Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Saved family recipes bring back memoriesThe recipe box holds more than recipes.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
I was cleaning a cabinet in our family room last week when I came across my mother’s recipe box.
I opened it and pulled out a newspaper article from the late ’40s for Southern pie. The ingredients of corn syrup, brown sugar and eggs reminded me of chess or shoe-fly pies that have their origins in the South. It also called for several cups of Grape Nuts breakfast cereal. Thank goodness she never made that pie.
The box holds more than recipes. It’s about both our lives since I also contributed recipes.
My mom loved sour stuff so it was not a surprise to come across recipes for pickles that included beets, watermelon and chow chow, a relish made with corn, onions and sweet peppers that only my mother liked.
The late ’40s and ’50s were a time of great changes in American cuisine including the birth of the “hot dish,” after years of daily dinners featuring meat (or chicken), a vegetable and potatoes.
Hot dishes could be made ahead of time and included noodles or rice and undiluted canned soups. Green bean casserole was born in the ’50s.
“Jean’s hot dish,” from a friend of hers, is in mom’s box but she modified it one night and my brother, George, and sister, Connie, remember it.
The original recipe called for cubed pork and veal but mom made it with Spam.
It included onions, chopped celery, canned water chestnuts, soy sauce, cans of mushroom and chicken rice soup and chow mein noodles. Mom never told her friend about the substitution.
Also from the ’50s were a number of desserts including carrot cake and German chocolate cake that were printed in newspapers that featured daily pages of recipes.
Mom’s chocolate cherry cake recipe came from a newspaper. It called for adding a can of cherries to Devil’s food cake batter. It was topped with seven-minute cooked frosting and was so good.
All the cakes were made from scratch, not mixes. Cake mixes also debuted in the ’50s but “good wives” didn’t serve box cakes to company.
In the post-World War II years, Americans began to travel more to places such as Florida and Hawaii. That led to a fascination with the tropics. Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber restaurants featured Polynesian food and drinks served with tiny umbrellas in them.
Mom’s box reflected the times with recipes for barbecued pork, shrimp dishes and ramaki, which was made by surrounding a water chestnut with a chicken liver and putting bacon around the outside. The fat bombs were marinated in soy sauce and ginger and broiled.
I made ramaki for my parents’ guests but wouldn’t eat one with a gun to my head.
My trip down food memory lane also included finding the recipe for green goddess salad dressing, which also made its debut in the ’50s. Chopped chives and parsley made this early version of ranch dressing look green.
The recipe also called for three crushed anchovies. While I was making it for a dinner party, mom said I shouldn’t tell the guests about the anchovies.
I didn’t finish cleaning the cabinet and I’m thinking about making that chocolate cherry cake.