Remember the days when you had to shred your own cheese? Really good cooks, like my DIL, still do. I will on occasion; mostly I just try to buy fresh the day before. And in this big, wide metroplex I live in, I can think of only one grocery within 15 miles that has the beautiful, round orbs of quality mozzarella for sale. In fact, down here in the Texas land of cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses, it wasn't so long ago I quit using ground parmesan in the can--and I have friends that still do.
Today is my oldest granddaughter's birthday, and yesterday was mine. Her mother was out of town till late, so tonight I'm fixing a family meal for the five of us. I have to gear up for that: cooking for my three friends for Yahzee made all of us laugh when we took recipes for four and inevitably had at least two helpings left. But this is Matt G.'s family, with his very active, rapidly growing daughters and busy wife, and I'm hoping my one 9X13-inch pan with bread, salad, ice cream and cake will be enough. I do know this: there will be no leftovers.
I pulled out a 70s pasta recipe I really like because it can be made ahead, even frozen. It's even better if made ahead. Even in the 70s, we were using prepared sauces. Shell macaroni is called for. Although I halved the recipe. I made adjustments for current eating habits. I tripled the pasta. The ground beef, of course, is 93/7, meaning 7% fat, then simmered with mushrooms, onion, a jar of sauce and a one-pound can of tomatoes--which now has been downsized to 14.7 oz. Half the meat mixture layered over the pasta, dabbed with about 1/3 cup sour cream, topped with cheese...and that was the other really big adaption. We are used to much more cheese in the dish than in the 70s. (Then we used plain hamburger, so the fat probably came out about the same.) A second layer of each, topped with the rest of the cheese and leaves from a stem of my fresh basil bush.
I thought about changes in popular foods, snacks, flavors from generation to generation. It's sort of a hobby. I love to get really old church cookbooks and see what they have. I was delighted last spring when a friend had a Maine cookbook with a recipe that came from the back of a can of Carnation evaporated milk in the
50s. It is a really easy chocolate sauce that was yummy on ice cream. I don't know if even Carnation has the recipe now, because it certainly is not on their web site.
When I was a kid, one of the few patent medicines for a cough was Smith Bros. Cough Drops. They came in licorice and cherry. My father loved the licorice and couldn't understand why I made a face. I did like the cherry. My dad also loved horehound, a root beer flavor of candy popular in the early 1900s. Mom was with me--Mars bars and 3 Musketeers all the way.
A major dish in the 1930s was tomato aspic. Punches usually had a tea base with added fruits and juices. During rationing during World War II, an older woman told me how she was able to buy one can of tuna on the black market and made a salad for herself and three friends which they relished. The tuna, you see, was mostly sent overseas to the troops. And Spam was born.
My parents also loved picallili and chow-chow, and a lot of people still do, but at least here in Texas, not a majority. Mostly older people eat it, but overall, probably just as many of us eat pickled okra--and that I like well. Does anyone under 70 drink buttermilk by choice? (I seem to remember a Weight Watcher recipe for buttermilk, fresh fruit and artificial sweetener that was pretty good in diet times.)
Whatever happened to Polski Wyrobi dill pickles?
In the 60s and 70s, cubed bologna and cheddar was sometimes served in bars with a beer. Summer sausage was always there in the summers--I used to make big chef salads with vine-ripened tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pepperoncini peppers, summer sausage and cheddar with oil and vinegar dressing.
For some reason, the main time I see summer sausage now is around Christmas. It's all beef, but I've found a meat plant that packages venison for hunters and makes their own sausages from the trimmings. Venison summer sausage makes beef sort of pale into the far distance. Last winter, I gave packages of the sausage, rat cheese and high quality crackers to several men I care about...family and some friends.
I had never eaten a casserole as a child, though I had eaten many a pan of enchiladas and bowls of pinto beans. Campbell triumphed when they marketed their soups as thickeners for nutritious, easy, cheap family meals, beginning with the news-awarding green bean casserole.
There was a cookie--a scalloped edged shortbread round cookie, with orange icing drizzled with chocolate stripes. They just disappeared one year. Then there was the wave of lemon desserts. Green apple candies. This summer, almost every recipe I've seen from salads--especially spinach--to deserts, to sauces for chicken, includes strawberries.
A cross-generational conversation got me started. My youngest granddaughter asked me, "Gramma, do you like gummi bears?" I admitted I didn't because I didn't like the texture. She asked me, "What were the things you used to eat that we don't have any more?"
And this blog is the partial result of that.
I know how much I enjoyed the conversations with my grandparents, and their part of my rearing. They connected me to history through their own lives. I think ideally, three generations, at least, should rear the children. As I hear about more and more families like mine living next door, in the same homes, on the same propety with each other, I am aware that many Americans, from many, many cultures, do that.
My grandchildren keep me updated on the latest food fads in their generation. Sometimes, I feed them some of mine. We get to know each other better. And I believe fervently that eating together is an important part of family. Through food, there is communion. Add to the word and you get communication.
I'm all for that.