Monthly Archives: July 2009

RECIPE CLIPPINGS

RECIPE CLIPPINGS
BY
SANDRA LEE SMITH

Oh, how I love old recipe clippings
Spattered and tattered
And yellowed with age;
Newspaper clippings and
Scribbled receipts,
On the back of an envelope,
Or the edge of a page.

I love all their names,
How they roll off my tongue,
Names just as sweet
As a song being sung.

Granny’s beet relish,
And Maude’s apple pie,
Aunt Becky’s favorite
Caraway rye.

Church-social brownies,
Miz Carr’s piccalilli,
And here’s a corn relish
We got from Aunt Tilly.

Uncle Jim’s homemade chili
Aunt Ann’s apple strudel,
Sister Sue’s one and only
Best noodle kugel.

I hold in my hand
A bit of the past,
And somewhere beyond
I hear someone ask

“May I have this receipt
for this great cherry pie?
My husband just loves it – and
Oh, so do I!”

And gladly she copies
It down for her guest
On a small piece of paper
That comes to rest
Inside of a cookbook
Or shoebox of snippings,
Spattered and tattered
Recipe clippings.

-Sandra Lee Smith

(*This was previously published in a recipe newsletter I used to subscribe to, called Fare Share…but it was B.C. (before computers) and I have no idea what year. Maybe the late 1980s)

THE BEAN POT

THE BEAN POT

I bought a quaint brown bean pot
At a festival one day;
It had two handles and a lid
And it was made of clay.
Too pretty to be hidden in
A cupboard, tucked away,
I put it on the kitchen counter
For a decorative display.

Now, when we are missing buttons
Or a nail file or a pin;
We find the quaint brown bean pot
And we take a peek within;
It hoards the scraps of paper
Too important to discard–
With rubber bands and shoe strings
And a plumber’s business card;
A stamp pad and a book mark
And a tube of Elmer’s glue -
A recipe for pot roast and
Some body’s I O U.

Such a handy little catch-all
And it keeps the kitchen clean–
Hoarding trivia and trifles,
But…it’s never held a bean.

–Sandra Lee Smith (1960s)
Leave a Comment

A BOWL OF SOUP (A POEM)

A BOWL OF SOUP (A POEM)

There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” Laurie Colwin, ‘Home Cooking’ (1988)

“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is soup.”
Laurie Colwin

“From time immemorial, soups and broths have been the worldwide medium for utilizing what we call the kitchen byproducts or as the French call them, the ‘dessertes de la table’ (leftovers), or ‘les parties interieures de la bete’, such as head, tail, lights, liver, knuckles and feet.”
Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)
AND MY FAVORITE, FROM LEWIS CARROLL:
Beautiful Soup

BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau–ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo–oop of the e–e–evening,
Beautiful, beauti–FUL SOUP!

AND NOW FOR MY OWN:
A BOWL OF SOUP
What is as fine as a bowl of soup
In a tureen, carried hot to the table,
Or a beef stew simmered with veggies and meat,
As wondrous as an old Aesop fable;
I love noodle soup or a tomato bisque,
My chili falls into this category,
French onion soup with melted cheese,
Russian Borscht served in its beet-red glory.
Mushroom soup! PepperPot!
Or a Consomme!
Won Ton Soup! Morel Soup!
Cream of Pea and crackers on a tray!
Black Bean Soup! Cabbage Soup!
Or a pot of New England Chowder!
(Not for me Manhattan style–
for that I’d take a powder!)
Perhaps some Mulligatawny Soup,
Or some Minestrone!
I’d even eat some Bouillabaisse,
As long as it’s not boney!
Bring me a bowl of Orleans gumbo,
Or any soup that’s bold,
Or let us have gazpacho that’s
Always served up cold.
Serve me cream of celery soup!
Carrot soup with Curry!
Bring me soups that cook all day
But dish up in a hurry;
Serve me spicy peanut soup
Or turkey soup with rice–
I’d gladly eat green lentil soup
But meatball soup is also nice.
Soup for breakfast! Soup for lunch!
Soup for a late night supper;
Let me have a cup of soup,
For a pick-me-upper.
Let me have War Won-Ton Soup,
Or Tortilla soup that’s spicy,
Let me have a cockle soup
Or lobster bisque that’s pricey!
Serve me cock-a-leekie soup
Or Egg Drop soup from China,
Serve it fancy, serve it plain,
I’m never going to mind-a,
Soups can be hearty or else light -
Feed one or feed a troop -
I’ll never tire or get enough
Of delicious homemade soup.
–Sandra Lee Smith
May 6, 2009

AT THE KITCHEN TABLE

AT THE KITCHEN TABLE

At the kitchen table
We did our homework
While my mother stood at the ironing board
Ironing our dresses, shirts, pants, blouses, and skirts.
At the kitchen table
We listened to the Crosley radio
On top of the refrigerator
While the Lone Ranger, Amos & Andy,
Our Miss Brooks and many others
Filled our minds with images.
At the kitchen table
I learned all my times tables,
And how to type on a standard Royal typewriter
Using two fingers,
Until I got in high school
And learned to type
Using all ten fingers.
At the kitchen table
We created homemade Christmas ornaments
Out of walnut shells and the caps to milk bottles.
At the kitchen table
We had dinner every night
At 6 O clock sharp
My mother on the left end of the table and my father
On the right.
I sat at my mother’s right,
On the end of the left side of the table
Because I was left handed.
My brothers sat across from me
And Billy spilled his milk
Until we were all forbidden to have any milk
Until after dinner.
At the kitchen table
We said grace
And prayed for the soldiers in Korea
And my brother at St Francis Seminary
Where he only lasted a year -
But the prayers continued nonetheless
Because once started,
My father couldn’t stop.
We said Our Fathers
And Hail Marys
And Glory Be’s
Until our dinner was almost cold.
At the kitchen table
We were first and foremost
A family
Even though
Sometimes I didn’t like the entrée
And sat
At the kitchen table
For hours
Staring at cold unappetizing hasenpheffer
Or mom’s slimy boiled cabbage
Or whatever it was
That I didn’t like.
It was also
At the kitchen table
That my brothers Biff & Bill
Started a fire which burned a hole
In the oilcloth tablecloth
Until someone put out the fire.
It was at the kitchen table
That my parents
And their friends
Played cards
And ate bowls of chili
And drank cups of coffee.
It was at the kitchen table
Where there was a meeting
Of the minds.
And sometimes
Not.

THE COMFORTS OF HOME

THE COMFORTS OF HOME (A POEM)

It isn’t the walls or the shingles
Or even the carpeted floors
It isn’t the knotty-pine cupboards
Or even the backyard or fence;
It isn’t the lawn–there was not one,
Nor the carport or ample garage.
It isn’t the way that it’s laid out-
If I were designing, I think I’d do more.
What it is, is where it’s located
Near my son and his family, nearby,
It’s a town that seems quite old-fashioned
And laid-back by modern day standards.
It isn’t the best or the finest
But what it is, it suits us quite well.
I knew from the moment I saw it.
That this was the place we’d call home.

–Sandra Lee Smith
May 2009

POPPYCOCK POETRY

POPPYCOCK POETRY
1970s

There’s very little poppycock
About the bloomin’ hollyhock
It multiplies and multiplies
Refusing to be chastisized.
The hollycock, industrious,
Is just a bit–promiscuous.

**

The adjectives that describe a tomato
Are, I’m inclined to suspect–
The type to conjure
Thoughts quite impure
And probably quite circumspect.
For, is it her fault
To be luscious and round
And soft to a finger’s light press?
And would she have chosen
If choices were given,
To wear such a flaming red dress?
It seems so unjust
And therefore, I trust,
You’ll pardon my faith in believing
The tomato as chaste -
And not out of grace;
Appearances can be deceiving!

**
Who would even
Attempt to ferret
Out a poem
About a carrot?
It doesn’t rhyme
The way it should–
And cooked it doesn’t
Taste that good.

**

Why do they say
“A shrinking violet”?
I really couldn’t surmise…
For it seems to me
Quite evidently
That violets
Have been sunforized.

**
Oh, yonder gaze upon the lone
And stately grown sunflower;
In majesty it lords above
The blossoms in my bower.
Is it antisocial, reigning there
Just like MacBeth?
Or does it stand alone because
It simply has bad breath?
**

The cucumber is a snob,
Stuck-up, to say the least!
It never gets unruffled
Or becomes a raving beast.
It never would demean itself
By going into a rage–
It’s temperament is always mild,
But then I’d safely wage–
Its never known the joys of love
Of passion or desire
It has never known the thrill of love
Or its burning fire.
And so it leads a frigid life,
Love’s passions deep in slumber
Which is just as well, I guess -
Who’d want a hot cucumber?

**
Waste not your tears in weeping over
The onion–that hyprocrite!
It mealy-mouths its way around
Begging us to pity it!
It spends its whole life
In sham tears and strife
Begging for some consolation…
Because of the lily, the onion you see,
Is merely a dirt-poor relation.
The onion’s behavior is simply uncalled for
Actually, I think
It’s really quite silly..
Because, after all,
Who’d go to a restaurant
And order steak smothered
With lily?

**

The grape has socialistic tendencies
For which it can hardly take the blame–
Merely the product of group environment
It seeks not glory or self-acclaim.
Its individuality is lost
Within the cluster of conformity;
Who’d go to the store and buy just one grape?
Maybe you, but certainly not me!

**
The orchid became psychotic
Because it thought itself exotic
It never got over the discovery
That it had been grown..
In a greenhouse…
Locally.

**

The chrysanthemum
Has a hang-up
That it never overcame.
It got that way
Because no one
Could ever spell
Its name.

**
The garlic clove has a distinctive
Aromatic scent
And is the unfortunate victim
Of a society that’s bent
On choosing sides and being
Division orientated
But it isn’t the garlic
That one should blame –
But rather
The person who ate it.

**

Oh, lovely firm, brown-skinned
potato
from your earthen home, tomatoes
do not taste
quite as delicious.
which, I muse,
Is more delicious?
There’s more than just
A staple meal
Underneath your amber peel.
A moral here – or do I dare?
Would farmers rise to shout “unfair!”
Would vegetarians unite
And on your behalf, would they fight?
Denouncing what I think as wit?
To heck with them!
Who gives a twit?
Truth is simple, Idaho–
Thought complex minds would change it so;
As day is day and night is night;
Beneath your brown skin…
You are white.
**

–Sandra Lee Smith
Leave a Comment

MORE BACK TO BASICS RECIPES

MORE BACK TO BASICS RECIPES

Since posting the first “Back to Basics” I began finding a lot more “basic” recipes in my files. What I mean about basic recipes is those things you can easily make from scratch instead of using a prepackaged mix that generally costs a lot more than making your own – or in some instances, such as one with my younger sister, when she wanted to make something like tacos for dinner and discovered she was out of taco seasoning mix. Now she makes her own taco seasoning mix all the time. (Another bonus to making your own – there’s often no telling how long the seasoning mix was on the store shelves or in a warehouse before you bought it). When you mix your own, you know how old the spices or seasonings in your kitchen are. Anyway, here are some more basic recipes that you can print and keep in your own recipe box.

MOCK SOUR CREAM

You will need:

2 cups low fat or no fat cottage cheese
¼ cup plain yogurt
eggbeaters to equal 1 egg
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP water
½ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a blender container and process until smooth. Use for potato topping or dips.

Sandy’s Cooknote: The beauty of this recipe is that you can use no fat cottage cheese and by using egg beaters, you have a VERY LOW calorie/no fat recipe. The original recipe called for 1 egg–given that you aren’t cooking anything, I have changed it to eggbeaters to equal one egg.
**

BLENDER CARAMEL SAUCE

¾ CUP brown sugar
2 TBSP soft butter or margarine
¼ tsp salt
½ cup hot evaporated milk

Put all ingredients into blender container. Cover and process at mix until sugar is dissolved.
**
SEASONED CRUMBS

You will need:

2 CUPS fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
¼ cup parsley flakes, crumbled

Combine spices. Mix well. Pack loosely in jar. Use as coating for veal, pork, poultry or fish to be sautéed. Makes about 3 cups.
***

SEASONED PEPPER

You will need:

6 TBSP coarse ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar (optional)
½ tsp dried sweet red pepper
½ tsp dried finely minced onion
1 tsp paprika
1/3 tsp dried sweet green pepper

Combine spices and stir with wooden spoon. Pack tightly in glass jars. Makes about ½ cup.

Sandy’s cooknote: Ok, I do a lot of cooking but have never heard of dried sweet red or green pepper. BUT I think you could easily make your own. I chop up bell peppers when they are on sale and freeze them. I think I could just as easily dry a little of each, red and green in my oven or dehydrator to have it on hand. I’ll give this a try and get back to you on the results.
**

CREOLE RUB

You will need:

1 TBSP salt
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp round red pepper
¾ tsp black pepper
¾ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground bay leaves
¼ tsp chili powder

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. Sprinkle on sea food, chicken or beef before grilling. Yield ¼ cup.
**

JERK RUB

You will need:

1 ½ TBSP sugar
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP dried thyme
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients. Store mixture in an airtight container. Sprinkle on chicken or seafood before grilling. Yield 1/3 cup.
**

HOMEMADE SEAFOOD SPICE

You will need:

2 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black better
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp sugar

Mix. Store in an airtight container.

Sandy’s cooknote: You will note that all of these recipes advise keeping the spice or seasoning in airtight containers. You don’t have to go out and buy a lot of jars or plastic containers. I save all kinds and sizes of glass jars when they are empty of what ever came with them. Wash them really good and remove the labels. When you put a seasoning into one of them, label it and include the date so you will remember when you made it. When I had babies, those baby food jars really came in handy for things like seasoning mixes.
**

Emeril’s BABY BAM SEASONING

You will need:

3 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP EACH salt, dried parsley, onion powder and garlic powder, oregano, basil and thyme
½ tsp celery salt

Stir well. Store in an airtight container.
**

ZESTY CHICKEN SEASONING BLEND

You will need:

2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP garlic salt
1 TBSP paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cup vegetable oil

In a small mixing bowl, combine all seasonings. Blend in oil, forming a paste. May be refrigerated up to 2 weeks. To use, brush mixture on whole chicken or chicken pieces and let stand 1 hr at room temperature or at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before roasting or grilling, until chicken is cooked through. Makes enough to season 7 to 8 pounds of chicken. Note: Add 2-3 TBSP lime juice to mixture if desired.
**

COPY CAT ONION SOUP MIX

You will need:

1/4 CUP dried minced onion
2 TBSP instant beef bouillon
½ tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients. This makes the equivalent of one package of soup mix.
**

HERB SEASONING BLEND

You will need:

1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP dried oregano
2 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried basil]
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use in omelets and to season fish, vegetables or chicken. Makes ¼ cup.
**

The following are a few good recipes for making your own marinades:

SECRET STEAK MARINADE

You will need:

1 CUP soy sauce
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, halves
¼ cup Kitchen Bouquet*
2 tsp Beau Monde seasoning

Combine soy sauce, onion and garlic in blender ad high speed 1 minute or until mix is smooth. Stir in Kitchen Bouquet and Beau Monde seasoning. Makes 2 ½ cups.
To marinate: arrange steaks in shallow glass baking dish (or use a zip lock bag) and pour ½ cup marinade over each steak or chop. Allow to stand at room temp 2 hours OR cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours, then bring meat to room temperature before cooking.

Sandy’s cooknote: Kitchen Bouquet! It’s a flavor enhancer that makes brown gravies a nice dark rich brown and is wonderful in pot roasts. My mother always had a tiny bottle of Kitchen Bouquet in the kitchen cupboard. Well, it floored me, the cost of those little bottles – we have a warehouse-kind of supermarket that is called Smart & Final, but I would imagine that Sam’s Club and/or Costco might keep the large quart size bottle in stock. I get a QUART bottle for about the same price as those little bitty ones. I swear by Kitchen Bouquet and wouldn’t be without it. Beau Monde is another but that’s another story.
**

HERB WINE MARINADE

You will need:

1 cup red wine*
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic. Crushed
1/3 tsp crushed rosemary
½ tsp EACH salt & pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp marjoram

Blend ingredients and let stand overnight. Remove garlic clove. Cover and store until ready to use.

Sandy’s cooknote: A lot of my recipes call for red wine. I keep a LARGE bottle of Burgundy wine in the kitchen pantry – just for these recipes.
**

BASIC MARINADE FOR POULTRY

You will need:

2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP soy sauce
¼ cup dry (red or white) wine
2 tsp Tarragon or thyme
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients. Add more salt and pepper if you want. Marinate chicken or turkey overnight or brush on 15-20 minutes before grilling.
**

CITRUS MARINADE

You will need:

2 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
3 TBSP packed dark brown sugar
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh orange or lime juice
1 ½ tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Thinly slice garlic and in a small saucepan, cook in oil over moderately low heat just until it begins to turn golden. Remove pan from heat and with a slotted spoon, discard garlic. In oil in pan, add remaining ingredients and salt & pepper to taste. Cool marinade. Makes about 1 cup, enough marinade for 1 ½ to 2 pounds chicken or shrimp.
**

BEER MARINADE

You will need:

¼ cup salad oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup beer
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
¾ tsp pepper
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp crushed basil leaves
¼ tsp crushed oregano leaves

Blend all ingredients

To make beef kabobs:

You will need

1 ½ lbs flank steak
beer marinade
1 large green pepper, parboiled
12 cherry tomatoes
12 medium mushroom halves
12 small white onions, parboiled

Cut flank steak crosswise on the diagonal into 1” wide strips. There should be about 12 good strips. Place meat and marinade in a bowl and chill overnight. Cut green pepper into 12 small squares. For each kabob, thread meat alternatively with 1 green pepper square, 1 cherry tomato, 1 mushroom half and 1 onion on skewer. Broil 6-8” from source of heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until meat is desired doneness. Brush with marinade before turning.

Sandy’s Cooknote: I know a little something about making shish-kabobs. We made them for YEARS while my sons were growing up. We had an assembly line going for threading the kabobs on skewers. If you are using bamboo skewers, you should know the skewers should be soaked in cold water for several hours before using, so they don’t catch on fire. But metal skewers are inexpensive and you can stock up on them to have a bunch on hand if you are feeding company. Personally, I like to toss the mushrooms into a pot of boiling water for a minute or so – OR cook them a while in melted butter…they will go on the skewers more easily & taste better too. You can use that same melted butter to brush on the kabobs when they are cooking. We also would cut up hot dogs and wrap raw bacon around them to stretch the meat (I was raising four sons). I liked to cut the meat (often something like London Broil) into bite-size chunks and then marinate it for a few hours in something like a red-wine marinade with tenderizer sprinkled on, so that the meat was good and tender. Kabobs is a good company meal. Sometimes we also used chicken breast, cut into chunks – and when my son Steve was being lavish (and doing the cooking) he would get a pound of halibut and cut that into chunks to go onto the skewers. All great eating.
***

CIDER MARINADE FOR CHICKEN OR PORK

You will need:

¼ tsp crushed red chile flakes
1 tsp rubber dry sage
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/3 tsp celery seed
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley, optional
1 tsp finely minced lemon zest
½ cup apple cider
4 tsp cider vinegar
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
¼ cup cooking oil

Whisk together red chile flakes, sage, thyme, celery seed, sugar, parsley, lemon zest, apple cider, vinegar, mustard and oil. Use to marinate chicken breasts or pork chops at least for 4 hours or up to 8 hours. Will keep refrigerated up to 1 week.
**
Happy Cooking!

MY FAVORITE FOOD

MY FAVORITE FOOD

Chocolate is my favorite food, why
Goodness can’t you see?
Without chocolate what a dismal
World that this would be?
Give me chocolate day or night,
For any kind of snack
I’ll take chocolate any time
I have a crave attack.
Give me chocolate mousse, or pie,
Or any chocolate cake!
Covered up with chocolate frosting,
What ever you can make!
Chocolate ice cream! Brownies too!
A Chocolate Hershey bar!
Make a chocolate fruitcake and
It will be a star!
Chocolate Pudding! Chocolate Fudge!
Chocolate Linzer Torte!
Or a Chocolate Russe Royale,
Like they serve at Court!
Chocolate Sheet Cake, Texas Style!
Chocolate Fondue too!
Chocolate covered ‘tater chips
Will put the pounds on you!
Chocolate custard! Crème Fraiche!
Chocolate Muffins–yes!
Or hot chocolate late at night!
Chocolate is the best!
I love chocolate toffee!
Or a chocolate caramel bar!
Chocolate chips right from the bag
Will really take you far!
Chocolate doughnuts!
Chocolate waffles!
Or Fudgy Chocolate Sauce!
Whatever you can put it in,
CHOCOLATE IS THE BOSS!

–Sandra Le Smith
June, 2009

WHEN RADIO WAS KING-PART 2

Kate Brew Vaughn was another early pioneer of the radio recipe program. I had the good fortune to be introduced some years ago to one of Ms. Vaughn’s granddaughters, who provided me with some insightful details to her incredible grandmother. Ms. Vaughn was a caterer in North Carolina, raising five children, when she happened to come to the attention of Mr. Gamble, of Proctor & Gamble fame. He suggested she make a trip to New York City for an interview, for the possible job of hostessing a radio recipe program on the west coast. Ms. Vaughn made the trip to New York, arriving there with twenty five cents to her name! She got the job, then proceeded to move to Los Angeles, with her five children and a typewriter. Along with hostessing a local radio program, which was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble, Ms. Vaughn wrote a number of cookbooks, including “UP TO THE MINUTE COOKBOOK” “CULINARY ECHOS FROM DIXIE” “ART OF PRESERVING AND CANNING” and “TABLE TREATS FOR WAR TIME”. She also worked as director of the Home Economics Department of the Los Angeles Evening Express which was, I am told, the forerunner of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

Then there was Aunt Susan. You may have seen a published, (1989) attractive black and white cookbook titled “Long Lost Recipes of Aunt Susan”, edited by Patty Vineyard MacDonald. Ms. MacDonald tells us how many of her favorite recipes in her recipe box were handed down from Aunt Susan, whom she assumed for years to be some elusive member of her family. When she questioned her mother, she discovered that Aunt Susan was everybody’s aunt and the recipes had been clipped from her newspaper column.
Writes Ms. MacDonald, “Aunt Susan was actually Edna Vance Adams Mueller who, along with serving as food editor of the Daily Oklahoman, at one time also hostessed a cooking school show on radio station WKY during the 30s and 40s. It was through her skill baking and selling Lady Baltimore cakes that Aunt Susan came to the attention of the managing editor of the Daily Oklahoman and Times; her career as Aunt Susan began in the late 1920s with a newspaper column. For fifteen years, Aunt Susan not only wrote a newspaper column but she also broadcast a radio program of recipes and tips on
homemaking over station WKY. Her program was considered “chatty”, as if she dictated her columns to her secretary who transcribed them exactly as they were told to her. Early columns were little more than recipe exchanges between her readers. In addition to all this, Aunt Susan conducted a popular cooking school, from 1931 to 1941, each autumn for eleven years, at a coliseum in Packingtown. A staff of 15 assistants helped stage what became the southwest’s most popular food fair, with an AVERAGE daily attendance of 5,000 -or 25,000 Oklahoma homemakers for the week. This annual cooking school brought phenomenal space and radio time sales with Aunt Susan endorsing hundreds of products”. In the 30s, in addition to traveling to England, where she met with the chef at Buckingham Palace (and received the Queen Mother’s favorite recipe for Strawberry souffle from the King’s chef, P.H. Pouport), Aunt Susan also made a trip to Washington D.C., for an interview with Henrietta Nesbitt, who was the Roosevelt’s housekeeper. Mrs. Nesbitt gave Aunt Susan President Roosevelt’s favorite recipe for corned beef hash and Eleanor Roosevelt invited her upstairs for tea.

Aunt Susan’s last column for the Oklahoman was in 1943, when she moved to New York, where she went to work at McCall’s Magazine as Associate Good Editor and then became Food Editor in 1946, writing under the name of Susan Adams. A hard to find book you may wish to look for was “Susan Adams’ How to Cook Book” In 1947, she resigned from McCalls to devote full time to supervising the “BETTY CROCKER MAGAZINE OF THE AIR”, a transcontinental radio show that aired five mornings a week over 192 ABC stations. One of her many tasks was to train an actress named Zella Layne to voice the role of Betty Crocker. Aunt Susan planned and prepared all the food scripts, supervised a staff of script writers and coordinated guest contracts. Her new test kitchen made it possible to give all shows a live audience, utilizing techniques she had been
devising over the years. Later Aunt Susan and her husband went on to co-produce television programs, including two television shows, “Kitchen Fare” and “Susan Adams’ Kitchen” which ran successfully on TV for 5 1/2 years. Sadly, years later after her husband died, Aunt Susan’s own health and income began to fail and she resorted to selling rare volumes from her cookbook collection to live. She died in Colorado of a heart condition in 1972. The editor of “LONG LOST RECIPES OF AUNT SUSAN”, Patty Vineyard MacDonald, does not indicate what became of the rest of Aunt Susan’s
collection. Her enormous contribution to radio and television recipe programs, and newspaper food columns, seem to have been largely forgotten over the decades.

Then, there was the Neighbor Lady! The Neighbor Lady was Wynn Speece -who first went on the air in 1941 as a kind of programming experiment. She was, amazingly, hardly more than a young girl when she became the Neighbor Lady. Wynn’s first job was reading Sunday funnies over station KRNT in Des Moines..in this role, she played Olive Oyl, Maggie (of Maggie & Jiggs) and one of the mischievous Katzenjammer kids..for which they earned $2.00 per show! However, Ed Barrett, head of the radio department at Drake, hosted the Sunday morning program as Uncle Bill and it was he who taught
Wynn the fine points of radio broadcasting and helped her fine-tune her skills. Meanwhile, Wynn worked for her theater degree, not sure what she was going to do with it, and thinking she might pursue teaching, she enrolled in education courses to prepare herself for that work. But, she writes, in her book, “THE BEST OF THE NEIGHBOR LADY”, one day at a theatre rehearsal, she overheard a conversation that abruptly changed her mind. Some of her classmates were discussing the all-too-common question, what do you want to be when you grow up? Several of them said-with defeatist finality-they were going to teach because “there’s nothing better to do with a theater major”. Wynn was, in her own words, appalled. She immediately dropped her education courses, because she didn’t want to be a teacher of young, impressionable children, simply because there was nothing better to do. She began to think more and more about radio. Job opportunities were developing; serials were attracting many listeners. Wynn obtained a $400 loan from a national women’s organization to get herself through her senior year, enabling her to concentrate on radio studies. Wynn used the last $25 of the loan money to travel to Yankton, South Dakota, to accept a position as a writer, encouraged by a fellow student from her university days. Wynn was just a young girl in her
early 20s when she accepted the job in Yankton, and radio was in its infancy…but growing fast. Meanwhile, Wynn was happy with her job, writing commercials and maintaining the daily advertising log. Her work included research to the various facilities of various sponsors where she learned more about them and their products. Sometime later, the radio manager gave her a 15-minute slot, every Saturday morning, to talk about special premiums offered by WNAX advertisers. It was a turning point.

In the early summer of 1941, impressed with the way she handled her program, WIN WITH WYNN, and needing a replacement for the WNAX women’s director, manager Phil Hoffman turned to Wynn again. She was given a 15-minute program, six days a week, patterned especially for homemakers. She had only a weekend to prepare for her debut program..but the Neighbor Lady was on her way! The show was an immediate success, reaching farm and ranch wives in ten states; many of them were isolated and lonely, so that her daily visits were eagerly awaited. Wynn asked her listeners to share their recipes, household hints and favorite quotations. She sent them Good Deed dollars for their contributions. It appears that, from the very beginning, WNAX knew they had a good thing going. Annual booklets were published, compiling the year’s best recipes
and household hints, letters and readers’ favorite verses. The oldest I have was published in 1943, and is titled “Another Year with the Neighbor Lady”. Many years of the Neighbor Lady would follow–there was even a 25th Anniversary booklet, published in 1966. The final edition was published in 1972. In all, there were 31 soft cover booklets, greatly cherished by Wynn’s faithful following. This tradition had its beginning in 1942, when numerous listeners requested copies of material from Wynn’s broadcasts. In the years that followed, the Neighbor Lady booklets became almost as important as the show itself–and from a beginning production of only 1,000 copies (limited by war time
restrictions), publication grew to 20,000 copies which sold eventually, for $1.00 a copy. And although it was never planned that way, the booklets became collector’s items, and were greatly sought-after in the WNAX broadcasting region. I have a few of the booklets; it’s easy to understand why they were in such great demand. Even today, they are great
fun to read. Wynn had been on the air less than five months when the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor took place…and the war that followed was reflected in the contents of Neighbor Lady shows, with recipes that stressed meat shortages and various ways to overcome shortages. Instead of Good Deed dollars, she sent war stamps for her listener’s contributions. I find that one of the most intriguing aspects of Wynn Speece’s life is that she carved out a career for herself in radio at a time when most women stayed at home to raise their families…not only that, but she built that career AROUND homemaking…and when she proposed to “retire” from radio to stay at home to raise her family, WNAX would have none of it-they took radio to her home, and from there Wynn continued to do her program. Wynn was so popular with her listeners that they often dropped in to visit her, unannounced. People considered her their personal friend, and although this was a burden at times, she never turned anyone away–can you imagine inviting fans into your home TODAY? How times have changed!

There were numerous other radio recipe personalities, like Wynn Speece, in various other parts of the country. It was an idea whose time had come–some other programs appear to be copy-cat imitations of Wynn Speece’s Neighbor Lady Program. For instance, in Colorado on station KOA, there was a program called “Hello Neighbor” which, like Wynn Speece’s neighbor lady, resulted in an annual recipe/household hint booklet. From KOIN radio in Portland Oregon, came Betty Davis’ program–with recipe booklets one could request by mail, and here in Los Angeles, chef Mike Roy hosted a program on KNX radio for a number of years, and authored numerous cookbooks. A penpal in Illinois ent me some recipe leaflets from station WMT in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hosted by Jim Loyd, this program started in 1963, sending out 2600 recipe leaflets their first month on the air. Two years later, this number had increased to 7000, proving that even in the 1960s, radio recipe programs were still popular. Years later, television would attempt to mimic the success of radio recipe programs. There was, for instance, “Sunshine Home” with Keith & Maggie on TV station KEY-T in Santa Barbara in the early 50s; the booklets they published with recipe contributions from their viewers are reminiscent of the Best of the Neighbor Lady. Other programs would follow, but there was, perhaps, a lull between the fame of radio recipe programs and the advent of the hugely popular TV cooking shows today. However, I don’t think that anything we available to us today provides the kind of impact that Aunt Sammy or Aunt Susan or The Neighbor Lady imparted on this country way back… when radio was king.

(originally published in Cookbook Collectors Exchange as “Don’t Touch That Dial” by author).

HOMEMADE SOUP

HOMEMADE SOUP

“Beautiful soup, so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!
Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of beautiful soup!”
–Lewis Carroll

My grandmother’s most frequently cooked homemade soup
Was a Dutch clear chicken broth
Laced with tiny dumplings
Called “Rivels”
Which we pronounced “riv-a-lees”
And thought were very good
With a chunk of hot, freshly made
Salt bread.
In recent years I began wondering
What Grandma had done
With the rest of the chicken
And I was admonished once,
By Aunt Annie,
When I put all of the de-boned chicken
Back into the soup pot.
My justification was
I liked ingredients in my soup.

The soup most often served by my mother
Was a homemade meat and vegetable soup
Made with beef bones (that were
Given away free by the butcher),
And cooked with potatoes and carrots.
The bones and vegetables were removed
Near dinnertime, and
Noodles added to the broth.
That’s how we ate the soup.
After soup,
We had potatoes and carrots
While my father and brothers
spread the bone marrow
On saltine crackers.
A treat lauded now by Martha Stewart,
We thought it was simply the fare
Of poor people.

My soups are seldom without a myriad of ingredients;
Ham and bean, or
Ham and split pea,
Vegetable beef and barley,
Chinese chicken soup,
Cincinnati chili,
Beef stew,
Mexican Tortilla soup,
French Onion Soup,
Turkey and Rice
(When I have a turkey carcass)
Tomato Bisque and
Clam chowder,
Soups so thick
You can stand a spoon
In the pot
And it won’t tip over.
My claim to fame
(If there is such a thing)
Is that I can make a pot of soup
Out of almost anything
Found in the frig or the pantry,
a skill learned, perhaps,
When my sons were children
And we had almost nothing.
If necessity is the mother of invention,
Poverty is the grandmother of culinary creativity.

–Sandra Lee Smith
February 23, 2009