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Food, the First Wonder of the World (all those others are second)
by Shirley Hailstock
One of the greatest pleasures in life is food. We're not going to talk about what's healthy or what we shouldn't eat. The holidays are coming up and we all know there are no calories in Thanksgiving or Christmas meals.
I love to cook. But I want to cook for a crowd, experiment with new recipes, and come up with something different and unexpected. So holiday gatherings are my love. And as the leaves turn gold and red and pumpkins appearing in every doorway, I look forward to the coming holidays.
Like most families, we have competitions on who makes the best dressing for the turkey. By far my nephew wins. Consequently, he gets to reproduce it every year. If you're good at it, it's your job. My specialty is the macaroni and cheese. A sister two years younger than me got the job of doing candied sweets (short for sweet potatoes in our family). I also do the Sweet Potato Puffs (sometimes called Sweet Potato Casserole). Yep, two sweet potato dishes. Remember, they have no calories so we can have as many as we want.
A few years ago, I decided to add something we'd never had to the menu. My son called it the First Time Dish and the name stuck. I dug through my Betty Crocker Cookbook (that is battered and taped and I've had it since the flood) and came up with creamed onions. Now I know many people have had these and love them. I'd never heard of them before that date, but the recipe sounded good so I tried it -- made it for Thanksgiving with no previous taste test. I also didn't apologize prior to serving them. If the family and guests hated them, I'd never make them again. Needless to say, they were a crowd pleaser and the subject of "this is something different" conversation.
In subsequent years, wherever we gather there is always the First Time Dish on the table. We look forward to it. As a family, we cook all the standard familiar and favored foods, but we look forward to seeing what the new one will bring. Without a miss, it's been the crowd favorite, the one you want more of and on the day after the holiday the question is, "Where is that First Timer? I want more."
Have you ever done this? Have you found a recipe in a magazine or online, maybe in the back of a romance novel and tried it? What were some of them? And if you're ambitious, by all means, post the recipe. I'd love to try something new. Maybe at our holiday meal this year, it will be on our First Time menu.
Enjoy and as always, keep Reading. . .
I love your traditions! How do you make your mac and cheese? (Not that I've ever met one I didn't like.) Great pics, too, and now I'm hungry...ReplyDelete
I was away at a romance writers conference and only go to this today. I can tell you what's in the mac and cheese, but I learned to cook by watching my grandmother who couldn't read or write. She measured by handfuls and how things looked. So that's the way I cook.Delete
The mac and cheese has all the same ingredients that any version has, but I use fresh ingredients. I grate my own cheese. I don't use those processed already grated cheeses that come in bags. They are too oily.
I used day-old bread and create my own bread crumbs (in the food processor) that I use as a binding ingredient, along with eggs that also bind the cooked food. I don't put crumbs on top, personal preference. I don't like the crunch. I put cheese on top, lots of cheese.
Some told me that if you want the recipe, I have to make it in front of you. I once tried to measure and write down things as I did them. The food didn't taste the same.
Shirley, your post makes me even more excited for Thanksgiving. I didn't start a food tradition but I did start several "work smart, not hard" traditions in my family. When I host, I'm always looking for shortcuts to allow me to socialize more, lol. I introduced the new traditions of make-ahead mashed potatoes (warmed up in the crockpot the morning of), crockpot liners (oh, joy of joys!) and Chinet dishes. My grandmother, mother and aunts were absolutely horrified at the idea of using (and spending money on) Chinet at first: "It tastes so much better on nice china, Elizabeth." But after super easy clean-ups for all of us the past several years, I've made converts out of all of them. But I still take out the nice china for the after-dinner coffee. No need to make Grandma drink from a Styrofoam cup:-)ReplyDelete
I can make some things ahead of time. We don't have mashed potatoes as a holiday staple. We have sweet potatoes. As for using china, yep I used it. I don't mind the clean up. It was a sister bonding task. We'd talk about things in the kitchen as we loaded the dishwasher and put the food in small containers. (I use the dishwasher on the china setting for the good dishes. Never had a problem with it. And since I love doing tablescapes and themes, I want the real stuff.) After we put the food in the smaller containers, we leave it out because people continue to pick at it as they go by or come in the kitchen to get a drink. And, of course, when you finish eating, you're too full for dessert. Passing that kitchen often means people return with plates of food.Delete
OH how I love holiday meals!!!! Several times, my mother-in-law decreed that we weren't going to gave the traditional turkey meal for Thanksgiving and we would try something different. I led a coup. Nope. Not going to happen. I look forward to those holiday meals all year long! And 2 sweet potato dishes??? I'm coming to your house! And maybe, just maybe, I'll add mac & cheese to our dishes this year. That sounds amazing!ReplyDelete
You can add another meat, but you can't take away the turkey. There's got to be a lot that says turkey must be served. Well, there's a law at my house.Delete
Thanks for the post--I was mesmerized by the path in the woods. I love paths like that. I had a walk just the other day on a path that goes on and on--right in my neighborhood, too. But, we don't have that kind of color here this year. Thanksgiving is really my favorite holiday, too. Big or small, they're all special.ReplyDelete
Fall was and is beautiful this year. The colors are still very vivid here. I imagine with the change in temperature, they'll begin to fall down in a day or two, but right now sunset is a burning glow. We all gather to watch the changing foilage.Delete
I love that you experiment for a crowd. It has never seemed worth the expense and effort to a dry run for just me and my husband so I love trying new stuff for company. Glad to know someone else with that kind of culinary daring! The pics are gorgeous!ReplyDelete
It was fun and a conversation starter. So far, we haven't had anything that we didn't like. Even the kids liked it, even when it isn't sweet. For the broccoli salad I made, I get requests for that all the time -- holidays or not.Delete
Hi, Shirley! I can't believe you mentioned Creamed Onions. This was my father's favorite dish and I make it every year. I use those pearl onions and our sauce has Creamed Sherry and nutmeg in it. I don't know what the Betty Crocker book says...frankly, I lost MY copy decades ago. Either that, or my sister stole it and it's still in her house, not being used. If she were alive she'd scream "Blasphemy!" Right? Great post and incredible photos. I could stare at that woods photo forever!!!ReplyDelete
When I son left home for his first apartment, he asked me to two things -- the crock pot and the Betty Crocker cookbook. I bought him a new one, refusing to give up my page-worn copy.Delete
I experiment a lot with a class I lead. That way the food isn't around the house providing too much temptation. With my family, there are so many people that like to bring something, there's usually something new, though it's not a specific tradition. One year, my brother had always wanted to try making tamales, so those were on the table. They weren't bad, but would have tasted better to me if I'd seen the bowl of salsa. I sometimes make sweet potatoes my mom's way, from scratch - fresh peeled sweet potatoes, lots of butter and brown sugar, slow cooked in the electric skillet.ReplyDelete
For our sweet potato dishes, we always start from scratch. I forget people don't do that. I never used a slow cooker for them, but I'm not opposed to trying that. Most of the things I have used a slow cooker for have been delicious.Delete
Oh, creamed onions are going to make a showing on our Thanksgiving table this year! Everything sounds so good! I love mac and cheese, too. Thanks for a great post!ReplyDelete