Food


29 Jul 2011 09:17 pm

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Life before fast food was slower.
 
It sure was a much more meandering pace for our family. For the readers who were not born during the fifties: there were no microwaves, but there were stoves and ovens and ice boxes (refrigerators). Although many women did go to work during and after World War ll, most women were still at home raising children during the early fifties.

  1. They were cooking. Cleaning. Reading cookbooks. Cracking eggs. Chasing their kids around the house outside with a switch when they didn’t behave themselves. (hmm umm)

The food may have even tasted better.
 
I remember taking my own good time at the supper table. I liked to linger and count the peas left on my plate. Make faces at my little sister. The food was pretty simple back then but it was fixed by my Mother who just happened to be one of the best cooks in the world.

Anyway, I thought so. My mother graduated from high school and married my Dad several weeks later. When I came along she was already an accomplished cook because, as she told me, she made straight ‘A’s in Home Economics.

Mother could cook anything without measuring cups or spoons but she always had her high school home economics text book on the kitchen counter which helped her to prepare wholesome, healthy meals. I always liked books even before I could read and I remember poring over the menu section. Mother never cooked duck that I can remember but I used to wonder what it tasted like. In the cookbook were menu suggestions for everyday of the week and for holidays.

I remember one menu for a January dinner:

Avocado Cocktail salad, Duck with Sauerkraut, carrot and celery souffle and Hot Mince Pie with Rum Sauce for dessert.

The only way we ate saurekraut at our house was with weiners. It wasn’t one of my favorite dishes. Being a Baptist family, household rum wasn’t consumed but I often wondered how Mince Meat Pie tasted with Rum sauce. That sounded yummy to me.

Anyway, there were, of course, grocery stores in the fifties. I remember going with my Mother a few times when I was really little but she usually managed to do that chore without us. We had chickens and ducks when we were young and I recall gathering eggs and bringing them in to the kitchen. We had a milkman who would deliver milk in glass bottles. I used to watch in a mixture of horror and awe as my mother cut up a chicken. To this day I cannot do it. I just don’t have the pioneer spirit I suppose.

We were of English/Scotch/Irish stock and when it came to the partaking of meals, we called them: breakfast, dinner and supper. No one had lunch. That was for people who lived in Missouri.

My Dad was a finicky eater so when my Mother strayed from the meat and potatoes route she received scant appreciation. She used her creative passions (and she had a lot of them) on her desserts. Mother made the best date candy, pumpkin, and apple pies, cobblers and cakes.

When the cupboard was bare Mother still managed to whip up magic with the use of a little white cornmeal, sugar, milk and hot water. I was fascinated by an old cookbook Mother inherited from her New England grandfather. I spent many hours thumbing through the cookbook to find exotic receipts such as Turtle Soup and Johnnycakes. Yes, my Mother made the Johnnycakes from the recipes she found in Grandfather Whitmarsh’s cookbook. So, it’s true, a little bit of Yankee cooking was handed down through the family.

We didn’t drink soft drinks or eat potato chips. Mother taught us that vegetables and fruit should reflect the color wheel during our daily meals. She enforced the drinking of milk unfortunately. I always hated milk. The first thing I did when I went away to college was  stop drinking it.

Food was cooked from scratch.
 
There were no mixes, no MSG, no shortcuts in our family’s larder. According to some food writers and experts the time after World War ll brought many modern conveniences to fifties housewives with processed foods such as Cheeze Whiz and frozen products. They tended to be too pricey and lacked nutritional value for my Mother’s uses. Sometimes I would find myself sitting on the front porch swing shucking corn or snapping green beans.

My favorite meal was a dish my Mother called, Arkansas Pie, which was yellow cornbread covered with butter beans, and topped with a slice of onion and a dollop of ketchup.

Along with the Arkansas Pie we had fresh cooked green beans, fried ham, and coleslaw. There were usually tomatoes from the garden. Daddy was a frustrated farmer who always had something growing: kale, asparagus, corn or tomatoes.

Sometimes on the weekends, Mother would make banana pudding which she always served with meringue topping.

  • No, none of us had weight problems. We weren’t couch potatoes, there was no such term back in the fifties. We were active, busy kids, spending most of our time outside.

Oh, but the fifties pressure cooker. It was a big, aluminum pot that scared me something awful when Mother had it going. It hissed and splattered and seemed to always be on the edge of exploding. But Mother operated it like a cool scientist who understood her science. She used the cooker often to cook chicken and other meats. When she finished preparing the chicken the dumplings she made after wards were worth the terror the pressure cooker caused. Mother wouldn’t allow us in the kitchen when the pressure cooker was at work.

It never did blow up on us, although it did explode many times in my imagination.

Another delicious dish Mother made in the pressure cooker was her beef and vegetable stew. Mother put pretty tough slices of beef in the cooker, along with tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, celery and other vegetables and within twenty minutes or so, have a great stew. The meat was tender and tasty and most of us were right on time when called to the table for supper.

Leftover roast beef was made into a special treat by the use of a hand-crank meat grinder that clamped onto the side of a counter. Feeding the ingredients into the little mechanical miracle was some kind of thrill for me and I was always up for helping my mother make the roast beef salad. She added chopped pickles, salt and pepper and mayonnaise. We served it up on Wonder Bread and it was delicious. My siblings liked to have a side of cottage cheese with the roast beef salad sandwich but it made me gag. The sandwich alone was good enough for me.

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Fishing at Silver Bridge

My grandparents were fishermen so we went fishing a lot when we were young. The family’s favorite destination was a place up in the Boston Mountains called Silver Bridge. Most of the fish fries occurred at our grandparents’ house, but I got the feeling my Mother didn’t much care for cooking fish. Still, she made great Salmon croquettes. The salmon fillets came from a can but she managed to make it taste like something special by adding green onions, an egg, bread crumbs (or crackers) and frying it in some vegetable oil.

We were never allowed to eat much popcorn or peanut butter because our family doctor advised against it. He suspected that popcorn and peanut butter might cause appendicitis. Anyway, that’s what Mother told us. After I grew up I made up for that deprivation. I love popcorn.

When t.v. dinners came along they were too expensive for my parents’ budget and my Mother wasn’t convinced that they were nutritious. I remember wanting to try the Mexican t.v. dinners once for my birthday so Mother made an exception for that. There was a little Mexican Tamale place downtown and occasionally our Grandfather would pick up some tamales and bring them over to us. The t.v. dinners didn’t compare to the downtown tamales so I never asked for Mexican t.v. dinners for my birthday again.

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In the fifties people didn’t go out to dinner that often. Sometimes when Mother took us downtown to see our grandparents at their dry-cleaning shop, The Rightway Cleaners, on Garrison Avenue we were treated to dinner at Woolworth’s counter. My sister and I loved their mashed potatoes and brown gravy and rolls, which is what we always ordered.

  • My Mother and Grandmother could always be counted on to go down the block to The Wide Awake Cafe to get a cup of coffee. I hated milk but loved the cream that was served with the coffee and my Grandmother always shared her cream with me. I also loved the red headed waitress who always served us. That was my Aunt Jeanine.

The Fun Guy in the Kitchen
 

  • My Dad never ventured into the kitchen unless our Mother was really sick and the only foods he knew how to make were fried potatoes and pancakes. He’d open up a can of pork and beans and serve it along with the fried potatoes and his children thought he was some kind of cool chef from outer space. He made his pancakes in the shape of animals.

Lucy and the Liver

  • When my Mother fixed liver for supper my sister, Lucy hightailed it over the little foot bridge to our neighbor, Ellen’s house and hid in her room. She couldn’t stand the smell of liver. My Mother would send us out looking for her. We knew where she was but would take our time looking for her because we knew there would be the usual scene at the table. Lucy was really clumsy and spilled her milk at almost every meal. She didn’t do it on purpose either.

Unlike my sister, I liked my Mother’s Liver and Onions. In fact, it had something to do with my romance with my future husband. One of the first times Bob came over to our house my Mother was making Liver and Onions for dinner. I was sort of embarrassed about the humble food she was preparing but Bob’s eyes lit up and he invited himself to eat. Mother had fixed mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade biscuits, the liver and onions, peas, etc. Bob was smitten.

He sat down in the onlooker’s chair. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Onlooker’s Chair
 

  • The Onlooker’s chair was just an extra chair at the dinner table that a neighbor or friend who dropped by unexpectedly was invited to sit down in to have a meal with us. It became the “onlooker’s chair” one day when our friend,Tommy came over.  When we invited him to eat supper with us, he said,”no, I already ate, I’ll just look.”
15 Feb 2009 05:49 pm

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Yesterday’s celebration of Valentines Day was sweet and savory for the females in our family. It was a sweet day to throw a shower for my daughter-in-law who is expecting our first granddaughter in early March. They say that it’s proper to give showers for first time mothers only but this second time mother is expecting her first daughter this time. Little girls can’t wear their big brothers’ hand-me-downs. (even in these supposedly gloomy times)

My sister, Lucy, daughter, Kate and I love to talk about all-things-party: color, theme, feeling, design, menu, and budget, so as we mulled over our plans for the shower I looked into some of my albums to find my collection of antique Valentines. These Valentines tend to be less pink and more red, violet and vibrant in their presentations. None of my children or grandchildren or my childrens’ spouses are pastels in any sense of the word, all are rich and vivid, colors as individuals. Lucy, Kate and I all agreed there would be little pink in this Valentine Baby Shower.

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The Valentine Baby Shower would have as it’s basic theme, antique Valentines.

The most romantic of all poems makes little use of the word, pink. I would never suggest that the color be banned, perhaps just lessened. We used just a little of the pink in some of the napkins and fluffy paper to soften the edges. I had fun going shopping at The Now and Then Shoppe where I found the beautiful red and white vase and at Target where I found the heart trees. I would say that I’ve done my share in helping to boost the economy in our local area.

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My sister, my oldest daughter and I took on the happy task of putting the party together. Lucy helped Kate arrange the flowers and the two together went out early in the morning to find the best and tastiest selections for the table. The cake was an Italian Creme purchased from Sacred Grounds, a fun little coffee shop-Italian deli located in downtown Fort Smith. The punch was made of cranberry juice and ginger ale. We had creme puffs, fresh strawberries with chocolate dipping sauce, almond flavored heart shaped cookies and for the savory: two kinds of crostinis: artichoke and chicken fajita, mozzarella puffs with Marinara sauce, and little parmesan cheese straws.

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The light’s fantastic, as Sissy Willis would say.

We sat together later, after the guests had departed and watched the baby having hiccups in Joni’s tummy. We examined the pretty little baby girl outfits that were given as gifts and we watched as the light of the day grew gradually more dim, and we savored the memories the day had given.

The days before a new female Donoho emerges into the world are full of anticipation, for her world will be a very different place than the one her grandmother entered fifty some years ago and even the one her own mother was born into twenty some years ago. This baby girl’s world will be starkly different but our hopes for her are not unlike those our own ancestors cherished for us. I hope our little granddaughter will have dark black hair and a milk white complexion like her mother and will be an honest and trustworthy individual like her father.

I hope she will grow up in a country that still values freedom and love of family and God. I hope she will come to know her Creator at an early age and she will make Him her best friend and guide.

Most of all, I hope she will be born healthy and that the birth will be a safe event for both mother and baby. That we are already celebrating before her birth should in someway tell her how we are anticipating her arrival and how welcome she will be in our lives and in our family.

26 Nov 2008 06:25 pm

Taking a break from cleaning the house before the return of the Charlotte and her Thanksgiving guest, a fellow law school student who is a fascinating young woman, born in Paris on Bastille Day, the very day a year after her older brother had been born in Lebanon in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

The first birth was premature, brought on by the terror of the bombs in Lebanon, the second birth was also premature, brought on by the noise of the fireworks in Paris. The Christian Lebanese family eventually were able to move to the United States where they brought their children up in Alabama.

Anyway, the shopping is done, the cleaning is ongoing and I need a break.

Checking out the non-Turkey news I find this Instapundit link to Ed Driscoll who has a New Silicon Graffiti Video about anger in politics. I like the name “A Bee in the Mouth!”

Ouch!

Ed interviews Peter Wood, writer of the book, “A Bee in the Mouth!”, (hence the name of the video) and gives me a new book to add to my Christmas wish list. Peter examines the anger in politics which has been growing in the past four generations.

I plead guilty to being extremely angry at my fellow Americans when they bought what Bill Clinton was selling. I was appalled, shocked, saddened and yes, angry. But I didn’t take to the road with ugly bumper stickers on my car, nor did I join an outfit like Moveon.org which was started up after the impeachment of Clinton. I did use what opportunities I had as a citizen and wrote one letter to the editor of a newspaper during the 1996 Presidential election arguing against the reelection of Clinton but that was before the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Clinton had done enough in my book to be sent home to Arkansas but the American people didn’t see it my way. Did I experience some bitter moments after that? Yes indeedy. But I still didn’t become a hater because I wasn’t raised that way.

Ed Driscoll linked to this review of Peter Wood’s book by Stanley Kurtz that is very illuminating and has more indepth thoughts that capture what I have been thinking lately.

Peter Wood’s book is about political anger in America but not specifically in the past election and reading Stanley Kurtz’ thought’s about Wood’s book set me off on an inferential jaunt.

I’ve been thinking about why the American people have turned against the Republicans in this election year. It wasn’t a mandate for Obama because in some states in the South, McCain won over Obama with larger percentages than President Bush beat Kerry.

The South is still very traditional but the midwest and Northeast is just about gone in that respect. Midwesterners and the Northeast might be able to take tough winters but they don’t like mean talk. After all these years of polarizing political speech, they’ve had it with politics. Whoever yelled the loudest got their attention.

The Democrats have been yelling loudest with the help of the media. They got the attention. The message was repeated over and over. The Bush Derangement Syndrome of the extreme left of the Democrat Party went mainstream. People who one would think would have been resistant to such delusions bought into that message because there really wasn’t any pushback from the White House or Bush surrogates or heaven forbid, any Republicans in Congress.

The angry message stuck. The American people bought it. Obama arrived and did his Humphrey Bogart-best. The American people bought it. The media whispered that John McCain seemed angry. The American people bought that.

Ronald Reagan was never the angry type. President Bush, God Bless Him has never been the angry type. Barack Obama seems more angry than both of these men in reality but reality matters no more.

Everything is perception which is why the Peggy Noonans of the world are working hard to make Sarah Palin unelectable. She is not an angry person, just extremely successful as a governor.

Gotta go make a pie.

I’m back from the kitchen. My husband has been watching movies in the computer room while I was blogging so I was unaware of the terror attacks in India today. Horrible.

Oh yeah, I probably won’t get back here for a while, so Happy Thanksgiving. May God comfort all the civilians and the families of those killed and injured in the terror attacks.

23 Nov 2008 11:56 am

Check this out. GenderAnalyzer determines the gender of the writer of a blog by plugging in the URL. I found this on Instapundit who is only 64% manly. The details of the info were from Gateway Pundit who suffered an even bigger blow to his manly pride.

Here are the GenderAnalyzer Results on the writer of Wide Awake Cafe.

We think http://www.thewideawakecafe.com/ is written by a man (69%).

That’s a blow to my female pride, my girly girlishness!

It’s true, I just celebrated our Victory in Iraq Day yesterday, November 22, 2008, but that shouldn’t mean that I am more manly, just that I am a human being. I am a big football fan but many woman are football fans.

I don’t blog about that stuff you do with the yarn although I have a friend who blogs about it.

I do blog about art often.

I’ve done my share of cat blogging.

I spend some time on this blog writing about my family, my grandparents and our family history.

I blog about politics and culture because that has always been an innate interest since high school. I’ve been interested in military history because I am married to a man who has filled the bookshelves in our home with books about military history and I have found them fascinating.

When Bob watches The Band of Brothers for the sixth or seventh time I am there with him. If that has made my blog a little more masculine so be it.

But I still don’t get it.

If I were so masculine I would be able to do the technological changes I would like to do to my blog. It’s not something I’m proud to admit but it’s true that if I were of more of a techy mindset I would be able to upgrade my computer without constantly having to ask my husband how to do it. I would be able to change the ink cartridge in my printer. If I were more handy with my hands I would be able to open DVD covers.

If I were more manly I would be tall enough to change the light bulb in the laundry room without a ladder. I would be able to use a drill. I would be able to make some simple improvements to my house without having a disaster happen and I would be able to simply turn a doorknob which I am unable to do sometimes.

69% male. Hahahahahahahah!!!!!!!!

21 Nov 2008 06:26 pm

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Today is my sister, Lucy’s birthday. Happy birthday Lucy Redboots!

Lucy is small in stature, yes, but she’s really and truly an Amazon woman.

I kid you not.

Lucy can lift a house with her tiny little arms.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration but not much of one. Perhaps it was her training in college. Lucy was always a Wonder Woman. She was head cheerleader at Arkansas Tech University. Thankfully, most of us didn’t go to one of those cult colleges that David Brooks admires so much.

Although Lucy is only three years younger than me she still gets carded when ever she orders a drink. When we were kids we always shared a room and she had the top bunk. She had this tendency to hang slinkies down by my side of the bed in the middle of the night to scare me. We sang harmony together, played together and sometimes dreamed the same dreams. We had lots of pets in our little acre wood we called home. Even though Lucy was the smallest of all of us she managed to rule over us most of the time through the force of her personality.

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Lucy was always a pretty good sport even when under arrest.

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I always thought Lucy looked like the angel on top of the Christmas tree. (except when she hid dead spiders in pill bottles under my pillow)

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Lucy’s an excellent cook, gardener, artist, art teacher, Mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend (this is in random order) and she’s really STRONG. Lucy knows how to prepare and cook deer, turkey, rabbit, etc… hunted and killed by her husband and she always has Live Maine lobster races in her kitchen before she cooks them.

Lucy’s a Sarah Palin fan and wasn’t at all shocked to see Sarah pardon a turkey and conduct an interview while behind her some other unlucky turkeys were on their way to some families’ Thanksgiving table.

Ann Althouse wasn’t all verklempt over the deal either.

I was five years old when I saw my first chicken dinner killed. My great grandfather wrung the neck of one of our chickens and then my mother prepared the chicken dinner.

Happy Birthday Lucy! I hope you come over next Wednesday and help me prepare my turkey.

14 Oct 2008 02:35 am

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I hear Barack Obama likes pie. Lots of pie. I make good pies but I only share my pie with family and friends.

I don’t feel kindly towards Obama so I wouldn’t care to offer him any of my pies but maybe his wife, Michelle should make him some pie. Maybe she should make him some Acorn Pie.

He’s sure had his hands in that kind of thing in the past. He is awful skinny so I do find it odd that he claims to be such a big pie eater. Maybe that’s why he’s running for President.

To get some pie.

Does Bernardine Dohrn make a mean Kentucky Derby Pie? Was that the attraction?

So now we know Obama has an Achille’s Heel. John McCain needs to put a piece of sweet potato pie in his pocket on Wednesday night and let the aroma waft over Obama to distract the sucker.

I’m just kidding.

We really shouldn’t stoop to the Democrats’ level.

Maybe McCain could just use a scented candle.

29 Oct 2007 11:38 pm

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Menu from Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans, Lousiana, circa, 1960

My late Mother-in-law, Martha Ann, was a big fan of New Orleans cuisine. She always set a bountiful table full of rich, delicious food. She and my father-in-law collected the menus from New Orleans’ restaurants. The above Court of Two Sisters is one such menu.

I love to thumb through the old recipe books Martha Ann collected. Most were Junior League cookbooks from the South. She made sure I had some of the cookbooks when we were just starting out. One of my favorite recipes from Jubilee, the Junior League of Mobile is Cocktail Cream Puffs with Nutted Chicken Filling. It’s definitely not for dieters but is yummy and surprisingly easy to do. I first served it at the promotion party we had when my husband was promoted to major.

Cocktail Cream Puffs

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs.

Heat over to 425 degrees. Combine butter and boiling water in saucepan; keep over low heat until butter is melted. Add flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball and leaves sides of pan. This will take about two minutes. Remove from heat. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until smooth and satiny. Drop level teaspoonsful of mixture onto greased baking sheet, bake twenty to twenty-two minutes. Cool on racks. Cut slice off top of puffs. Fill with Nutted Chicken Filling. Serve warm. Makes about 6 dozen.

Nutted Chicken Filling

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 (3 ounces) package cream cheese
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/3 cups finely minced chicken
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Melt butter in skillet, add pecans and cook over low heat until lightly browned. Cool. Combine with remaining ingredients. Makes two cups, enough to fill about three and a half dozen puffs.

For really elegant recipes check out Sissy Willis.

15 Oct 2007 12:42 am

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The view down Main Street at the Van Buren, Arkansas Fall Festival.

This weekend was family oriented. I babysat my grandson so his parents could go to see the Razorback game in Fayetteville. The game unfortunately, ended as I feared it would. The Hogs lost to Auburn.

I watched the last half of the game and saw the camera focus in on someone who had a teeshirt on with the words, “Houston, you are the problem.” I totally agree with that sentiment. I have long been an unbeliever in the Arkansas Razorbacks. One thing the team can usually be depended upon to do is to consistently let the Charlie Brown, Razorback fans down.

Back in December of 1969 I had been dating my husband for only one month when we went with his parents’ to “the game of the century“, the Texas vs. Arkansas Southwest Conference shootout. Back then one dressed up to go to football games and I certainly did for that game. I didn’t want my boyfriend’s parents to think I was a slouch so I wore a dress and uncomfortable shoes because they were pretty.

I froze at the game.

I will never forget how cold it was. Back then the dresses were still very short due to the influence of Twiggy, who now finds herself as one of judges on America’s Next Top Model . My mother-in-law, Martha Ann, wore her fur jacket and I had a fake fur coat on that my grandmother had made me. I even had a matching hat. When Bob tried to help me untie it after the game he accidentally punched me in the chin.

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Never wear short dresses to cold football games.

But that’s not why I have such a negative position on the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Back in 1977 when Arkansas beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl we were stationed in Germany and I was homesick. Hearing that the Razorbacks won that game really lifted me up. But over the years I have noticed that the coaching staff of the team has gotten worse. I liked the coaches, Ken Hatfield and Lou Holtz of course, but their conservatism and enforcement of the rules irritated the political powers in the state. Of course, too, Frank Broyles, former Arkansas coach and Athletic Director since forever, hovered over them like a Jewish mother.

Apparently the present coach of the Razorbacks, Houston Nutt is a good old boy who never saw a thug he didn’t want to recruit. (or make excuses for after they were arrested.) So the state of Arkansas football usually reflects the political establishment.

Not so, Army. I will always be an Army fan, even though the first game I ever saw them play they were beaten 77 to 7. That was in 1973 against Nebraska I think when my husband was a cadet.

I described that time as the sad season of Army football. When my son was a cadet, however, things had really picked up. Army beat Navy three out of four of the seasons he was at West Point. Army never lost a game I attended during those days.

But I digress.

About the photos posted here. Van Buren, Arkansas is a charming town just across the river from us and we love to go to their various festivals. They close main street to traffic and fill it with booths full of arts, crafts, food, music and NASCAR collectibles. (although I am sure one doesn’t need innoculations to go to the festival) The weather was also cooperative and we had a great time at the festival.

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By the time we had gotten to the festival some of the merchants had closed up shop but we still had a great time.

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My parents’ antique shop on Main Street. If you can’t find it here, you can’t find it anywhere.

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The chocolate covered bananas were delicious.

27 Aug 2007 09:14 pm

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I will never forget the day I went to the grocery store searching for arragonna. It was the key ingredient of the pizza recipe that I had coaxed out of Mr. Porta, our next door neighbor and proprietor of “Portas”, a very popular eatery in our home town. Mr. and Mrs. Porta’s tiny cafe was part Italian, and part American. Their hickery smoked beef and sauce was to die for. So were their hamburgers, fries and salads. I loved their pizza burger best. My sister was fond of their spaghetti. At any time of the day one could find lines of eager customers outside of the restaurant. Mr. Porta put up a sign in his cafe that said, “Duncan Hines never ate here. He couldn’t find a seat.”

Part of the charm of Portas was the banter between Mr. Porta and the customers. He stood in front of his grill, quickly working the food while he made multiple conversations.

Our family always felt lucky to have the Portas as our neighbors. They had four children and the two youngest were close in age to us and became our best friends. Every cat in the neighborhood also benefitted from Mr. Porta’s largess. Every night when he came home from work, he had leftovers for them. He even fed our pet chicken, Crip.

So when I wanted to learn how to make pizza I went straight to the expert. Mr. Porta’s family were immigrants from Italy. He and his brothers had come to the United States with their parents when they were very young. Several of his brothers also had great restaurants.

I was eighteen years old the year I tried to make Mr. Porta’s pizza. I had made the Chef Boyardee from the box pizza mix ever since I was thirteen. It was never very good. The crust was either too hard or tasted like cardboard. My family always made me feel like an excellent cook even though I knew I was not. Mr. Porta set a high standard for me. So I was thrilled when he gave me his recipe. Actually he told me his recipe and I wrote it down.

So there I was in the grocery store trying to find the arragonna. I’d found the tomato sauce, the mozzarella and parmesan cheese but I couldn’t find the arragonna in the spice aisle. I asked one of the clerks if they had any arragonna but they looked at me like I was from the moon. “Never heard of that.” the clerk replied.

I went to another grocery store and couldn’t find the arragonna there either. Frustrated, I explained to the store manager that I couldn’t find a key ingredient in the pizza I was going to make. He thought a little and said, “Maybe you’re looking for oregano. It’s what my wife uses when she makes her pizza.” I checked the shelf and there it was.

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The oregano.

When I wrote down the recipe verbatum I distinctly remembered Mr. Porta’s pronunciation of the word, oregano, and it sure wasn’t the way it was spelled on the container or the way the store clerk pronounced it. I was still doubtful that it was the ingredient that Mr. Porta called for but I bought it, took it home and made the pizza. It was okay. Better than the Chef Boyardee box pizza but nothing like Mr. Porta’s. He could have been holding out on me I suppose, but I think it was the crust that wasn’t as good as his.

I still pronounce oregano, arr-a-gonna in honor of my favorite Italian cook, Mr. Roger Porta. Although Mr. and Mrs. Porta died in the late eighties and their cafe is no longer around I still think of them everytime I add oregano to any dish. I miss them for more than their fine cooking, they were wonderful people.

Mr. Porta’s Pizza

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
5/8 teaspoon active dry yeast

flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
pizza sauce
2/3 lb mozzarella cheese
1/4 lb Romano and Parmesan cheese
chopped basil
garlic powder
onion powder
oregano (Mr. Porta didn’t tell me the exact amount of seasoning to use.)

Pizza Sauce

1 (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes

Preheat the oven to 475°F

Mix the warm water and sugar in a small bowl until blended together.
Add the yeast and mix well. Then wait about five to ten minutes.

While you’re waiting, mix the flour, salt and olive oil in large bowl.

Once the yeast/water mixture is ready, add it to the flour mixture and stir. Continue to mix until you get a doughy mass that is smooth and elastic. If it is still sticky, add some extra flour to it (It’s okay if dough is slightly sticky).

Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Roll the ball in the bowl so that it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place; let rise for at least an hour. While you’re waiting you can make the pizza sauce.

Place dough on a floured surface.
Punch it down and work into a circle. The dough should be smooth and elastic and easy to work with. If not, add a pinch full of flour and rub it on top of the dough.

Use your hands to spread out the dough. Place on pizza sheet. Brush the pizza crust with olive oil. Then top with pizza sauce and cheeses. Then, add the herbs and any other topping of your choice.

Bake for one hour at 475°F (or when it looks done)

Speaking of dishes, Sisu has been cooking up a storm.

07 Jul 2007 10:33 pm

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We went out to the country to see my cousins, Jeanne and Junior. They moved out to the country about fifteen years ago and have a great garden.

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I love Jeanne’s Four O’clocks. They bloom every afternoon like clockwork.

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Junior and Jeanne’s abundant garden has tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, okra, yellow squash, acorn squash, green beans, asparagus, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and more. They also grow blackberries, strawberries and have peach and apple trees.

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Jeanne and Junior’s cats and dogs have the run of the place.

We had a supper of tomatoes, cucumbers, homemade guacamole, chicken enchiladas (the best I’ve ever tasted) beef enchiladas, and spanish rice. For dessert: delicious strawberry shortcake.

Afterwards we played a friendly game of Pinochle. We spent so much time laughing we didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the game and yet the crafty guys managed to win. I went outside on the deck to listen to the sounds of the night in the deep country. No street lights were around for miles, Jeanne and Junior live on a dirt road off another country road with lots of acreage.

The sounds of nature were even more striking than the bright sky. The night was a little humid but still peaceful and restful to the soul.

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The coolest pantry I’ve ever seen.

Jeanne and Junior have a beautiful tortoise shell cat who’s taken it upon herself to guard the driveway. When we first arrived she wouldn’t move out of the way so we parked out of her way. When we left, there she was again, right in the middle of the drive, so my husband drove out in the grass to avoid her.

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