Monday, April 16, 2012


We work hard during the busy months of March, April and May: old fashioned physical grunt labor for at least ten hours a day.  Not only do we pick up and set down, push, pull, lift, reach up, and kneel down, but we burn calories.  Lots of 'em.  And drop pounds.  

But I don't know how many hanging baskets I'd have to haul to compensate for the noon meal we ate this Sunday.  It was throwback day on the dinner table. We could have been a part of the congregation in Lyle Lovett's Church: 
To the Lord let praises be, its time for dinner, 
Now let's go eat.
We've got some beans and some good cornbread.

Yup, we've got some beans:  Ann has brought green bean casserole, you betcha, with cream of mushroom soup and lotsa those French's crispy crunchy fried onions on top.  Baked in the oven, too, so the earthenware pot sports a halo of that ineradicable brown rime that over time melds to the crockery. It will require a scrubby made of sterner clean that pot.

Lee is already up to her elbows in dish soap when I come in.  Another sign of a serious meal:  the type that fills more than one sink with prep dishes and skillets.  A throw away aluminum pan holds remnants of flour and seasonings; the air is redolent of fried food.  A platter is heaped high with crusty hunks of chicken fried round steak.  'Mom, I'm not happy with my gravy', she says over her shoulder,' I think its too thin.'  This comment makes me smile.  I've probably made gravy from scratch less than a dozen times in my whole life, so I'm hardly the final authority of gravy consistency.  Like the guy who stayed in the Holiday Inn last night, I have, however, listened to a real maestro complain about her lumpy gravy for nigh on thirty years though.  Millie's gravy may not win appearance awards, but I can attest to its flavor and the fact it will improve any roast, turkey, potato, or dressing it covers.  So I did what I always do to any white sauce: I turned up the heat and whisked the daylights out of it.  It was lovely and creamy by serving time, but this time I left the indelible ring of baked on flour around the top of the Calphalon.

'Stay back and watch out for Josh,' and the steam pours out of the oven door as the hissing baked potatoes are piled in a bowl.  The food pyramid is complete; starchy potatoes, saucy beans, and chicken fried beef.  Old fashioned farm food, created with the ingredients at hand, seasoned with simple salt and pepper, not artful, but satisfying.  Throwback food for folks with wet feet, bee stings, and cuts in all stages of healing on their hands.

We can't eat like that all the time.  But the kitchen today smelled like my Granny's kitchen on our weekend visits.  I don't remember much about the meat we ate at my grandparent's, other than a particularly memorable meal of rabbit, or maybe squirrel, when we bit down carefully and spit the buckshot into our palms as we chewed.  But I have a recipe card for Granny's Fried Chicken in my box, with the notation, 'Written by your Grandpa July 1977' from my wedding shower, along with her advice for a happy marriage...'Keep your sense of humor'.  There are worse tools to take into a new marriage than your granny's fried chicken and an ability to laugh when it isn't edible the first time you try it!!

What accounts for the nostalgia associated with these old fashioned recipes?  They certainly don't conform to the current popularity of raw, fresh, or green.  They make a tremendous mess; (Lee says pounding the round steak left raw meat morsels on her teapot, her back splash, you name it.), in both prep and cooking.  They are cheap; flour, oil, seasoning, and an inexpensive cut of meat; potatoes and cans of veggies that can be purchased every other week or so at loss leader pricing.  And they are made to feed the proverbial five thousand, easily expanding to satisfy more appetites than there are chairs.  

Wait!  Perhaps that's the appeal.  After all, gourmet menus with expensive ingredients are purchased for a romantic table for two, not a kitchen full of hungry men, distracted women, and children in varying states of near starvation.  An old fashioned casserole feeds at least a baker's dozen and who cares if we bake the whole bag of potatoes and there's one or two left over?  Its entertaining to see if Lucy can catch a cold potato on the fly!  Maybe we love big messy meals because we love eating with our big messy family.  Many days, we eat out of coolers; we grab slabs of grease at Casey's or fried fish at Torrey Pines; we subsist on bologna, peanut butter, and diet Dew.  Many meals we don't even remember what we ate.  But we celebrate our country roots when we cook in a haze of steam and grease; we pay homage to our forebears in spirit and truth when we fry.


  1. I love this celebration of the simple (although sometimes messy food). Thank you for linking up to the Country Fair Blog Party. I always enjoy your posts.

    1. You get an early start on your reading!! Thank you...