I am, by no means, an expert when it comes to cooking. Most of what I’ve learned through the years came from my mother, mother-in-law and friends. I’ve picked up their techniques, their recipes and their wisdom. Some of my other knowledge came from trial-and-error — and trust me, there have been many, many errors through the years.
I never realized how many people look to me for new recipes, advice or seek to add their own thoughts to a column until I began working a second job at a local supermarket. Where once I was a phone call or email away, I was now up-front-and-center and accessible in the ideal place for all things food. I have had customers ask me how to cook certain cuts of meat or how I would use them (don’t ask me about lamb — I don’t like it and have never cooked it!). Sometimes, they tell me they have tried one of my recipes and, a few times, have pointed out the ingredients in their order they are buying to try my latest. And, yes, they’ve also told me about their failed attempts to make the dish or suggested ways to make my recipe better.
Sometimes, I can guess what the person plans to make, like the woman who was buying a large beef roast, vinegar and gingersnaps last week. I knew she was making sauerbraten — and my German ancestry had my mouth watering at the thought.
There are also times when a person will ask me if I have a specific recipe. One time it was for quiche Lorraine, another for fettuccine Alfredo. A man asked me a few months ago if I had the Indian Pudding recipe from the former Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain. (Recently, The New York Times began calling this dish Puritan Pudding, after the Puritans who made it and a more fitting name. The pudding took its name from the Indian corn — properly known as Flint corn — that the cornmeal in it was made from. We're choosing to rename it too.) I have the HoJo’s pecan pie recipe — my late husband had worked there as a teen and got it from a former chef/cook — but not the pudding recipe. I hadn’t even realized it was a popular dessert at the local eatery.
I contacted the former chef/cook, who laughed when I told him I was looking for the pudding recipe. “We didn’t make it,” he said, “it was canned.” Oh …
This weekend, while looking for another recipe, I found a recipe for it in one of the many “community” recipe books I love — those printed by a church, fraternal organization or business featuring the contributors’ favorite or best recipes. This recipe came from Dorothy Sessions and was printed in the Heath Fair Cookbook, published by the Heath Agricultural Society in 1983.
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 quart milk
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/4 teaspoon ginger
Small piece of butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup raisins
Scald all but 1/2 cup milk. Mix the cornmeal, eggs, molasses, ginger, salt, butter and raisins. Mix with the milk and cook until thick. Pour into a baking dish and bake slowly for 30 minutes at 350 F. Pour the rest of the milk on top and bake for 30 minutes longer.