It’s interesting how certain foods become popular and then seem to fade from the dinner table. I recently discovered that my grandkids had never heard of what was once served to me on a weekly basis: Jell-O. I made them some organic, non-fat jigglers and so discovered another food that a picky 4-year-old likes.
When I was a kid, Sunday dinner usually included Jell-O with fruit cocktail in it. After someone invented frozen whipped topping, we jazzed it up by adding that to the “salad” recipe. My mother-in-law put celery and carrots in hers which moves it closer to being healthy. My favorite Jell-O sports a cream cheese topping.
The changing palate of our culture is reflected in church and community cookbooks which are a history of American cookery.
Much of this history will go unrecorded because very few young people use cookbooks. They have the internet and can Google what they want to make. I’ve done this myself as it’s a handy way to find a recipe if one has some ingredient that needs to be used. One can search for “cakes using a dab of buttermilk” or “ways to fix old carrots.”
Mom had few cookbooks but subscribed to a monthly magazine called “Kitchen-Klatter” which was printed in black and white. It contained recipes and housekeeping hints.
Led by Leanna Field Driftmier, their chatty family radio program was broadcast throughout several states in the Midwest. Theirs was my first cookbook as a new bride so I could make “Evelyn’s Tender Homemade Noodles” or “Extremely Delicious Chicken Hot Dish” or “Dorothy’s Favorite Prune Cake.”
Not many people probably make these dishes nowadays. The most common food from my childhood seems to have lost favor: gravy. The art of making it needs to be passed on because, as long as stores sell potatoes, there will be a need for gravy.
It’s fun to browse the popular recipes of the day for different regions. I played the piano for a wedding in the early 80’s, and the bride gave me her Gothenburg church cookbook in which are four different recipes for salmon casserole, one of which I still make.
I keep a Baton Rouge, LA cookbook because it contains the recipe I use for “Baked Lasagna,” and my Charleston, SC cookbook is home to the raisin sauce recipe I make with ham. I suppose it’s silly to keep a cookbook just because you make one recipe from it.
Mom had an Alcatraz Cookbook, although there was not a single recipe in it for how to bake a cake with a file in it.
My favorite cookbook is from Wheeler County called “Sandhills Parish, A Taste of Heaven.” It contains 15 variations on the recipe for cheesy potatoes and 17 different brownie recipes, most of which differ only slightly. I like to see the names of people I know.
Old recipes can be tricky because I have to use algebra when manufacturers resized the packaging of one of the ingredients. Sometimes, once common ingredients are now hard to find. Luckily, enough people make green bean casserole and Watergate salad to keep French onions and pistachio pudding on the shelf.
I have a friend who uses the powdered form of whipped topping for her cream pies because it stays set. We can probably thank her that this is still to be found on store shelves.
When tater tots were first introduced, we kids ordered them instead of fries with our hamburger. I thought the “tater tot casserole” was extinct, but I found out my sister-in-law still makes it regularly.
Maybe I’ll dust off that recipe and see if a certain 4-year old will eat it.
* * *
Contact Sibyl at [email protected]
The Daily News is expanding even more into the world of blogs.
If you currently write a blog and would like to have a link to it on the Daily News’ Web site, let us know.
If you regularly read someone else’s blog and would like to have a convenient link to it on the Daily News’ Web site, let us know.
If you think you’d like to become one of the Daily News’ bloggers, let us know.
Click here to supply us with all the needed information OR e-mail your information to Kent Warneke at [email protected]
The blogosphere will never be the same.