Several years ago when my Aunt Ginny and Uncle Jack moved to Mississippi Aunt Ginny gave me a box of recipes that she said were her mother’s — my grandmother’s. I looked through the box a few years ago and planned to try a few recipes at some time in the future. I never did get around to that and since I was feeling a little lazy today, thought I would take a look at the recipes in detail. About half of the contents of the box consists of recipes clipped out of magazines or newspapers and the other half consists of booklets containing recipes that fit a theme or use a particular brand or style of cooking.
The oldest booklet, copyrighted 1941 and written by the Culinary Institute of America, is called 500 Delicious Dishes from Leftovers. The introduction begins, “Rare indeed is the day when a modern housewife could not find in her refrigerator all sorts of odds and ends in the way of food. And it is these leftovers that challenge the imagination of the alert homemaker.”
Here is a recipe for leftover ground meat and leftover noodles:
Fricadellons with Noodles
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fat
1 cup dry bread softened in 1 cup water
2 cups leftover ground meat
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon alspice
1.4 teaspoon salt
3 cups leftover noodles
1/2 cup warm milk
Brown onion lightly in 1 tablespoon fat. Press water from bread; add onion, meat, egg and seasonings. Mix well. Shape into small balls or flat cakes and saute until crisp in remaining fat. Moisten noodles with warm milk and reheat. Make a ring of noodles, fill center with Succotash and border with the fricadellons. Serves 4.
I won’t be making that — or anything else in the book — but won’t toss the book in the trash either. Let me know if you need a delicious dish recipe from a leftover, I bet I can find one for you.
Gearing up for the holiday dedicated to eating, I started thinking of where I get my food. I’d like to say I buy only organic, cruelty-free food from local farms but that would be a lie. We are beginning to do a little of that — some local vegetables during growing season, cage-free organic eggs when Clare or I purchase them, cruelty-free (until they are slaughtered) chickens when Clare is around to eat it, organic grass feed meat when Clare is around. We do make sure to buy non-farmed fish, though — but I suppose that is because I’m the only one who buys fish.
When we lived in Pittsburgh we shopped in “The Strip” most Saturdays. It was such a fun experience — getting cheese from the cheese store, meat from the butcher, bread from the bakery, pasta from the macaroni shop, coffee from the coffee store (you get the picture) that I’ve often thought longingly of those days. A couple of years ago Dean told me about an Amish market up-county that he heard had good food. We visited one Saturday and have been back many times since. It is a little like our Pittsburgh shopping experience — except we can stay warm in the winter.
The Lancaster County Dutch Market — or as we call it “The Amish Market” is housed in a strip mall in Germantown, Maryland and is usually open Thursday through Saturday each week. Within the “market” are about a dozen vendors that cover all food groups (meats, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables, pretzels and candy). They also sell furniture and flowers. In addition you can eat breakfast or lunch (maybe dinner too) at either King’s Barbecue Pit where you order your food (including rotisserie rabbit) and take it home or sit at one of the booths to enjoy it there or the Dutch Family Restaurant — a sit-down eatery in the center of the market. We’ve not eaten at either, but it is on our to-do list. We have eaten at the Lapp’s Pretzels, however. I am willing to bet you have never had a pretzel as good as the pretzels Lapp’s sells.
Each vendor is family-run — so the person that helps you and takes your money is Amish — men and women are all in traditional dress which makes sense because they are Amish. I don’t know the story, but I think that the people that work in the market must travel down from Lancaster County Wednesday evenings and go back Saturday evenings. I don’t have any idea where they stay during their work week or how they travel the 100 or so miles from Lancaster, PA to Germantown, MD. Some of the Amish at the market seem young enough to still be in school — and I doubt they go to school in Montgomery County — so either they don’t stay in school as long as non-Amish usually do or they just look younger than non-Amish.
While it is not exactly like our Pittsburgh shopping experience, it is definitely an experience and we plan on purchasing our meats from there from now on. Their vegetables may be home-grown in the growing season, but unless they have greenhouses and grow summer fruit all winter long, I think they must import lots of their produce from afar. Still, I’d prefer buying fruit and vegetables from them than the local grocery store for some reason, at least during the non-growing season.
Last weekend we (Dean, his sister Diane, and I) visited Andrew in Oberlin, Ohio for Oberlin College’s Family Weekend. Diane joined us because we told her how much fun we had at last year’s family weekend and because she was a high school counselor and knew about Oberlin, but had never visited. Also because she’s the best aunt in the world.
If I have not mentioned it before on this blog, I love Oberlin College. It is the absolute perfect fit for Andrew and an amazing place in itself. The town and the college grew up together and from what I’ve seen, get along very well — like grown-up twins. Andrew’s rugby team is comprised of students, professors and townsmen. When we visit we stay with townspeople — in their homes with the money we pay going to various Oberlin programs.
Family weekend is full of events, from the wine and cheese reception on Friday to dozens of musical programs to many faculty-run lectures to the President’s brunch on Sunday. This year we didn’t do quite as many things as last year, but we did have a busy weekend.
On Friday we attended the wine and cheese reception after meeting up with Andrew and visiting his newly-tidied dorm room. The wine and cheese reception is held in (and outside of) the science building. Outside people stand (and shiver) while listening to a steel drum band. Inside people stand or sit and listen to a string quartet. Strangers approach each other and talk to each other with ease — like longtime friends or you approach strangers and ask them about their hats (a Scottish military hat worn to keep their head warm) or if they know someone in the orchestra embroidered on their jacket (they do) and end up talking with them like longtime friends. “Don’t you feel the love?” I asked Diane. She laughed.
For dinner on Friday after striking out at three other restaurants, we ended up at the Oberlin Inn where our waitress seemed as if she were just learning the ropes but since she was our waitress last May this was not the case. Dinner was decent and inexpensive, compared to Bethesda.
After dinner on Friday we went to an Opera called Il Mondo della Luna (The World of the Moon)which was a lot of fun, once we realized we were not going to really “get it” and just went with the slapstick humor. One of Andrew’s friends played a lead role.
On Saturday, after a breakfast and chat with our hosts, Dean went to a lecture while Andrew slept in. Diane and I went shopping — I adore a shop called Bead Paradise that sells clothing in styles I really like — and has some great sales and friendly staff. “Do you feel the love yet?” I asked Diane. Diane laughed.
Dinner was a disappointment — again all of the desirable restaurants were booked, so we went to an Italian restaurant we’d eaten at last year and vowed to avoid this year. The service was slow, the food mediocre, but the company was excellent (and we sat near someone famous in the area — maybe a former owner or manager of the Cleveland Indians?)
We’d hoped to see the Oberlin Aerialists again this year, but dinner took too long and we were tired by the time we left the restaurant.
At some point as we were leaving Oberlin, Diane turned to me and said, “Okay Dona, I feel the love now”. I smiled — I knew she would.
Dean isn’t the only one in the family with obsessions. I have them too — mostly about meeting authors. I wrote about my obsession with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor a couple of times, but never really explained that the real obsession was that I could possibly be walking in Bethesda and pass her on the street or in the grocery store because she actually lived in Bethesda. Back when I was following Neil Gaiman’s blog I used to imagine bumping into him somehow, someday — not at the National Book Festival where he’s been an invited author many times, but maybe if I ever traveled to Minneapolis or something. I mean, it could have happened…
Well, my latest obsession about meeting someone sort of famous lasted about 5 years or so. A while back (like I said, 5 years or so) I was searching for something involving Bethesda on Google and came across a blog written by a young mother who, it seemed, lived in Bethesda. I read her blog and recognized places she talked about (the Trader Joe’s with the crazy stupid parking lot and the Pier 1 store not far from Trader Joe’s where she once dropped some packages and a passerby ignored her [I wouldn’t have done so, I vowed]).
As the years went on she wrote more about her family — the births of her second and third sons; the death of her father a few months after my own father’s death. She freely posted photos of herself, her boys and her husband, but I always wondered if I would recognize her or them if I passed them on the street in Bethesda. Photos are one thing — the real live person is another.
I even dreamed about meeting this blogger. I posted about one dream — where she fed us hot dogs, but have not bothered to mention the other dreams. They usually simply incorporate her as a friend of mine. Please note — while I read her blog, I do not really know her and do not pretend to know her, but try telling that to my subconscious.
So the other day when Clare was home for a few days after Superstorm Sandy hit our area she wanted to go shopping at a local mall to find some new jeans. She found a couple pairs (okay — four pairs of skinny corduroys in different colors) and we were meandering through the mall wondering where to go next when I turned around near the Fossil store and saw AMALAH! (her name is really Amy but she goes by Amalah on twitter and that’s the name of her blog). There, in the middle of a bunch of strangers was this family I’d read about 3 times a week. The whole family, was walking in the mall as if they were not totally famous. I had a few seconds to decide what I would do. Would I run up and say, “Amy! I read your blog! I am so glad to finally meet you!”? or would I just watch the family pass by without saying anything, but feeling all giddy and wanting to dance a little jig?
I chose the latter. I did tell Clare about it and pointed out each of the children by name and she thought they were adorable. (they were!)
Afterwards I felt a little let down — not because I’d seen them, but because my wait was over. I finally ran into them somewhere in Bethesda. Of course it could happen again — and maybe next time I will say something — hopefully I will be calmer then.
But really — now I have nothing to look forward to. I need a new obsession!
*No chasing was involved — it was a purely accidental encounter. Promise!
Occasionally my husband obsesses about one thing or another, usually involving food. Not really in a bad way — just in a slightly annoying way. Once it was about eating at a supper club near Minocqua called Wisconsonaire. Whenever we’d pass it he’d say, “Wisconsonaire.” We eventually ate there and he decided it was not what he’d hoped and now has a slight distaste for “Supper Clubs”. Another of his obsessions was a restaurant we used to pass by when we drove to a couple of wrestling meets to watch our son wrestle. It was a huge lodge-type place in Rockville that he’d eaten at once before and thought I’d enjoy it. He was right about that one. We’ve been to Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge a few times and plan to go back again. His latest obsession turned out to be the best: Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio.
When we were discussing when we should leave Bethesda for Oberlin, Ohio to visit our son for Family Weekend, Dean thought we should time it so we could eat lunch at Donna’s Diner. I asked him what Donna’s Diner was and he said he read about it in the NY Times. I thought he’d seen an ad or review for it and that it must be special if a newspaper in New York mentioned a restaurant in Ohio. I did look up Donna’s Diner, and found a Website for one that looked like fun, but then saw that it was in Pennsylvania.
When I searched for “Donna’s Diner” and “Ohio” and “NY Times” I found an article about a down-on-its-heels town and a diner that looked less fun than the one in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have time to read the article, but put it on my to-do list.
We didn’t eat lunch at Donna’s Diner on the way to see Andrew, but did drive through Elyria, Ohio — the subject of the NY Times article — and saw where Donna’s Diner was located. We considered eating dinner there, but were not sure it was open for dinner. What struck me, however, was the fact that they offered a Mac-and-cheese bar: “Your Way!” “Made Fresh”.
The next day Dean suggested we go to Elyria for lunch and Andrew was up for it. We parked close-by and walked into the diner. We were seated right away and asked what was a “must-have” on the menu. The hostess suggested the Donna Burger. I asked about the Mac-and-cheese bar but it was not set up. Our server called back “Nanna — can you set up the mac-and-cheese bar?” Nanna (aka Donna) called back, “Yes — it will only take me a minute.”
So that’s how Dean, Diane, Andrew and I got to eat at Donna’s Diner and meet the star of a 5-part article from the New York Times. Andrew and I had a nice conversation with her about the article and her plans for a “White Christmas” themed event around Christmas. She hoped to get some Oberlin students involved — perhaps with caroling around the city square.
The food was very good. Dean loved his Donna Burger and Andrew enjoyed his Reuben My mac-and-cheese was rich and delicious (I opted for garlic, chives and mushrooms) and far too much for me to eat on my own. Andrew got to take it back to his dorm room for later consumption.
I finally read the Donna’s Diner part of the NY Times article this morning. She and I have some things in common — we are nearly the same age, her father was in the Navy. We both grew up in Midwestern towns that begin with the letter E — and Elyria reminds me a little of Elgin. But about the time I was getting ready to go to England for the first time she was pregnant with her first child. She’s had to struggle. I’ve had life easy. She’s an icon in her hometown. I rarely visit my hometown, having moved away decades ago.
I’m so glad we got to visit Donna’s Diner and I hope that it is around for a long time. I hope that the article helps the diner and the town somehow. We’ll go back for lunch when we visit Oberlin — that much is certain.
Oh, and that other Donna’s Diner? The one in Pennsylvania? I’m sure it is not nearly as nice or friendly or fun or delicious as Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio.