Brrrrr! It's cold outside. Christmas is over. I am ready for spring. I have never liked cold weather. Growing up, Mother would send my brothers and me outside to get us out of her hair. Each of them had on a jacket, toboggan, boots and gloves. I was shrouded in a sweater, “ski pants,” heavy coat, toboggan, big scarf, boots and mittens. That made me the last one out the door.
When a cold west wind is swirling snow around the yard, I think of "Chicken Soup". You may think of skiing at Gatlinburg; I think of soup. There is no way I am leaving the house unless it's going to church or I need groceries. If it can wait, I'll get my groceries after church. I'll open the door only to feed the birds. Anne will drive down to the mailbox to get the mail rather than walk. That is more than I will do on a cold snowy day; but I will make soup. I have lots of soup recipes. Some take a while to make. Some are quick.
Ok, so this doesn't look like my dad. If I hadn't said that, you might have thought my dad had a full beard and was portly, as they said back in the day. He really was skinny as a rail. Dad passed away on Armistice Day, what we now call Veteran's Day, November 11, in 1951. Armistice Day was to commemorate the signing of the end of World War 1. When I was growing up, that was a very important day in our house. After all, Dad was a veteran.
I have a recipe for Mincemeat Fruitcake. There was a time when the amount of spices in your mincemeat showed off how much you could afford. Not me. I buy the cheaper store brand. There is no meat in mine either, just green tomatoes. The Puritans would have liked mine. It is booze-less. I am always looking for a way to save money. Meat and candied fruit are expensive. Green tomatoes aren't.
What is the easiest and cheapest nut to gather? Walnuts, of course! When my kids were in grade school, I would drive along country roads looking for walnut trees that had dropped their nuts. I figured if the nuts fell between the farmer's fence and the roadway, they were fair game. Most of the time I was right. Other times, with the farmer screaming and running after us, I hurriedly loaded my kids in the truck and sped off.
I met David and Mary Nevin when I became involved in the Union County United Way a number of years ago. David taught school here for several years. They have since moved into Knoxville. I think about them often but seldom hear from them anymore. Our paths don't cross like they used to do. Doesn't that happen with a lot of people we know? Time marches on.
There are pears and there are pears. By that I mean some are more desirable than others. There are winter pears, Kieffer is the one that comes to mind. They are small and hard as a rock. They are called winter pears for a reason. You must wait until after New Years to eat them.. only then will they be softened, but they are still small. By the time you peel them, there is not much left. I never could understand why anyone would want to grow winter pears. I guess there was a time in the dead of winter, when fresh fruit would be a luxury.
It's Fair time. I take my appetite to the Fair. There are many exotic foods to sample that aren't available other times of the year. Corn dogs with a squiggly line of mustard are my favorite. I can fix them at home, but Fair time is Corn Dog time in my mind. Elephant ears are good, too. The list goes on and on, but my Corn Dog recipe is where I'm heading today.
Chow Chow is delicious. I wondered where that name came from. Taking a jar in hand, I looked at it straight on. Why is it called Chow Chow? Curiosity got the best of me. I checked it out online. I am now more confused than ever. Consider these possibilities:
1. There are "Northern" and "Southern" varieties. Mine is Southern.
2. Some say it came South with the Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia.
3. Others cite a connection with the Chinese rail workers in the 1800's.
4. A chutney from India is made from chayote, hence "chow chow".
I have never heard anyone say, "Tea is tea." Green tea, black tea and exotic tea blends line the shelves at Food City. Why am I talking about tea? First of all, it's hot outside and I want a tall glass of iced tea. Then, too, my taste in tea has changed over the years. My favorite now is sweet tea. You can buy it in a gallon jug. Even the fast food places brew their own sweetened iced tea.
There was a time when green tea was king in our house. Mother would buy a one pound bag of green tea siftings. It wouldn't last long. Mother knew how to brew good tea. She would scald the tea pot with hot water, add the right amount of loose tea leaves and fill with scalding hot water. After it steeped a few minutes, Mother poured out a cup for Dad, first of all, and then for my two brothers and me. Finally she poured a cup for herself. That was the order for everything served at our table. I will talk about that another time.
I like greens. especially in the spring. After a winter of potatoes, carrots and such, I am ready for a change. Of course, the first greens to be had are dandelion greens. I remember looking for dandelions in the tall grass along sides of the fields on our farm. They were the best. There was no road salt on them from the winter. They grew tall competing for sunlight with the grass. Armed with a sharp knife and a half bushel basket, I would cut a basket full. Then back to the house to clean and rinse and cook and eat.
I like fresh sweet corn. I remember eating sweet corn in the summertime back when my kids were in grade school. There would be a big kettle of salted water boiling on the stove. The ears would be dumped in and the water brought to a boil again. Taken out and piled on a platter, it was ready to eat. We had fun eating corn. Remember the old manual typewriters? My kids and I would play "typewriter" and chomp our way across a row of kernels. No, we didn't go "ding!" at the end of the row. Now, that was good eating.
My dad was of the old school. His home was his castle and he was in charge! My, how times have changed. Nowadays, mom works, too. The family doesn't gather around the supper table anymore. Every member of the family has his own agenda. When I think about the old days, I'm talking about the thirties and the forties. One thing, especially, comes to mind: "Fried Eggs on Toast." That was my dad's breakfast from as long as I can remember. Oh, there might be pancakes, French toast or whatever, but "Fried Eggs on Toast" was a given.