Sunday, January 14, 2007

Carnival of Genealogy - food!

The last of my ancestors to arrive in what is now the United States came here in 1832 from Switzerland so there is no ethnicity involved in the foods served and eaten by my family. If there is any influence it is most likely that of economics, at least it was when I was growing up in a family of four children in the 1950's and 60's. Buy what you can afford and make the best of it. Mac and Cheese, cheap cuts of meat slow cooked till they fell apart, mashed potatoes, vegetables from the garden. Our usual fare for Sunday dinner was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cauliflower and cheese, and a lettuce salad with a homemade salad dressing. If we were eating chicken, it had to be Sunday!

Though there was really nothing special about the foods we ate, which were fairly bland, and usually seasoned with just salt and pepper, it was good stuff. My Grandmother (mom's mom) opened a restaurant in North Webster, Indiana when I was 12 years old - I worked there until I graduated from high school. There was a mid-day special that always sold out. Swiss steak, fried chicken, baked beef heart (never did learn to like that!), liver and onions, pork chops; pretty much the standard diner-type fare.

Her specialty though was pies. Boy, could she make pies. She'd get in to the restaurant at 4 a.m. every morning, two hours before opening, to get the day's special started and get the pies baked. The aroma was just heavenly. She actually made her living baking pies for a few years in the 1930's for her brother's restaurant in Elkhart, Indiana.

My Grandfather (mom's dad) worked as a baker and confectioner prior to his enlistment in World War I. It was in the 1950's and 60's that he became well-known for his candies, especially at Christmas time. He made all kinds but my favorites were the vanilla caramels and turtles. He made his last batch of candy in the fall of 1982 when he moved out of the house and into an apartment in Columbia City.

Grandpa was a pretty good all-around cook too. He always fixed the turkey and dressing (3 kinds - one with oysters, one without oysters, and another without oysters or onions) for the big family dinner at Thanksgiving. This was when us kids and the cousins were little. After the older kids got to be teenagers, there were too many of us to fit into the house at the same time.

No special recipes were passed down through the generations; it was just good plain food. Still is.

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