Food as an expression of love often acts as a community bond. On the frontier our country was raised, along with barn roofs, on meat pies and homemade biscuits sent along with muscle power for the event. When a householder fell ill, a disaster for fields and crop, neighbors sent over healing soups. Today, when a child is born neighbors bring cakes; When a teen-ager graduates friends sent brownies.
Our family won't forget the outpouring of love sent by way of homemade dinners for the week I was in the hospital and the weeks of recuperation at home. Our Shepherd Park neighbors pitched in to feed our family with food presented hot and aromatic to our table.
A good friend alerted the neighbors and assigned each participant an evening to deliver a complete dinner that was not only portable but palatable to our two youngsters - picky eaters. Instructions were to bring the food ready for the table, to use disposable containers or mark the dishes for later reclaiming. A calendar filled with the names of the cooks was a welcome home gift that surely speeded recovery.
A paradox of this spontaneous meals-on-wheels is that it arose in a neighborhood where many of the women are attempting to forge a career other than homemaking.
The meals, comforting stews and plump, reassuring biscuits, included homegrown vegetables and late growing salad greens. Desserts were rich puddings pies and reminiscent of my own grandmother's kitchen, baked apples bursting with nuts, cinnamon and cream.
This meal of soup, once served to North Dakota threshing crews by a neighbor's grandmother, can simmer for hours on a back burner and freezes beautifully. GRANNY BOE'S VEGETABLE-BEEF SOUP (serves at least 12) 1 soup knuckle bone with meat (about 2 pounds) 3 or 4 pound chuck roast, cut in 2-inch cubes 2 large onions, diced (2 cups) 4 to 5 celery stalks sliced with green tops Handful of chopped parsley sprigs 4 to 5 peppercorn Salt to taste 3 medium cans (14 to 16 oz.) tomatoes 2 cups diced carrots 1/2 small head cabbage, cut up Fresh string beans or peas (optional) 2 cups cubed raw potatoes (optional)
Put bone and meat cubes in Dutch oven, cover meat with water and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes skimming scum that rises to the surface. Add onions, celery, parsley, salt and peppercorns, simmer for 3 to 4 hours. When beef is tender remove meat and bone. Add tomatoes, carrots, Cabbage, fresh green beans or peas, if available, along with potatoes, if desired. Simmer about 20 minutes more, add beef meat cut from knuckle bone and serve.
- From Linda Anderson
A Michigan landlady shared this recipe with Beverly McGaughy, who brought it East. MRS. SCHNEIDER'S GIANT MEAT-BALLS AND GRAVY (serve 6) 1 1/2 pounds ground beef 1 cup homemade breadcrumbs 1 medium onion, minced 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup milk (about) 2 tablespoons shortening
Gravy: 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoon flour 1 cup strained beef stock or broth 1 can (3 ounces) tomato sauce 1/2 teaspoon basil Salt and pepper
Combine beef, onion, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic and add enough milk to moisten - no more than 1/2 cup. Mix thoroughly and with wet hands form into meatballs about the size of oranges. Brown in 2 tablespoon shortening, turning to color all sides. Remove and pour off grease, but leave brown bits in pan. Next, make gravy. Melt butter in same pan and saute mushrooms. When lightly colored, sprinkle with flour, slowly add beef stock, stiring to scrape up all browned pieces. Add tomatoes sauce, seasonings, and simmer until thickened. Return meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes. LONGEVITY BREAD
(Makes 4 loaves) 4 cups oatmeal 1/2 cup wheat germ 3/4 cup honey 3/4 cup dark molasses 3 tablespoons salt 4 tablespoons safflower oil 5 cups boiling water 4 cakes dry yeast 1 cup lukewarm water 6 cups wholewheat flour 6 to 8 cups unblenched white flour
Combine the oatmeal, wheat germ, honey, molasses, salt and oil in a very large bowl or kettle. Pour the boiling water over it, stir and let cool until lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm cup of water and add to the oatmeal mixture. Blend in the flours 1 cup at a time, using both together. Dough should not stick to hands.
Knead thoroughly, cover with a clean dish towel and set aside a warm, draft-free place to rise until double in bulk. Punch down, divide into four loaves and put each into a greased loaf pan, kneading briefly to shape loaf. Let rise until double in bulk and then bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Let cool on racks or atop the breadpans. Freezies well
From Donna Arganbright Black
This rich dessert followed a generation-old recipe of scalloped ham and potatoes. Then doner was a grandfather of three visiting from Ohio. FRENCH CHOCOLATE (4 servings) 1 package (6 ounces) chocolate chips 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 cup light cream 2 eggs
Put chips, vanilla and sugar in blender and pour in cream heated to just under boiling. Blend for 1 minute, take off lid and drop in 2 eggs, Blend for 20 seconds. Pour into individual dessert bowls and refrigerate until cold.
- From Susan Learmonth OATMEAL CRISPS
(Makes 5 dozen) 1 cup shortening - use vegetable shortening for high cookies margarine or butter for flat) 1 cup brown sugar 1 cups granulated sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Cream shortening and sugars, add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Sift together flour, salt and soda and add to egg mixture gradually. Stir in oats and nuts. Divide cookies dough into 3 or 4 balls and on wax paper roll into logs about 2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until chilled. Slice rolls 1/4-inche thick and bake on ungreeased cookies sheets at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
- From Roberta Gosier.