Monthly Archives: August 2011

What Made Mom’s Generation Great?

Mom is fiercely independent and stubborn. I recall as a kid when Mom set her mind to something, no matter how daunting the task, she completed it.

Just like the one Mom used. It took a steady hand and strong calf muscle.

I remember when she made three brides maid’s dresses with nothing more than an old manual Singer sewing machine. They were for my sister’s wedding. It was an incredible amount of work. I can still hear the sound of the bobbin thrusting up and down and see her working the foot peddle. Her attention to detail was remarkable.

Our family was poor, not third world poor, but none the less poor. Mom was determined not to appear poor. She was not poor in spirit. She poured her heart into those three dresses.

My generation and those after me don’t understand my Mom’s generation and it is likewise with her towards us. What they couldn’t afford to buy they made. Today what one can’t afford to buy is put on a credit card.

Not so long ago she was at my sister’s home. There was quite a bit of family there. Things were getting too noisy and confusing for her. She said she wanted someone to drive her home. Of course everybody was having a good time and no one wanted to miss it. Mom was told, “In a few minutes we’ll take you home.”

It infuriates Mom to be dependent on others. Mom slipped into another room and called a cab. The cab arrived, but sent away. Someone drove Mom home.

With those of Mom’s generation there was a can-do and don’t- try-to-stop-me attitude. It wasn’t that something couldn’t be done, it was I just ran out of time. The only time the word ‘impossible’ was used was, ‘It’s impossible to accomplish something without work.’

Mom was chastised by my sister for calling the cab and not being patient. She took it. Later she told me she was saying under her breath, “Go to hell.”

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A Cooking Tip From an Ole Sarge – Moist Juicy Tasty Roast Beef

Those Ole Army Cooks Had a Few Tricks

Following the Army recipe book kept a cook out of trouble. By just following the directions and a few cooking procedures and methods a cook could prepare an item that would be – average.

Although it was not encouraged by the Army, cooks were allowed to put their own signature to an item. Some old-timers had trick or two each, not much, because they were not in a world of culinary creativity. The Army marches in step.

In our mess hall we had some cooks who had cooked for twenty years or so and never achieved a rank better than a Spec-5 or Sergeant. I liked these ole bean burners. They may have had, at one time, a real eagerness for cooking and food, but for many apathy had sunk in. Their creativity and attention for detail went under appreciated. I listened to the little things they used to do to enhance an item.

The Old Sarge Teaches a New Cook

Sear beef on all sides in a hot pan.

One day I was preparing roast beef. to finish cooking. I sprinkled it with salt and pepper an shoved about one hundred of them into the ovens. “Years ago I used to rub a little garlic powder and onion powder with the salt and pepper,” said Bryan, an ole Spec-5. “Then I’d sear it on the grill to lock in the juices.” I was in a hurry and paid him little attention. He walked away without another word. He was used to nobody paying him any attention. I probably validated what he had come to know – he was useless.

A couple of weeks later roast beef appeared on the menu again. I prepared a mixture of salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder the night before and rubbed it into the roast beef. The next morning I lit up the grills to fry bacon for breakfast. After breakfast I cleaned the grills and rolled two food cabinets full of roast beef next to the grills. I whistled for Bryan. “Can you give me a hand with the searing?” Bryan’s eyes lit up. He immediately took control. “Make sure that grill is good and hot. We want it to sizzle when we drop it on the grill. Get some spoons. We gonna turn ’em with spoons. We don’t want to puncture the meat.” We turned the roasts on all sides until they all had a crust. Then we placed back in roasting pans and into the oven.

The roast beef was outstanding – moist and tasty. I made sure that ole bean burner, Bryan, got the credit.

Saering helps retain the juices. The result is moist, juicy, and tender roast beef.

Searing Makes it Special

Searing is one of those little things that makes ordinary into special.

At home it can be done in a hot pan. Add a little oil. Just like Bryan said, the meat must sizzle when it hits the pan. Turn the roast until it has a thin cooked crust on all sides. This will trap many of the juices within the roast. Some recipes call for about ten minutes at five hundred degrees instead of searing, but searing creates a special taste not accomplished with the high temperature method.

For a three pound roast allow about twenty minutes for each pound at about 350 degrees. In other words, the cooking time is about an hour. For rare fifteen minutes per pound will do and well done twenty-five minutes per pound will do the trick.

After the roast is removed from the oven it continues to cook for a few minutes. It is always good the allow the roast to cool for about fifteen minutes before carving.

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My Beer Drinkn’ Mom Does’t Drink With Sissies

At 97 Mom can still chug a beer with the best of them.

A few days ago one of Mom’s grandsons took her out to eat at The Texas Roadhouse Steak House. He was a little concerned that it might be too loud and rowdy for the 97 year old super senior.

What my nephew doesn’t know about Mom is that my Dad and her frequented places that made The Texas Roadhouse look like Chucky Cheese’s. Mom knew how to handle herself way back when and now.

My nephew ordered a 22 ounce beer and so did Mom. “And don’t bring me any of that light beer. It’s nothing but watered down,” she said.

The waitress brought the beers. They talked and drank the beer waiting for their steaks. My nephew looked at Mom’s beer. It was three quarters gone. His was only about one quarter gone.

Mom looked at her grandson’s beer and said, “Ya better catch up before they bring the steaks. I don’t want the waitress to think I’m hanging out with a sissy.”

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How to Make Great S O S

Army Cooks are Judged on Their SOS (Sausage gravy for those of a more sheltered upbrining)

Some Army cooks have beccome legends by making good SOS (sausage gravy).

Every Army cook’s reputation stands or falls on how well he can make SOS (S_ _ t On a Shingle). Although it is the first thing that often comes to mind when an ex GI thinks about crummy Army food, the reality is it’s probably what he enjoyed and ate the most.

One day I prepared the SOS and one soldier came back for thirds. He said it was good enough to reup for.

Sometimes when I watch one of those food shows that judge exotic dishes like Spotted Peruvian Seared Eel over Kenyan MooMoo tree bark, drizzled with Mongolian Yak snot with a zest of lemon I know that SOS would win out every time.

I’ve had some pretty good SOS in restaurants. The best are the ones who pay attention to detail.

Anyone can make SOS. It’s easy and tasty, no matter what. If attention is given to detail and good cooking methods employed it becomes outstanding.

Here’s How Ya Do It

If you wish to make it with ground beef or sausage, always use fresh. Older meats will dominate the flavor of the cream sauce.

When I was in the Army I liked to brown the ground beef or sausage on the grill in small portions. My reason for this is that when cooked in large portions the meat will actually boil in its juices rather than fry in its own fat. You want it to fry and not boil. Boiling will leave the meat rubbery and flat tasting whereas frying will make it tasty and crisp.

Start with a pound of ground beef or your favorite sausage. At home this can be done in a pan, but make sure the pan is pre-heated.You want a little sizzle when the meat hits the pan.

Once the meat is thoroughly cooked sprinkle in enough flour to absorb the excess grease and liquid. Stir the flour in until you have a nice pasty mixture binding the meat together. Set it aside.

Make a roux (¼ pound of butter and enough flour to make it pasty). At this point you may want it brown the roux slightly, but if not cook until it looses the smell of raw flour.

Next put the meat back on a medium burner. Stir in the rest of the roux and slowly add the milk (about one quart). Stir as you add. Allow it to simmer until it stops thickening.

I have added garlic to SOS also. Also for the amount described a cup of onions may be sauteed and added. Sprinkle salt and pepper to your preferance.

Cover and allow it to stand for about ten minutes before pouring it over toast or biscuits.

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Mom Comes Across Family Secrets of the Elite in Lima, Ohio

Yesterday Mom and I talked about her first jobs after she graduated from high school. She said it was common in those days for a girl to start out with housekeeping. When you consider meals were made from scratch, clothes were dried on a line, and grass was mowed with a manual push mower an extra hand was needed for those who could afford it.

The interurban in Lima, Ohio like Mom rode to work housekeeping for the rich.

Mom worked for a family on the west side of Lima. He was a successful text-book salesman and was away from home a lot. Mom had a friend from high school who also worked for a prominent family who owned a local department store.

The last chore Mom had to do for the week was to make the beds on Saturday morning and wash the windows. When that was done the weekend was her’s. One Saturday she caught the interurban rail line to her friend’s job. The two were planning to go down town for the rest of the day. Mom rang the bell at the front door of the prominent Lima family. The Misses of the household answered. My Mom said she was there for her friend. The Misses said, “From now on come around to the back door.”

My Mom would never put her friend’s job in jeopardy so she held her tongue. That may have been the only time in my Mom’s life she didn’t speak her mind. On the way around to the back door she thought, ‘Who does she think she is? She’s not any better than me. If she’d know anything about raising her family right her kid wouldn’t wet to bed every night.’

It seems that the Misses didn’t pay Mom’s friend well enough to keep the family secrets.

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A Recipe Right From Hell’s Kitchen – The Mess Hall

Simple to prepare. A tender, moist, and tasty chicken recipe.

After finishing the stint of intense training under the tutelage Sergeant Drayton I was moved to a consolidated mess hall that prepared sometimes up to six thousand meals a day.

The mess hall command was structured somewhat differently. We seldom saw the mess Sargent, but when we did it was always trouble. If your hair had not been cut in two weeks you were given extra duty. If your cooks hat had a sweat stain on it – extra duty and so on. There was constant tension. He seldom spoke directly to a cook, but passed everything through the sergeant under him, who we called Marty. Marty complimented you once and cursed you ten times – that’s a fair ratio and I think he actually kept score.

In those days a mess hall was issued only rations that appeared on a master menu. If steak was on the master menu for a Friday dinner we got two thousand steaks if it was pork chops, two thousand pork chops, if it was meat sauce with got enough ground beef for two thousand servings (35 lbs per hundred). Even though only one meat item appeared on the master menu we always prepared at least two. We did likewise with starch items and vegetables. This required planning, creativity, and ingenuity. We might use half of the meat issued for the supper meal for the dinner meal and do the same for the supper meal.

In those days the Army recipe book was limited. Marty, for all his inadequacies, would allow us to suggest other recipes. I gained his confidence in this area and often he allowed me to prepare an item not in the Army recipe book.

Here is one such recipe. I broke it down to one chicken instead of three-hundred and fifty.

Take one chicken quartered. Rub with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and basil (a table-spoon of each ingredient). Bake at 350 for twenty minutes ( ten minutes each side).

Mix a cup of vinegar and oil and add left-over ingredients from rub. Saute a cup of onions and a cup of mushrooms. Mix them with the vinegar and oil mix.

Place the chicken in a baking dish or pan. Pour all the mixture over the chicken. Return to an oven set at 225. Cook for an hour and a half. Turn the chicken at forty-five minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with pasta or rice.

I named it Pollo Italiano or Chicken Italiano. There are so many dishes named that way I’m going to call it Pollo Con in remembrance of my old Con – 4 mess hall.

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My Mom Always Said, “Can’t Died in the Poor House”

An example of a 'poor house' my Mom often referenced.

Mom is 97 going on 25. She works two crossword puzzles a day and watches a lot of TV. She complains that is all she gets done. I know that’s not much physical activity, but it’s probably more than most 25 year olds today.

She lives alone and has a girl come in and clean her apartment once a week. She says, “It’s not that I can’t do it my self, it’s just that I never liked cleaning house, that’s for hired help.” Now don’t get her wrong. That’s her sence of humor at work. The fact is, we were never able to hire a housekeeper, but when Mom was a young lady she cleaned houses for the rich.

Mom was always active. I remember her helping bale hay and shooting baskets with me. She did nearly all the work that had to be done around the house. She’s had enough physical activity to fill three or four lifetimes.

As fierce as this character looks from Mortal Kombat my Mom would take his lunch money in a crossword puzzle showdown.

As a boy I could never understand where she got her energy. When she gave me a chore to do and I said, “I can’t.” She always said, “Can’t died in the poor house.” Mom was never rich in a monetary sense, but was never without employment. She did everything from washing dishes to managing a convenience store.

Recently her son-in-law fell. He’s twenty years younger than Mom. She decided to give him her walker since she doesn’t have much use for it. She said, “I hope I don’t live long enough to be dependent on a walker.”

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