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Thoughts . . .

I’m still a wee bit under the weather.  Actually, it’s more like a wee-wee bit under the weather, which occurs each time I cough, which is most of the time right now. So, enough of my lack of bladder control, my coughing and sneezing and general malaise. This, too, will pass.  Until then, I thought I might share an older post as we here in the States prepare for Thanksgiving.

Turkey Lurkey and Henny Penny, first posted here.

412926_betterhomes19711I have a fear of turkeys. Frozen turkeys.

It started when I was 26 years old. It was my maiden voyage in the fine American culinary tradition of roasting the Thanksgiving turkey. I come from a long line of extraordinary cooks and married into a family of equal expertise. Big shoes to fill – and I only wore a size 5½ myself. The pressure to roast a good turkey was on.

On a crisp November day, on my way home from a day of teaching first graders, I stopped at the grocery store, which was a newly opened Jewel Grand Bazaar. A precursor to the big box stores of today. At four in the afternoon, it was already crowded, and parking my 1972 green Ford Pinto hatchback took a few passes down the rows to find a parking spot.

Once inside, I grabbed a cart and selected produce, then dairy, bakery, then canned goods, saving a space in the cart for Turkey Lurkey. What a pair we were that afternoon. Henny Penny and Turkey Lurkey. My mom and Tom’s, as well as his sister, Maura, were all bringing accompaniments, but, this bird and his stuffing were my responsibility. All mine.

I’d never bought a turkey before. This was long before Mr. Google could answer any question asked. With my 1972 red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens spiral bound cookbook as my guide, I picked out a frozen turkey, the biggest one I could find, loaded it onto the cart, and headed to the checkout, confident that the twenty-two pound gobbler would feed our guests and yield plenty of leftovers.

Bill paid, groceries bagged, I loaded up the hatchback of my Pinto and headed home as dusk settled in. Rush hour traffic was in full throttle, but, I only had a few miles to go and was thinking about all I still had to do to prepare for our first Thanksgiving hosting.

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, from when I was a child, but, never more so than when I was young. Do you remember a time when we only had turkey for Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas dinner? We had our Thanksgiving meal, maybe turkey sandwiches later, leftovers a day or so more, and that was it. The scents and tastes were put in abeyance until the next year.

I was thinking about these things, I am certain, as I drove home. Anticipation and great expectations as I listened to the news on the tinny car radio (I was a news junkie even then).

Suddenly, the car in front of me stopped. I slammed on my brakes, just in time, and checked my rearview mirror to see if I was about to be hit. In an instant, I saw it, hurling at me at 35 miles per hour with me at a dead stop. My life actually flashed before my eyes, as did all my Thanksgivings and a few misgivings as well. It was two or three seconds of pure terror as 22 pounds of frozen turkey hurled, straight from the hatchback, over the back seat, and straight toward my Farah Fawcett coiffed hairdo!

Turkey Lurkey catapulting like a shot out of a cannon toward Henny Penny. I truly thought the sky was falling!

The back of my car seat stopped that frozen fowl. Stopped him mid-flight. There I was, saved, in a backhanded sort of way by foul play in the last second of the ’72 turkey tourney. The car in front stalled, the driver behind me staring, mouth agape. I can only imagine his view from his steering wheel as he witnessed a turkey on the loose in, of all cars, a Ford Pinto.

I managed to get this year’s turkey, all twenty pounds of frozen poultry promise, into the cart, into the car, out of the car, and into the freezer. It is now in a slow swoon in the refrigerator.

I thought about the turkey of yore each and every step of the way.

I still have the 1972 red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

The 1972 Ford Pinto hatchback , dubbed “the horsey car” by Jennifer in her toddling days, eventually went on to greener pastures.

 

v_1899_F_lix_Edouard_Vallotton_Swiss_artist_1865_1925_Sleeping_WomanI’ve taken to the bed, the couch, an easy chair, with those bothersome sneezes that come in winter, stuffing up one’s head and bringing on shivers. This will pass.  In-the-meantime, lots of tea, blankets, and soup are the ticket.

I got up long enough yesterday to make a pot of soup. Taco soup. It sounded good to my withered taste buds. That kind of sounding good usually means it will be good in my tummy as well. All the ingredients were on hand, waiting for this sort of day, so out came a big pot, lots of cans, some meat, and soon it was simmering seductively on the back burner.

We each had a nice, big bowl with nacho chips and dollops of sour cream.  It was just the ticket on such a cold day.

Since I haven’t shared a recipe with you in ever-so-long, I thought I might now. It came to me in a Penzey’s Spice catalogue, which is always a joy to find in the mail. Penzey’s is a spice and herb company that does catalogue sales of their spices. They also have a shops in several areas as well. I love the catalogue, though I’ve only ordered out of it once, and that was to send some spices as a gift. The catalogue is special for the recipes interspersed, along with stories of the cooks who send them in. Think “Woman’s Day” magazine, or “Good Housekeeping” of yore.

Here is the recipe, from the Penzey’s Catalogue. You can leave out the meat if you are vegetarian, or just don’t need/want the extra protein. Last night, I only used one can of beans and a smaller can of corn. It was perfect. I don’t think you can mess this up – or even the kitchen, for that matter. If you don’t have the Penzey’s taco spice, you can use any taco seasoning mix (but, once you’ve tried the Penzey’s, there is no turning back).

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef or ground turkey (omit for vegetarian soup)

2  15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

1  14/2 oz can corn, drained (or from 4 or 5 ears, or 1  1/2 cup frozen)

1  14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (don’t drain)

1-3 tsp taco seasoning

1  16 oz container of any salsa of your choice.

Brown meat, drain fat, add rest of ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

The soup is thick. You can add water if you wish it thinner.

Serve with your favorite garnishes. Sour cream, grated cheese, nacho chips etc.

(This recipe is from a fall catalogue, from a few year’s ago, honoring teachers and their special recipes. This was Stephanie’s Taco Soup. I believe she is a math teacher. )

Gifts

DSCN6723 - Version 2It’s amazing what I sometimes forget to pack when traveling.

I arrived up north to discover that had forgotten my hair shampoo. I knew I could borrow a dollop from Katy, so, that was not a big problem.

What I could not borrow was makeup; specifically foundation. Now how did I forget that?

I don’t use much make-up;  just foundation and lipstick. I keep lipstick in my purse as my lips are dry, especially in winter, so, no problem there, but, I need foundation, particularly in these brittle days of cold and wind. The bottle remained on my bathroom vanity. Sigh I have rosacea, a skin condition, which flares up when the north wind of winter blows, making my face all red and splotchy. A dab of foundation covers it up. Katy offered to drive out for some, which I appreciated, but, the bottle at home was relatively new and full, so, I did without, feeling just a tad self-conscious.

Kezzie and I were cuddling in that comfortable way that grannies and grandkids tend to do, all snuggly undercover, talking about pumpkin muffins, how to erect bridges, Simon the Cat, which I had just introduced her to – and doll clothes. I’ve told you, dear reader, that Kez and I have the best conversations. She suddenly looked into my eyes, which she says sparkle (cataract lenses), then stroked my cheek ever-so-gently. “Yia Yia, you are so pretty”  WellI forgot all that I forgot,  and I felt so very loved by this little lass. who tenderly reminded that looks really don’t matter when a child gives an aging grandmother such a wonderful gift.

DSCN6726Ezra seemed pleased to see me, especially since I brought him a train book and pajamas with trucks on them. I was gifted back tenfold with several days of tackle hugs, some effervescent sneezles, and very special cuddle time on the couch with Thomas the Train on our new laptop. Really, laptops, lads, and laps are very compatible, indeed. Only one thing we need to work on. Dear Ezra kept calling me Papa. Hmmm? Here he is looking pretty cute with yogurt all over his face. He was patiently waiting for more waffles. His daddy, Tom, is renowned for his Saturday waffles and pancakes.

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Hmmmm, don’t know whether it was too many waffles or not enough make-up, but, I think I may need that foundation after all.

Photo on 11-16-14 at 11.29 PM

 

 

On the Square

THE O'NEILL BOYS :2O’Neill Oil Company, Williamsburg, Iowa

It wasn’t an oil company in the ways we have come to know them.

It was a gas station in all the ways you and I have recently discussed; a service station, a filling station, a place to have your oil checked, and it was a fuel resource for area farms near the small, midwestern town of Williamsburg, Iowa.

The O’Neill Oil Company was operated by the four surviving sons of Tom and Kate O’Neill.  Earl, known by everyone as Irish, was the oldest, followed by Chuck, Jim, and Joe.  Joe was Tom’s father.

Tom was the only son born to the O’Neill boys. Irish, Jim, and Chuck all remained in Williamsburg, working at the station, raising families in the small town. Joe moved away as a young man and eventually settled in Midlothian, Illinois with his wife, Carolyn, daughter, Maura, and Tom. Tom’s family would often travel to Iowa for holidays and visits. For Tom, the summers he spent in that little burg are fondly recalled. There, everyone knew him as Joe’s boy as he rode a bike from the gas station around the town, stopped at the soda fountain, and played with his cousins. They evoke a simpler era of being a young boy in summer.

The uncles all favored Tom, but, it was Irish who held a special bond with his only nephew. Irish married later in life and had no children of his own. When Tom was a youngster, before Irish married, he would stay with Irish and Grandma O’Neill; Kate. The Kate our own Katy is named after. I can’t imagine a more idyllic summer vacation for a young boy from the outskirts of Chicago.

When Tom grew old enough, he would help at the O’Neill Oil Station on his summer visita. More than a gas station, yet not a big oil company. Stations such as the O’Neill’s pumped gas, fixed tires, and wiped windshields like other stations of the 50′s and 60′s. They also provided heating fuel  and gasoline for running farm equipment.

As a “working” lad of 10 or so years of age, Tommy, as he was called by his uncles, aunts and cousins, would get up early and head to the station with  his Uncle Chuck. They would open up. Tom would pump gas, clean windshields, and patch tires. He would also ride along on deliveries to the surrounding farms with tanks of fuel and gasoline; a heady adventure for a young city boy and times he remembers with great fondness.

Tom would stay at the station with Irish to close up at day’s end, after having supper at Grandma’s or at Chuck and Betty’s house. After closing, Irish and Tommy would walk the short distance to the diner on the Square and have ice cream or milk shakes.

Irish would tell the waitress when he ordered a milkshake “and make it the drinkin’ kind!” .

Tom and I were sitting and chatting about his summers in Williamsburg as I was composing posts about Route 66 and filling stations; an easy conversation to slide into at any time, but, especially when talking about the ’50s and ’60s and the adventure one could still have on the road. One as likely to transition from patching tires and riding out to the farms to deliver fuel to summery Saturday nights on the Square, to one particular Saturday night in July when all the stores stayed open late and everyone came into town for a concert in the bandstand in the town square – but, first they stopped to “filler ‘er up” at the O’Neill Oil Company.

This photo sits in two places in our house; the library/den when I usually works and the office in the barn where Tom conducts business.

Do you have a memory of summer and music on the town square or park?

I wrote about Irish O’Neill and the time the Williamsburg home team played against the Harlem Globetrotters here.

Cooking with gas

DSCN6621Jennifer and I were enjoying the opening festivities of Autumn Splendor at the Elmhurst Art Museum, sipping on wine, nibbling on finger food, chatting with old friends and acquainting new. We wandered into the galleries and the Richard Koppe Exhibit.  As we entered the gallery, a display case caught my eye.  Actually, something in the display case caught my eye. A book.  It’s always a book with me, it seems, even in a renowned art museum.  The book, to be precise, was a cookbook.  I looked down and squealed “I have this book” .

As others were observing the large surrealistic works of Koppe, I was chewing on a cookbook.

Several years ago, I came across the very same cookbook in a second-hand store. “The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places”.  A more charming than practical compilation of recipes from famous restaurants throughout the United States,  it is divided by regions, and illustrated with stylistic paintings of each restaurant, a recipe from the restaurant, and a short description.  The books were sold by the Ford Motor Company in the heyday of US road travel in big cars and fine dining along the way as many veterans returned home from war, bought houses that were springing up all across the country, bought their first car . . .

. . .  I snapped up the book faster than a filling station attendant once rushed out to fill up the tank, clean the windows, and check the oil!

In subsequent years, I came across several other printings of the book, with some new recipes and new restaurants as original ones closed. A small cookbook collection ensued. When in the mood for nostalgia, I’ll pull one of the Ford Treasury books out, then all of them, and browse through the regions, admire the illustrations, and reminisce over featured restaurants I have actually eaten in.

As I looked into the display case at the EAM, I recognized one of the printings of “The Ford Treasury . . . ” .  The book was opened to page 159, with a painting depicting the interior of the once famous Well-of-the-Sea restaurant in the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. Neither the restaurant, nor the hotel, still exists,  but, the mural in the background of the illustration does. When I was though swooning over a cookbook, I looked up to see Koppe’s surrealistic mural generously covering a wall of the gallery.  While not my favorite artistic style, I could not help but be impressed at the “real deal” and the vibrancy of the colors and textures.

Back home, I pulled out my treasury of mid-century finds, and there it was, page 159, in the North Central region. The Well-of the-Sea. I wandered about the pages of several Treasuries, finding restaurants I recognized, even some I have eaten in, across the country,  getting hungry for food – and for hitting the road.

Here are a few I found that I have visited:  The Wayside Inn, MA;  Williamsburg Lodge, VA;  Antoine’s, LA;  New Salem Lodge, IL;  Plentywood Farm, IL;  Don the Beachcomber, HI.

Do you have a dining “treasure” you would like me to look up in these books?  Let me know.  I would love do a future post showing a page of your remembered restaurants.

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 This book jacket opens up to a map “. . . to decorate your kitchen or game room”. I think I’ll just keep this one on the book.

DSCN6624DSCN6625DSCN6622

In the beginning . . .

DSCN6601Signs.

Sometimes they are just signs. Other times, they lead us to places, to action to awareness, to posts . . .

In a comment on my recent post about the passing of Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk, Debra, over at Breathlighter, wondered about my use of the term “filling station”. The very next day, walking west on Adams toward Union Station in downtown Chicago, I passed this sign. “Whoa, girl, slow down” said my inner self as the notorious Chicago wind whipped around the corner. “Go check out that sign”.   

So there I was, whipping my camera out faster than you can say “windy city“, strains from a street musician echoing down the urban cavern of ell tracks, skyscrapers, and congestion.  No one looked at me as I took the photo. Most were business attired with attaché cases walking with monetary purpose hurrying along the city’s financial district.  I momentarily wondered how many even realized the sign was there. At any rate, tourists are always taking photos in the Loop, though I don’t think many capture this particular sign – or know the connection between this sign and a friend on the terminus end of the Route 66.  Debra, who lives in California, regularly serves up enlightening posts about the history of California, water wars, tar pits, and more. the very same Debra who just asked, the previous day, a question about the term “filling stations.”

I wondered, right then, as I took a picture signifying the approximate location where the legendary Route 66 began, if Debra was motoring past a similar sign on the other end of Route 66.

With a train to catch in Union Station, I put my camera back in my purse and pushed once more against the wind. Once seated in my Metra carriage, homebound, I thought again about filling stations and writing a series of posts about filling stations, family, cookbooks and such, all related to how we used to travel.  I would like to start today with filling stations.

As I mentioned to Debra, a filling station is an older term, probably centered in the midwestern states during the middle of the 20th century. It refers to places where drivers could fill their cars with gasoline. They are now most commonly called gas stations. Since so many of you are not only hugging both coasts of the United States, but, are also across the pond and down under, I’m hoping you will share what you call the place where you buy the fuel for your cars.

Why don’t you talk here amongst yourselves, sharing your gas related thoughts (no, not THAT kind of gas) while I compose another post about Tom’s father and uncles and their oil company, or, maybe a post about the Ford Motor Company and cookbooks and, well, we’ll see where the signs lead.

 

Postscript: See what you started, Debra, with your inquisitive mind?  As I was writing this, ’round about 9 am on this Saturday morn, I realized that the sun was probably just rising along your end of Route 66.  Here’s a tune to start your day. 

 

Grasshopper has much to learn

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.  

Helen Keller

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