September is the month of late harvest. Those who preserve garden fruits and vegetables have proudly counted Ball jars and bags of frozen goodies before storing them to enjoy this winter.
My Canadian blogger friend, Linda Hoye, finds joy in the process and has made an art form of photographing her rich store of nutrition. On her website August 22 she tallied all the edibles she’s canned. Click on the link to see what’s inside those 288 jars along with a list of freezer delights and a dehydrator that hummed with banana chips, cherries, and raspberries.
Linda is carrying on a tradition very much like my mother, grandmother, and generations before her. Here my jubilant Grandma Longenecker exclaims, “All the lids on our Ball jars have sealed with a ‘Pop'” as my mother looks on.
The September 2016 issue of The Mennonite magazine has featured an article with several of my Grandma Longenecker’s recipes, including the savory chicken pot pie recipe I helped her make as a girl. Here is the link to this story. (On the link, click on the left arrow where the story begins.)
Do share your memories of the canning process – pride, joy, the arduous work – even mishaps are welcome here around the kitchen table.
Do you still preserve garden food for the winter? We’re all ears!
“I think of my canning as fast food, paid for in time up front.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Coming next: An Artist Writes Memoir: Joan Z. Rough’s Scattering Ashes
“It’s a spring cleaning ritual – but for your body,” touts reporter Jennifer Sheehan, extolling the merits of eating dandelion. “It cleans your blood and you get a lot of good vitamins from it,” another endorsement I read in Sheehan’s article from Lehigh Valley’s The Morning Call.
My mother would agree. Each spring about this time, she took her wooden-handled trowel and dug out dandelion plants fertilized by cow and horse manure in the meadow next door. “Dandelion has a lot of iron,” she said of the long, spiny leaves. “And it’s so good with hard-boiled eggs and bacon.”
Last week my sister Janice shared Mother’s recipe. I was pleasantly surprised because I didn’t know it was written down anywhere.
Add a little water till soft.
Add white sugar – a little vinegar
Fry bacon and hard boil two eggs
The recipe wouldn’t pass muster for cookbook publication, lacking as it does measurements and a logical order. But reading between the lines, I constructed her dish in a slightly different way.
First of all, I bought dandelion at a local farmer’s market. The label reads organic. The dandelion stalks pictured here look too perfect The dandelion strands of my childhood were more wiry, a deeper green. “Organic” was not a selling point back then.
I began by frying bacon and hard boiling eggs.
Instead of white sugar, I used brown.
And I saved the broth from cooking the dandelion. “It’s good for what ails you,” I imagine Mother would say.
Finally, good enough to eat!
Continuing the discussion of dandelion in The Morning Call, Sheehan quotes Patrick Donmoyer, an expert on Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, who believes eating dandelion greens is symbolic. “Donmoyer, who lectures at the Pennsylvania German Heritage Center in Kutztown, reports that some people believed that the dandelion were special, holy even, gathered as they were during the week leading up to Easter.”
Christians observed Easter nearly a month ago, but beginning Friday evening, Jewish families observe Passover, enjoying the ritual of the Seder meal. Surely no bacon will be served, but the menu will feature eggs, symbolizing renewal, and bitter herbs, signifying the agony of Hebrew enslavement in Egypt.
You can see a fully furnished Seder table here in a previous post. I wonder whether dandelion, like horseradish, would qualify as a bitter herb.
What rituals do you observe in the spring – eating certain foods? cleaning house? planting a garden?
Do you have a dandelion (or endive) recipe to share, or an experience of eating the dish? Have you observed the Passover Seder?
Coming next: All Creatures Great and Small: The Power of Pets
An apple cake with half the recipe batter left out . . . the baked remainders landing on the floor. Double dumb mistakes.
That’s not the way I envisioned marking my 300th blog post.
To mark this milestone, grandson Curtis and I planned to make an apple cake together, perfect for feasting two days before Christmas 2015. He likes to be in the kitchen and remembered our success with a spiced pork recipe a few weeks earlier.
The ingredients were laid out, I placed cups and spoons on the counter, the tube pan at the ready.
Curtis and I both donned aprons (his flowery, mine denim) and got to work. He helped core and dice the apples, careful to curl his fingers away from the knife blade. We both chatted happily over the hum of the mixer, adding apples, nuts, cinnamon, and vanilla to the mix.
What Happened Next
When the batter was ready, I poured the mixture into the tube pan and set the timer on my iPhone to a “check-me” time. Then Curtis and I sang Christmas carols around the piano, a first for just the two of us.
I heard the ping, ran to the kitchen, switched on the oven light and gasped. The cake had risen to only half of the height I had expected. Then my eye caught a glimpse of a bag on the counter with half of the mix inside. Sadly, I’d failed to fold it into the batter. That could account for the low rise. Still, the cake looked edible as I pulled it out of the oven, rounded and fragrant, and placed it on a rack to cool.
Just when I tilted the tube pan, the whole thing went SPLAT. Half of the cake flopped into the sink and the other half plopped onto the floor.
There were moments of silence. 10 . . . 20 . . . 30 seconds?
Then Curtis quietly asks, “Nana, where do you keep your broom and dustpan?”
Here is the space for the cleanup photo:
(Imagine broom and dustpan)
After the Dust Settled
We ate a few morsels that fell into the sink. They were actually quite tasty. Then I asked Curtis what he had learned from the experience. Of course, I expected a snarky remark about his addle-brained grandma.
Instead, he began recalling bits of advice I gave him over the mixing bowl:
Drizzle a little lemon juice over the apples to keep them from turning brown.
Use a toothpick to test for cake “done-ness” even if you use a timer.
Insert a toothpick between pan and its lid on the stove to keep a simmering mixture from boiling over (his Great Grandma Longenecker’s trick).
When you remove a pot from a hot burner, put a teakettle with a small amount of cool water over the burner to absorb the heat, especially during hot weather.
Was he just being kind?
What I Learned
“It’s not that bad,” one of Curtis’ own sayings when things go awry.
Even baking disasters can taste good. (The result was a passable apple “cobbler” even if it didn’t have the consistency of cake.)
“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful,” another wise saying making the rounds these days.
Curt and I played Scrabble afterwards. He won, but not by much!
The Apple Cake Recipe, donated by my friend Bonnie Evans
1 yellow cake mix (All of it!)
2 cups chopped/diced apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
I teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
brown sugar for sprinkling on top of cake
Blend oil and eggs into cake mix as directed. Add vanilla & cinnamon. Then add apples & nuts. Pour into tube pan and sprinkle brown sugar on the top. Bake at 350 degrees until done. Pour icing over top of the cake.
Melt 1cup brown sugar, 1 stick of butter and ½ tsp. vanilla. Stir until dissolved. Pour over top of cake.
A Miracle – Ahh!
Out of the blue, the very next day at breakfast my long time friend Wanda Rogers Long presented me with a perfectly baked apple cake – glittering in cellophane and topped with a red bow!
All’s well that ends well . . .
Several weeks later I baked the same cake with better results for my husband Cliff’s January birthday . . .
Most everyone has a similar story whether it’s a mishap in the kitchen or someplace else. Here’s where you can tell yours.
Was there a happy ending to your story – Yes? No?
Coming next: Comparison Shopper Finds His Valentine
“I have always relied on the kindness of strangers,” admits Blanche DuBois, an aging belle in Tennessee Williams’ classic play A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche has had the props knocked from under her and has nowhere to turn except to her sister Stella, also living in reduced circumstances.
In a far, far different context and definitely not because they have the slightest desire to do so, refugees from all over the world have been forced to rely on the kindness of strangers as they flee terrifying conditions in their homelands.
Such has been the case of Sabah Jabri, who with her husband and children left bomb-scarred Baghdad, Iraq in 2007 with just identification documents and the clothes on their backs and fled to Syria, ironically back then a peaceful respite from warfare.
Sabah, an accountant, and her husband Alaa, a civil engineer, fled Baghdad when fighting between Sunni and Shiite militias made daily life unbearable. They ended up in Syria for a year, cared for by a family whose home – and whose soup – they shared, a dish they called “yakhni.”
After a year in Syria, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees assigned the family to emigrate again to Ephrata in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch County.
Currently, Sabah is manager of the Café at Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata, where you can be sure this soup is on the menu. The article in Lancaster Online did not include the recipe (Of course not!) but the ingredients were listed: chunks of chicken breast, potatoes, carrots, onions and chickpeas in a hearty broth. Incidentally, Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata offers fair trade items worldwide for sale.
More than sixty years ago, a visionary named Edna Ruth Byler worked through the Mennonite Central Committee to begin an enterprise which has mushroomed into Ten Thousand Villages.
. . . [She] believed that she could provide sustainable economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries by creating a viable marketplace for their products in North America. She began a grassroots campaign among her family and friends in the United States by selling handcrafted products out of the trunk of her car. Byler made a concerted effort to educate her community about the lives of artisans around the world.
Ten thousand Villages is the result, an undertaking that has grown well beyond the tiny house of its inception and offers for sale baskets, jewelry scarves, bags, kitchen & dining articles, toys and other items from artisans, particularly women, around the world.
Mother also knew the nutritional heartiness of soup and often had vegetable soup waiting for us when we drove or flew up from Florida at Christmastime. Within five minutes of our arrival, one of us would fly into the kitchen and open the Frigidaire to see whether there was a ceramic pull-out drawer full of soup in the bottom left.
Chicken corn soup was also her specialty, with hard-boiled eggs and rivels, doughy droplets made from flour . . .
Author, editor, and cookbook writer Melodie Davis has recently featured savory Spanish lentil soup on her website where the recipe for the dish below appears.
My sister Jan (“Janice,” growing up) is easily the best cook in our family. One of my birthday presents from her last year was a cookbook entitled Amish Cooking.
In the head-line this week, I say “A Touch of Amish” because the recipes are quick and easy and many contain shortcuts with ingredients like commercially prepared soup mixes, an item not usually associated with authentic Amish cooking. Still, when we’re pressed for time, quick and easy may be the way to go. Besides, as temps grow cooler, who doesn’t welcome a warmer kitchen made fragrant with an herbal mix from the oven.
Barring any need to skip off to the grocery store first, ten minutes is a short prep time, but extend the time just a bit so you don’t feel rushed.
If you are a purist, and prefer making recipes from scratch, you can substitute these herbs and spices for the mix: finely chopped onion or onion salt, diced garlic, chicken broth thickened slightly with one tsp. corn starch, chopped parsley
About the vegetables: To make sure the veggies are soft enough by the end of the baking time, I microwave them for 2-3 minutes before baking. Also, I use more potatoes and carrots than called for in the recipe and add an onion too.
Plated, a savory dish for harvest time this fall!
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
Busy day recipe or fall favorites – all are welcome here!
Coming next: Grace Notes: Mary Grace Martin & Her Pump Organ
I bought this portable meal, a Lunchables, to give to a homeless person. So why is it still sitting in my refrigerator?
Last week I planned to give this lunch to the next person I saw holding a “Hungry & Homeless – Will you Help?” sign as I waited in my car for the traffic light to change on a busy boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida, a city that attracts the destitute for several reasons including its mild climate.
Sure enough, I was first in line at the red light leaving the grocery store, and I spotted a downtrodden young woman looked eager for my help. I popped the trunk and jumped out of the car, intending to offer her the lunch, but she declined, “No, ma’m. That won’t help at all. I need $ 99.00 to blah – blah – blah.” No, I didn’t give her $ 99.00 because I never give cash to the homeless. Instead, I give to the needy through our church or through homeless shelters in town.
Yet, this brief encounter left me conflicted, with two opposing strong sentiments: a Yes and a No
Yes, I did feel cynical as the light turned green, knowing the woman was probably scamming people. No, I will never stop feeling sorry for the “homeless” regardless of their intentions whether it’s a real physical need to survive, untreated mental illness or something else.
Giving money to the homeless is an economic crisis of the heart, a tug-of-war between the instinct to alleviate suffering and the knowledge that a donation might encourage, rather than relieve, the anguish of the poor. The Atlantic
On my nightstand sat a copy of The Invisible Thread: The true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny. It was time to read it!
An Invisible Thread, a Review
“Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change? I’m hungry.” Those were the first words out of the mouth of Maurice, as Laura Schroff, a publishing executive at Time Inc, rounded the corner from Broadway to 45th Street in New York City. She passed him by, but something special in his eyes halted her and she turned on her heel and, nearly killing herself in traffic, went back. Thus their paths converged and the story of a thirty-year relationship began.
No, Miss Laura did not give Maurice spare change but on the spot she took him to McDonald’s for a Big Mac, large fries, and milkshake. Then over the years they met every Monday night often at her luxury apartment where Maurice learned about ritual and rules for living: sitting down to eat a meal, showing up on time for school. Laura’s cozy nest provided a safe haven, an escape from his one-room hotel room, a den of violence where 10-12 assorted needy “friends” and family flopped to sleep off a drug binge or cook crack to deal on the streets.
Not until Chapter 8 does the reader learn about the tug on the other end of the invisible thread – the unspeakable violence in Laura’s middle-class childhood home where a father in drunken rages would fling full liquor bottles against the wall and destroy his son’s sports trophies.
She admits, “I couldn’t help but think that the terror and uncertainty we faced as children because of my father was similar to the chaos that Maurice now had to endure.” (107)
Laura’s memoir, reminiscent of The Blind Side, interweaves three dynamic narratives: The first, the story of Laura and Maurice’s growing relationship. Secondly, Laura’s back story as both victim and then survivor of her dysfunctional home. And finally, Maurice’s maturation into an adult with a family of his own, reflecting what Joseph Campbell calls “the hero’s journey” often fraught with obstacles and setbacks.
I began reading the book because I was intrigued by the disparity between an accomplished woman in Manhattan and a needy young boy from Brooklyn. I was compelled to read on because I wanted answers: Why would a young woman who helped make USA Today and InStyle successful publications risk all to build trust with a young man who had nothing to offer in return? How did an ill-kempt beggar boy, who has since developed a career in construction and is raising his own family, enrich that woman’s own life?
In the end, Author Schroff realizes that both she and Maurice had traveled together on a voyage of self-discovery. Her message: “This is a book about how, if we learn to let go of fears and burdens and expectations, we can find ourselves plunged into the sweet, unplanned blessings of life” (book blurb).
Should you give money to homeless people? According to the article in The Atlantic: “The short answer is no. The long answer is yes, but only if [you do it through] an organization that can ensure the money is spent wisely.”
But maybe . . . if you are someone with the incredible courage of Laura Schroff, there is still another answer.
Click here for a short video, a Lunch Date with Destiny
But there was a plate. A plate of cupcakes. I can show you the plate, but the cupcakes are missing. Why? Because our grandchildren ate them all up. In fact the two older boys ate theirs up seconds after they landed on the plate. I missed the photo op completely.
Last weekend the family gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July. Some months ago, I had read Laura Brennan’s suggestion about celebrating success of family members with a plate of accomplishment. I caught her enthusiasm and thought “What a great idea!” All four grand-kids had received recognition at school this past year, so it seemed sensible to combine a national holiday with a family celebration.
We have a fun and easy way to celebrate in our house: it’s called The Plate of Accomplishment. In going through my mom’s stuff, I found one lone, gorgeous dinner plate – shimmery, just lovely. So when one of us has an accomplishment to celebrate, they get to eat dinner on that plate. It comes out with much fanfare (a mini-parade, actually) and a song: “It is the Plate of Accomplishment, it is the Great Great Plate of Accomplishment …
Our grand-kids’ accomplishments were not measured by degrees as adults might do. There was as much hoopla about a memo from a teacher dashed off in minutes as for a bound book in a school library.
And so it went in birth order. . .
We celebrated Patrick’s printed book “My Life as a Pencil”
And Curtis’ recognition for academic achievement among 5th graders in the District
Jenna’s gift for noticing trash on the playground and stopping to pick it up at recess
And Ian’s quality of charity and compassion
As long as the pixels and electrons hold together on this website, today’s post will be a family record for the Daltons and the Beamans for years to come. Just as importantly, I pass this celebration along as a template to commemorate all sorts of happy occasions among your own friends and family members, including nieces and nephews.
Back to the celebration: I don’t really think my grand-kids paid much attention when I read them the inscription on the back of the plate. They knew cupcakes were coming! Yet the Old Testament writer Zephaniah prophesied the power of praise . . .
In my Mennonite upbringing in the 1950s and 60s, honor given to a family member would probably be shyly appreciated but not expressed openly. Why? Because recognition of this sort smacked of pride, the worst sin of all. After my high school graduation with honors, my parents barely acknowledged all the recognition I received. During my Eastern Mennonite College graduation ceremony, not a word was spoken about my ranking in the class. Such practices were soon to change though. I was near the end of the Old Guard.
It is definitely not psychologically sound to overlook the accomplishments of the deserving and according to Zephaniah, it is certainly not biblical either.
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As you read this post, did a name or two pop into mind, someone deserving of a plate of accomplishment? It’s your turn to tell!
Bird beaks peck away at grains of corn on the walls of The Corn Palace. Still, the murals created with several colors of dried corn and grain arrest the eye. On our trip West we visited this grand monument to farmers and the grain industry they represent in Mitchell, South Dakota.
A Quote about Corn:
“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine,” said Anne Bronte, poet and novelist of West Yorkshire, England, 1800s
Corn Sex, according to Elizabeth Kolbert in “The Big Heat,” The New Yorker, July 23, 2012 issue
Mennonites and Corn
Mennonites in Lancaster County, including the Longenecker family, participated in the whole process of corn production: planting, hoeing, harvesting, husking, canning, freezing – and best of all – eating the succulent grains of corn on the cob, the buttery juice running down our chins and forearms.
My Mother Ruth loved making her baked corn recipe from the Mennonite Community Cookbook. She served it in a chocolate-brown Pyrex casserole dish nested in a basket of tight weave. We loved every bite, especially tasty during corn season.
Baked Corn Recipe
Want More Corn?
Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet, diplomat and politician, apparently loved vegetables too. He wrote about tomatoes, corn and more. Here is the link to his poem “Ode to Maize.”
Grand-daughter Jenna and I decided to make a rainbow cake on Memorial Day weekend. We were hoping for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the cake-making process wasn’t that easy!
Here’s our step-by-step process with a few glitches noted:
First, we put on our aprons Then we mix together the ingredients (oil, eggs, and water), Jenna trying hard not to get egg-shell pieces in with the batter from a mix.
Tricky Part: Dividing up the Batter
We divide the batter into 6 paper cups and begin to add color. Remember ROY G BIV from grade school? Then we use 6 more cups, adding the color in reverse order: violet-blue-green-yellow-orange-red. (No indigo among the colors.) Here Jenna is stirring the green, her favorite color:
Next, we pour batter, one color on top of the other into the first pan. In the second, we repeat the process, pouring the colors in reverse order. Mind you, this takes a long, long time, with several spatulas. Think “art” and finger painting when you are in this step.
The recipe book looks so perfect. Hmm . . .
Pop into Oven: We set the oven to preheat (350 degrees) way too early, so temperature was super hot. The recipe’s suggested bake time of 40 minutes actually turned into 30, so the cake layers became a little brown.
Like her Great Grandma Longenecker, Jenna used a toothpick to check to see if cake was done.
Take cake pans out of oven, cool, and frost. Then . . .
Adding sprinkles was probably Jenna’s favorite part. Her expression shows her delight!
SCARY PARTS: Behind the scenes!
* The first gel color we used (violet) made the batter a tepid shade of gray. We both felt disappointment because we thought the other colors might be duds too!
NaNa (when we began): “Think of making this cake as a combination of art and baking.”
Jenna (at this point): “This is a combination of art and baking with a hint of disaster!”
* The cake layers came out of the oven looking like volcanoes (Jenna’s word)! I forgot to take a photo here. Our fix: we sawed off the tops with a bread knife and got our first yummy cake taste.
* The two cake layers did not fit together perfectly. Our fix: Slathering frosting into the gaping parts.
We traced the word “cake” in the Bible, Jenna reading the passage from I Kings 17:8-16 about the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. Actually, this woman’s cake was the bread of sustenance, one of survival, nothing like the confectionery concoction we baked just for fun.
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Tell us about your cake-making successes, disasters, or near misses. If necessary, how did you improvise?
Coming next: Two Mennonite Girls on a Cross-Country Road Trip
Last week I was in the kitchen with my nearly vintage Mennonite Community Cookbook (1978) creased open to page 155 where I checked out the recipe for sautéed (Okay, I’ll admit, it’s fried!) egg-plant. Hours later when my new and improved Mennonite Community Cookbook arrived in the mail, I quickly turned to page 155, and behold there was the same egg-plant recipe contributed by Mrs. Hubert Pellman, wife of one of my favorite English professors at EMC. No, I didn’t use the new cookbook because I didn’t want to splotch it up. But when I switch over I’ll enjoy the spiral notebook style of binding and other updates on the new edition.
Blurb from the Old Mennonite Community Cookbook: First published in 1950, Mennonite Community Cookbook has become a treasured part of many family kitchens. Parents who received the cookbook when they were first married make sure to purchase it for their own sons and daughters when they wed.
The Mennonite Community Cookbook, 1950 – 2015
Dubbed the “grandmother of all Mennonite cookbooks” author Mary Emma Showalter compiled favorite recipes from hundred of Mennonite women who brought their recipes directly from Dutch, German, Swiss, and Russian kitchens. A “dab of cinnamon” or “ten blubs of molasses” have been translated into standard measurements. Fine pen & ink drawings of the pie shelf in the springhouse, outdoor bake ovens, the summer kitchen recall cookery in Grandma’s day.
You can buy the book here, or go to their MCC Facebook page and enter to win the cookbook. As of this date, there are drawings for free books every week.
Mennonite GIrls Can Cook
Also produced by MennoMedia (Herald Press): Mennonite Girls Can Cook, volume 1 and their second volume, Celebrations.
This book required collaboration from 10 authors (cooks and writers) all but one from Canada. Names like Friesen, Wiebe, Klassen, and Penner suggest their southern Russian (Ukrainian) roots.
Their Celebrations cookbook, on special for Mother’s Day (half-price until May 9), is a collage of recipes, of course, and meditations of faith celebrating milestones such as birth, marriage, and holidays illustrated with first-class photographs. Some surprises: a mini-pizza recipe faces one for homemade potato chips. Pages later, a lattice-topped grilled apple recipe followed by Borscht and Zwieback (first cookbook).
The authors emphasize “hospitality over entertaining” and “blessing rather than impressing.” Appropriately, the Celebrations book’s end-leaf posts a copy of Old Hundred, Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow. Best of all, royalties go to nourish children around the world. You can follow them on their blog, Mennonite Girls Can Cook, which attracts 7000 views daily.
Many Mennonites (Anabaptists) who live in the USA have Swiss roots, but fled to Germany to escape to religious persecution. When William Penn offered them rich farmland in Pennsylvania, these folks, my ancestors, immigrated in the 1700s with hopes of adapting their love of the land and family tradition to the New World. Similarly, Canadian Mennonite forebears fled western Europe and religious persecution to live in Russia from where they immigrated to Canada escaping political upheaval.
Tie-Dye Rainbow Cake!
I can’t wait to make the tie-dye rainbow cake with Jenna or one of the grand-boys, and soon! (Pages 60 and 61 in Celebrations)
Your turn: Are you familiar with either cookbook? Do you have a favorite recipe or cookbook – or do you just “wing it”? Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!