Monday, April 29, 2013

2. Sloppy Joes/BBQ Hamburger

The second recipe I made from Grandma's Recipe Box was Sloppy Joes. This was a staple in my house while I was growing up. It was enough of a favorite that it was sometimes my birthday dinner request. I was unsure what Sean and Lenora would think of Sloppy Joes and wondered if I'd still like it all these years later.

The title on the recipe card says "Barbecue Hamburger (Sloppy Joes)" with the name "Mrs. Mosman, Sr." at the top. Of all the names I've come across in the recipe box, this is one of the few that I don't recognize.

The recipe:
1 pound hamburger
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp "catsup"
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown hamburger. Add other ingredients and "simmer until celery is done."
Note says "add green pepper & garlic if desired."

I used slider buns, which seemed perfect for Sloppy Joes, and served it with a green salad. Very 1970s! It was a big hit with Sean and Lenora. I wasn't as fond of it as I was as a kid. I think it needed a bit more kick. But, since it's simple, cheap, and popular with the family I'll likely make it again with a few adjustments in seasoning.

The other day I checked out The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier. There's a recipe for Sloppy Joes that is very similar to Grandma's recipe except it uses more spice, which I think would kick it up a notch and I will try next time. Things I'll add are garlic, red pepper flakes, and maybe some cayenne pepper. Also, per my mom's recommendation from how she used to make this recipe, next time I make this I'll toast or grill the buns.

In the end, I've decided this recipe is a keeper.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

1. Rhubarb Cake

The first recipe I chose out of the box is the one that I saw first. I've made it before but never from the recipe card. Today's tasted better than ever before.

Mix together and let stand for 1 hour:
2 cups diced rhubarb
½ cup sugar

Mix together:
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ cup shortening

Add and mix well:
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or sub 1 cup milk plus 1 Tbl lemon juice)
1 tsp vanilla
Rhubarb/sugar mixture

Pour into buttered 9 x 12 pan

Completely mix together into crumble:
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbl soft butter
Sprinkle over top of batter

Bake for 1 hour at 350

I followed Grandma’s recipe exactly, except I used a smaller pan. Smaller pan was not a good idea!
I think next time I might make ½ recipe and still use the smaller pan. Or just use the size pan I was supposed to use in the first place.

But it was yummy. I think this time was the yummiest ever!

Unearthing the Treasure

When I got the box from the dark cupboard at Mom’s house, it wouldn’t open. I shook it and jiggled it and pulled. Hard. I brought it home where it stubbornly continued not to budge. Sean headed toward the garage for some tools. “Looks like we’ll have to pry it open.”

“No!” If there was any way to avoid it, no harm would come to the box. “Maybe we can try to shimmy something along the edge and see what’s making it stick,” I suggested, hoping he’d have the perfect tool for loosening the drawer without injuring the box. He grabbed a piece of paper, folded it in 4ths lengthwise and slid it between the edges of the drawer and its sleeve. That flimsy piece of paper must have caught something on the box just right because when I tried again, the drawer slid right out.

Lenora wanted to join me as I opened my treasure trove so we went out to the sunny back patio to enjoy one of the first lovely days of spring while we explored the contents of the pink box. The recipe for Rhubarb Cake rested at the front of the row of cards, probably due to the many times I’ve asked Mom for it. Behind it cards were filed into categories such as “beverages” and “desserts.” I pulled cards randomly from the row, careful to hold the place so I could properly return it when I finished soaking up the memories.

Of the cards I looked at (only a small fraction of the cards contained in the box), all brought a vivid memory or feeling to mind. Some made me pause as I read the “From the kitchen of . . .” heading, remembering women of the Ladies Aid Society serving potluck luncheons. Lenora wanted to know who everyone was. I told her the stories needed to be held for later; it was overwhelming.   

On many I saw handwriting I could identify before noting the name on the recipe. “How do you know who it is just by the writing?” she asked. One card was written by my older sister (M) in the handwriting of a young girl. Another was an email, printed by the same sister.

The recipes written on the cards also caused me to pause. One of the first cards I randomly pulled was the one for “Frangos,” the delightful chocolate treat pulled from the freezer and in the foil cupcake wrappers. Another was “Sloppy Joes,” a staple of my childhood. I also found the recipe for stroganoff. I hated that! So much that I’d refuse to eat it and forgo the dessert that was sure to be delicious.

With some difficulty I set the box aside after viewing only a few of the cards. I want to savor the deliciousness of rediscovering each of these recipes and the cards on which they appear.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Pink Tin Box

The pale-pink tin box bears greasy smudges and a condensation ring from a beverage placed on it sometime in its distant past. The bottom shows wear from frequently sliding out of the cupboard in which it was stored. White knobs, like cartoon eyes, protrude from the front of the drawer and a soft tug causes the drawer to slide easily out of the metal sleeve encasing it.

Opening the box reveals hundreds of recipe cards—mostly handwritten—and scraps of paper and magazine clippings. Like the box itself, most of the recipes bear signs of frequent use: additional instructions noted in the margins, a smudge of an ingredient on the card, edges of a card worn by handling through the years.

I knew my mother had Grandma’s recipe box; occasionally I’d call and ask her to look up a recipe.  (Okay. Let me be honest. It was the same recipe over and over. Rhubarb Cake. Every summer I’d write down the recipe while Mom read it to me over the phone. I’d make the cake, everyone would love it, and I’d put the recipe somewhere safe for the next summer when rhubarb came back in season. That recipe must be stashed in many safe places because every summer I needed to call Mom to get the recipe again.)

Sometimes I wondered about other recipes that I suspected could be found in the box. Whenever I make a plain white loaf of bread, I remember the crumb of Grandma’s homemade bread and the joy I had as a child when she’d hand me a thick warm slice of bread with a smear of butter melting on top. Every time I see shiny cupcake wrappers at the store I am immediately back in Grandma’s kitchen on a hot summer day. My cousins, older sister, and I are lined up by age (me at either the beginning or the end), hands held out to receive the chocolaty treats in foil cupcake papers that Grandma pulled out of the freezer. The secrets to making the culinary delights of my childhood could be found in that pink tin box.

It never occurred to me to ask Mom if I could have the box. A few months ago I asked. Unfortunately, like I did every year with the Rhubarb Cake recipe, Mom had put it in a safe place and now couldn’t remember where to find it. Yesterday at our family gathering to celebrate Easter Mom told me that she had found the box at the back of a very dark cupboard.

 Today I took possession of the box.