Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

A friend posted this on Facebook.  I love the quote:

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."  Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Grandmother's Birthday

I was browsing my Ancestry.com family tree, trying to think of something new to write about Grandmother.  I saw my note that her marriage to my grandfather was nullified in 1943, a few years after she married her second (or possibly third) husband.  There's no doubt Grandmother was a complicated person who lived an 'interesting' life.

A few years ago I asked the Coal Country Genealogical Society for a number of marriage records, including one that showed her marrying someone I never heard of before I found it and noted the name Sartor.  They gave me the record and I was about to dismiss it as a coincidence involving someone else with Grandmother's name, when Bill pointed out that the name of one of the witnesses was my grandfather.  That's too big a coincidence in a small town in Oklahoma.  What on earth was she playing at, I wonder?  It does seem that it might have been some weird game or something.  Apparently that marriage was annulled - she wouldn't have been of legal age yet. A couple of years later she married my grandfather, Bernard.

I've not found the divorce record for them - he's pretty elusive in most public records - but she married her last husband, Larry, in Tennessee in 1939; her previous marriage was made null in 1943.  This would have been about the time she wanted to adopt children from Catholic Charities, which she did:  four children in fact.  The strange thing, well, one of them, is that both husbands Bernard and Larry were raised as Catholics and I'm pretty sure Grandmother was raised as a Baptist.  I never saw her attend either church, but her favourite TV preachers and her own - very strong - views were definitely along the Southern Baptist lines. And yet she married two Catholic men.  I know from experience this is marrying into a different culture.

The other thing I noticed on her overview was that she lived in a lot of places:  

Booneville, Arkansas (AR)
Coal Hill, AR
Comanche, Oklahoma (OK)
Lehigh, OK
Oklahoma City, OK
Shreveport, Louisiana (LA)
New Orleans, LA
Mabank, Texas (TX)
Ft. Worth, TX
Miami, Florida (FL)
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

She definitely got around. Happy Birthday, Grandmother!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Cornbread Dressing - Part of My Heritage!

This is for Julia, my lovely neighbour who actually reads this blog - I'm so honoured!  We had our Thanksgiving party last night and it all seemed to go reasonably well.  Twenty-one of us devoured the usual food and drink and there is the usual enormous amount of leftovers to go into the freezer.  As I sit nursing my second coffee, Bill is in the kitchen working his way through the stacks of dirty dishes.  I'm leaving him to it, bless him, and Sarah is helping him out. 

Thanks to cousin Sandra for sharing this on Facebook!

Jules said she'd dreamed of my dressing since last year and wanted the recipe.  This is the dressing I grew up eating at Grandmother's house and then at Mom's.  I was sure I'd published it somewhere on this blog, but apparently not.  So here it is:

First you make corn bread.  This is from my first ever cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, published 1976), a wedding present from my Grandmother:

Perfect Corn Bread
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening

Sift flour with sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir in cornmeal.  Add eggs, milk, and shortening. Beat with rotary or electric beater till just smooth (Do not overbeat).  Pour into greased 9x9x2-inch pan. Bake at 425 degrees F (220 C) for 20-25 minutes.

Some small adjustments:
When it lives here in Britain, cornmeal is called polenta.  I buy it in bulk at the Asian shop in Brighton Grove, Newcastle; you could just come over and 'borrow' some of mine.

I have substituted a heaping tablespoon of soya flour and a tablespoon of water for the eggs, as suggested in The Tightwad Gazette - it works!

You can use oil instead, it's easier; or, melt the shortening in the microwave before adding, another thing that makes it easier.

I don't bother dirtying a mixer - I just stir it with a fork, which is do-able if you use oil or melted shortening.  I've poured this into cake pans, the recommended square pan, into muffin tins or whatever loaf pan was handy.  As long as it isn't too deep it cooks just fine.  Even over cooked a bit it's still tasty.  I recommend eating hot with butter on it.  But this is for the dressing...

This is where it's a bit hap-hazard, as I have always made dressing in quantities of 20+ cups. The ingredients are:

Stale bread 
Chicken stock cubes
Hot water
Salt, Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary (I don't like sage, but if you do, you can add it as well).

You'll need to buy some cheap bread (I like whole meal) and pull it apart into bite-sized pieces. Most recipes seem to call for 'stale' bread, but I can't tell much difference.  Crumble the cornbread into similar sized or smaller pieces.  

Dice equal amounts of onion and celery and cook in some oil with butter added (butter burns easily so keep an eye on it).

Boil the kettle and make a cup or two of chicken stock and add a slice of butter.

In a large bowl, add equal amounts of the bread pieces, the cornbread, and the sauted fried vegetables. Gradually add the buttery chicken stock, mashing and mixing with a fork until the bread and cornbread are blended and mushed. You want it moist but not sloppy wet.  I tend to shake out each of the herbs into my palm - maybe a tablespoon of each? - at this point and add.  Salt to taste.  Mix it all up again.

My equal amounts are two-cup measures and then I start again adding more in these proportions until the bowl is full. I transfer this to an oven-proof dish and bake for about 20-30 minutes at about 180 C. It doesn't need cooking - all the ingredients are already cooked, but I like a crunchy top on my dressing.  It's a lot of work for one dish, but I think it's worth the effort once a year.

Health warning:  By my rough estimates using www.nutritiondata.com, a half-cup serving of this dressing might have as many as 500 calories!