This is my favorite picture of my grandmother, here with my dear sister from a Christmas 5 or so years ago.
Since she’s been sick and in the nursing home, we’ve had to gather up a lot of my grandmother’s belongings from her old home. A lot of memories left open for the taking, the giving, the passing. Each of us in this small little family kept what things meant most to us from her house. For me, the most sentimental thing was her cuckoo clock which now hangs in my dining room. Every time I look at it or hear it “cuckoo”, I think of my grandfather religiously walking over to the corner of his kitchen and pulling the chains to wind the gears all while looking over his shoulder at his young, clumsy granddaughter (that would be me) to say “don’t ever touch this”. He said it each time. I was never offended because it was like he was reading my mind. I wanted to touch it so badly, but the odds were that I would break it. He knew it and I knew he loved it just as much as I did. Proof: they never turned the cuckoo off. They let it chime all day and all night in their small little 1960′s ranch. Sigh.
Well, aside from the cuckoo clock there were a few other treasures I am harboring from my grandmothers home. Small little porcelain bowls with black painted rims grandma used to put sliced bananas topped with crunchy orange sugar in or her famous store brand Jell-o that magically NEVER EVER formed that thick skin on the surface. Always eaten out of those bowls.
There’s also a sewing table and the desk where my grandpa kept all the bills and letters. We have the desk in our entryway now. It still smells like my grandpa – whatever aftershave or lotion he used to use. When I walk up the stairs into my apartment I smell my grandpa. It’s a good feeling.
And then there’s the beautiful honey colored dresser that she kept in her front bedroom. I love the story behind this one. My grandparents had a very old fashioned marriage. He was not comfortable with my grandma working – so she didn’t, for the most part. She would babysit and iron clothes for a little money, but she didn’t take a job outside the house. Except for when she really wanted something. Like this bedroom suite. She worked at a factory for 6 months so she could save the money to buy this furniture. Once I heard this story, I was certain I didn’t want this dresser to just be sold to just anyone. I wanted to keep it in the family.
However, there was something I didn’t even know existed that I now am the proud owner of. For my birthday this year, my Aunt Diane gave me one of my favorite gifts – my grandma’s first cookbook…
…and a notebook full of family recipes.
I spent a good hour on the sofa flipping through each page of both the book and the notebook when I got them safely back to my home. There were many little treasures inside and various amusements. Here are a few:
This is the inside cover of the cookbook. It was printed in 1940, which is, I believe, 6 or 7 years before my grandparents met and wed.
My grandmother wrote Mrs. Jack Radabaugh, Findlay, Ohio. She was a very proud and good wife. I mean look at the man, what a hunk! Can’t see him too well? Just trust me on this one – a hunk and an American hero. He is where Marlo likely got her red locks from.
Something special my aunt slipped inside was a Christmas card from my grandpa to my grandma from before they were married.
It was a Hallmark card – nothing but the best for my grandma.
I was particularly curious to see if much has changed in the realm of home cooking in the last 70 years. I found small things. Common ingredients were named differently. Some recipes called for “salt pork” which I assume is just bacon. Also, ovens must have been incredibly inefficient. A lot of muffin recipes called for a 400 degree oven, and a 30-45 minute bake time. Can you imagine? Also, some words were spelled differently: see sirup for syrup and sider for cider.
My grandma obviously had a boiling sugar disaster on the toffee page. Guess I get my clumsiness from her.
While there were many great recipes for sweets, I have been desperate for some new interesting entrèe recipes. First stop for me was the Poultry section of the cookbook, where I was caught first by the name of this dish, and second by the ingredients which sounded like a delicious ensemble that was right up our alley. I briefly explored the internet for a history of this dish, but nothing turned up. If anyone knows anything about this – why it’s named this, where is it from – I’d love to know. It was relatively uncomplicated, but not exactly the easiest meal I’ve prepared. However, it was fantastic. Really really good – I mean how could it not be with all the bacon and butter. Oh well, we won’t be having this every week, but I’ll definitely add it to the rotation.
*Oh and I want to apologize the the picture looking like a pile of slop. Marlo was having a complete unprovoked meltdown (picture screaming and hyperventilating) right when I was getting everything ready to plate. Needless to say, I plated it wrong (gravy first, then peas and onions) and not very attractively. Furthermore, crying persisted through a laughable photo session. So, believe me, even though it may look like prison food but it tasted like a million bucks.
PS…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT DIANE!
Yorkshire Country Captain
Adapted from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chicken stock
2 slices thick-cut slab bacon diced finely
1/2 medium onion minced
1/2 medium onion sliced
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 Tbsp. curry
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup frozen peas, partially thawed (I measured them out and let them sit on the counter while I prepared the rest)
1-2 cups cooked rice
1. Trim and pound the chicken breasts to even thickness.
2. In a pie pan, whisk together flour, curry, salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In large skillet that has a lid, cook bacon and minced onion over medium high heat until bacon is browned. Push onion and bacon to the sides of the pan. Now my bacon didn’t really render a lot of fat so I actually at this point sprayed a little cooking spray in the middle of the pan. If you’ve got a lot of fat in the pan, don’t worry about it.
4. Dredge both sides of the chicken breasts in the flour mixture and place in center of pan. Gently brown (3-5 minutes) and flip cook 1-2 minutes more.
5. Pour chicken stock in pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender and done (about 5-8 minutes). Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
6. In a small pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium high heat and add sliced onion and almonds. Cook until onions begin to soften and almonds are lightly toasted. Add peas to pan, lower heat to medium and cook until heated through (4-5 minutes).
7. In a separate small pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter and whisk in 1 Tbsp. flour. Add this to the chicken stock whisking constantly until it is completely blended. Reduce heat to low, stirring frequently. You may need to add a touch more stock or water to loosen it up if it thickens too much. Season gravy to taste.
8. To plate, add desired amount of rice on plate. Place chicken breast on rice and pour half the gravy over chicken and rice. Finally top with onions, almonds and peas. Repeat with second dish.