak — a staple for our generation back in the day — and she and I emailed back and forth about other dishes our moms were noted for serving including Welsh rarebit, a rich cheese sauce served over toast.
My mom lived through the Depression, when everything was scarce, and World War II, when many foods were rationed. Between the two life-changing events — and the fact she was a housewife and we relied solely on Dad's pay — no food was wasted. I remember her leftover nights, one night a week when all the dibs and dabs of food left from previous suppers were back on the table.
She served thrifty, dollar-stretching meals. Which, dear readers, I will describe, but never subject anyone to by printing the recipes. One treat (?) was tuna loaf, a meatloaf-like concoction made with canned tuna ... and just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, she switched the canned tuna for canned salmon. And, oh yeah, the tuna or salmon mixture could also be shaped into patties and fried.
Saturday nights were home-baked beans and hot dog night. Every. Single. Saturday. As far as baked beans go, Mom's were probably fantastic, but I didn't like baked beans to begin with and after eating them for so many years (it was either that or go hungry), I will never eat them again.
Jell-O was a food group of its own back then and Mom would serve a square of veggie-laden orange, cherry or lime Jell-O atop a few lettuce leaves as a side salad. I don't eat Jell-O in any shape or form today, especially a "mold" as it was called.
There were many, many good meals that still remind me of Mom and the smell of supper cooking as I did my homework — the aforementioned Welsh rarebit, stuffed peppers, her meatloaf (served with mashed potatoes and peas), beef stew with homemade dumplings, creamed chipped beef, American chop suey (which I called "slop" — much to her dismay — for the way it sounded being stirred in the pan) and pork chops baked in cream of mushroom soup that turned into a rich sauce.
After my mom died, I found a small handwritten notebook, filled with her favorite recipes that she thought I should have. On the back fly page, was a recipe for New England brown bread with a note: "During the depression of the 1930s, we [apparently my grandmother, mom and aunt] made and sold this bread every Saturday with homemade beans." She'd never mentioned it to me, and I have no other details.
New England brown bread
1 cup bran
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup sour milk (add 1 teaspoon vinegar to milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Combine bran, raisins and milk, and let soak for a while. Mix together sugar, molasses, flour, baking soda and salt, and add to bran mixture. Steam 1 1/2 hours in a well-greased 1-pound coffee can. Tie a piece of greased aluminum foil on top of can.
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