Saying Goodbye

butch5A dear member of our family passed away during the night. His name was Butchie, and he was a cat. He hadn’t been well for about two weeks and when we first noticed that his eye didn’t look good and he was sort of listless we took him off to the vet. To make a long story short, after various tests and shots and pills, he just wasn’t getting better and finally, about four days ago, he stopped eating and became very weak and could hardly walk. That is why I found it strange that he had made it up the stairs to the second floor of our house and went to sleep for the last time outside our bedroom door. That is where Curt found him this morning. You know, even when you are expecting something like this it still takes you by surprise and the tears can’t be stopped.

We got him as a kitten from the Humane Society 17 years ago and promptly lost him the first day. We searched the house, the first floor, the second floor, the basement. No kitty. At the time he didn’t have a permanent name so mostly we called kitty, or Snowball ( ha ha, black cat named Snowball) or Kuro Neko ( black cat in Japanese). We went outside, all over the yard, down the road…calling, looking. Finally we went back into the house, he had to be here. I think it was my son, Nathan, who finally located him behind a bunch of boxes and the parts of a dismantled loom in my studio. Waaay far back, underneath, in the dark, a little black smudge. Later he officially became Butchie.IMG_0087

He soon got used to this crazy family who had taken him in and became, as we liked to say, a “good dog”. Butchie would come when you called (Butcha, Butcha,Butcha), he would cuddle on your lap, he was a food freak, he would be constantly underfoot from following you around. Never aloof. He liked to sit on the washer in the laundry room (right off the kitchen where he could see any food falling to the floor) or “help” out on my work table or on the computer keys while I was typing.butHe was a keen observer of nature.

butch&chipbutch7He had a cuddle buddy in Zelda, who we got just a bit later.

Butchie and the Zel

Butchie and the Zel

He was a member of the family and as much as he drove us crazy at times, he was much-loved.

Butchie and Nathan

Butchie and Nathan

He will be missed. Hope there are lots of jingle balls, catnip and tuna treats in cat heaven sweetie.

Goodbye old pal.

Goodbye old pal.


Lucky or Unlucky?

This morning when I came down to join the living, the TV was on, as usual, and one of the numerous hosts of the Today Show was interviewing someone about raising kids, growing up, nurturing…something like that. The line I heard that made me stop and listen was, ” I was lucky to grow up with a Mom who cooked everyday.”

That bothered me. I listened a bit and the gist was her Mom was a stay at home Mom, she actually prepared food and didn’t just heat it up and she learned a lot from her. And that’s wonderful. But it still hit me wrong. It sounded like if you didn’t have a Mom or were a Mom who cooked everyday you were somehow unlucky or not raised right. I guess I personally was one of the “lucky” ones because my Mom not only worked but as far as I remember cooked everyday. But that was the 50’s and there were no microwaves or a million takeout places and though my Dad “grilled” and occasionally prepared food, he didn’t “cook.”  Frankly for my sister and I, the most exciting special dinner for us was on New Year’s Eve. My Mom usually was working because she was a banquet waitress and that was the night people were out eating and partying. We were home with Dad and got to eat TV dinners that night, which we had picked out earlier in the week. Wow, we thought that was a gourmet meal.

Swanson Turkey Dinner, one of my favorites

Swanson Turkey Dinner, one of my favorites

But in my own home, even though I can cook, I am not THE cook. Sure, I make a mac & cheese favorite, my meat loaf and potato salad are pretty good and if we have dessert it was probably made by me. But Curt’s work schedule was always more flexible than mine and he was usually home first. He wasn’t afraid to cook, liked to cook and wasn’t the kind of guy to wait till his wife came home to “fix dinner.” So he put dinner together most nights. By the time our son was born, Curt was pretty much the established cook in the house. And as Nathan got older, Curt was thrilled that he would eat foods I wouldn’t touch, like fish. The menu expanded and on the night I worked they had Boy’s Fish Night. So was my son lucky or unlucky because his Mom was an occasional cook?

I hope someday when Nathan writes his autobiography he tells the world, ” I was so lucky to have a Dad who cooked everyday.”

The boys anticipating "Fish Night"

The boys anticipating “Fish Night”


A Trip to Wisconsin: Don’t forget to Pack the Blue Vitriol

Make it stop!

Make it stop!

The wind, the wind! The blowing, the creaking of the house, the whistling of the windows! Will it ever stop? The constant, never-ending scream of the wind. Arrgh! Get the blue vitriol.

Photo: Wisconsin Death Trip

Photo from: Wisconsin Death Trip

Well it is windy. I think the weatherman said 20mph, gusts to 35. And it is cold this morning, 24, but its been colder. My house is creaking and some of the windows are whistling – note to self: get those replaced – but its supposed to end by noon. My furnace is fine, my fridge is full and my Sweetie is warming up the espresso machine so I really don’t have anything to complain about. But the whining of the wind this morning reminded me of a strange book called Wisconsin Death Trip. If you have not come across this book in your travels, it is worth the journey.

Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy

Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy

First published in 1973, This book by Michael Lesy, is based on a collection of glass plate negatives taken by Charles Van Schaik in Black River Falls, Wisconsin from 1890 – 1910. The subject matter ranges from children in coffins, to farm animals, to family portraits of some of the grimmest-looking people imaginable. These are coupled with newspaper excerpts of suicides, murder/suicides, madness and misery. This period of history in the US was tough, because if you were either making your fortune or you were having a really bad time. The distance between city folk and country folk was pretty wide and the country people weren’t doing too well. There was drought, foreclosures, and poverty, and in Wisconsin, the weather didn’t help anyone’s attitude either. It gets cold, really cold, and it snows, a lot, and back then you had a bunch of kids to feed and you had cows or other animals to feed and wood to chop and water to thaw. When the wind whistled, it whistled loud and found every crack in the house. We are having a lot of pipe freezing this winter up here, and its a pain and a big inconvenience but back in 1893, you couldn’t just wrap the pipe in heat tape or use the hair dryer, hell, you had a well that froze up. Just going outside to get the water was a big ordeal, not to mention hauling it over to the barn once you dug a path through the snow. And then you had to go out to the barn a couple of times a day to make sure the trough hadn’t frozen over. If the well froze, you were melting snow.

from Wisconsin Death Trip

from Wisconsin Death Trip

And then there were the epidemics (smallpox, diphtheria), alcoholism, gangs of armed tramps, barn burnings…. well it isn’t surprising that old Ben hung himself after offing the family or Sarah drank blue vitriol when she discovered she was pregnant – again!. When I read this book for the first time, probably in the early 80’s, the reference to blue vitriol was new to me. And it came up more than once in Wisconsin Death Trip. Sure people were hanging themselves, using garden tool in unique ways, jumping in the lake with rocks in their pockets but drinking blue vitriol? I found out it is copper sulfate ( copper and sulfuric acid) but what the heck were they doing with it on the farm in the early 20th C.? It was pretty common on the farm since it was a fungicide, insecticide and a blue dye. Interesting enough, it was also used as an emetic, drink a little-you vomit….drink a lot-you die.

Because it just sounded so odd, it became one of those phrases you use in a family that if outsiders heard you they’d scratch their heads or have you committed. With us, whenever things got crazy around here or the wind didn’t stop blowing for 10 hours straight or you had a bad day at work, you’d say something like, “I can’t take it, where’s the blue vitriol.?” Sounds creepy? Maybe. But for us it was a way to lighten up a stressful situation. Too bad those farm wives in 1901 didn’t think that way. To them drink actually meant drink.

Now this may all sound pretty morbid and yes, some of it is, but this book is also fascinating. It will give you a different perspective on the “good old days.” Of course not everyone was behaving like this but some were. And it wasn’t just in Black River Falls, it was happening in other towns in Wisconsin, and in Iowa, and in Nebraska, and in Minnesota.

So hang in there. Winter will be over someday. The pipes will thaw. The wind will die down. No need to get out the hedge clippers, the rope or the blue vitriol.

PS: If you like Wisconsin Death Trip you might enjoy two fiction books that pull inspiration from WDT, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick and
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.


Got a boo boo?

When I was a kid and I got a scraped knee or a minor cut, out came the mercurochrome. Part of the application included blowing on the wound, to cool off the burn once the mercurochrome was dabbed on. Oucheewawa!

NOTE TO JEANNE:::::  Mercurochrome didn’t sting nearly as much as Iodine!!!!!  that was a real ouchee!!!!!   Love, Curt

Bactine was another item in the medicine cabinet used mainly for sunburn and minor scrapes that didn’t bleed a lot. There was Vicks VapoRub that went on my chest when I had a congested cold and finally a shot of whiskey in some hot tea was the soothing drink I was given when the cramps from my period sent me into the fetal position. (it put me to sleep, the best medicine of all).

But when we had a burn, out came Gramma’s Salve. Well it probably really was Uncle Henry’s Salve. He was Gram’s brother and when my Mom’s Dad died (Grampa), she and her brother and Gram moved into his house. This was their magic cure-all but nobody ever knew what was in it. This past Christmas my Mother (she’s 88) brought over the jar she still has to show my son. Brownish in color, in a Wyler’s Beef Bullion jar, with a hand written label that said,


It looked nasty. We opened and took a whiff. Sort of medicinal, sort of industrial greasy, sort of animal fatty but not rancid, sort of what?????  Hard to identify.

Gramma's Salve

Gramma’s Salve

My Mother said when the salve got low Uncle Henry would go down to the butcher shop to get it refilled. That might explain the animal fat smell, maybe. But whatever the butcher added is lost in the past. This jar she brought at Christmas must have been over fifty years old because Uncle Henry is long gone and my Mom is no spring chicken. But she swears by it, says it has taken the sting out of burns and healed them quickly. Cuts and scrapes too. I do remember, far in the back of my brain, situations where I was the recipient of its healing powers but I am not able to give you any details.

After the holidays Curt went off on one of his junking days. That’s where he and his friend Carol, spend the day hitting up flea markets and antique stores. He came home with this.

Dream Salve

Dream Salve

The printed can said:

Prepared only by
Wonderful Dream Salve Co.
Detroit, Mich. U.S.A.

Price 30 Cts.
An effective remedy if used as directed
The Great Healer

For Burns, Scalds, Cuts, Bruises, Fever Sores, Chronic Sores, Chilblains, Felons, Ivy Poison, Bites, Scald Head Barber’s Itch, Etc,

Directions: – Always spread the salve on oiled silk or wax paper and apply.  Cleanse the sore and renew every 12 hours – See special directions on circular for various uses.

Wow! Chilblains and felons (those little tears at the edge of your fingernail) and that pesky scald head barber’s itch! And we can only guess at the ‘various uses’ since the circular was no longer in the box. We opened it up and there were tiny traces of something brown, it smelled medicinal, industrial greasy, animal fatty, maybe. Interesting.

So my questions are, did Hannah know the butcher, did they go into business together, or did she seduce him and then run off to Detroit with the miracle formula for salve? Was Uncle Henry really visiting the butcher or was he going to Hannah’s house? Was Uncle Henry and Hannah an item? We will never know but we still have the salve. Lucky us.

Ma’s Canned Pears

Canned Pears

Canned Pears

Last week was Easter and we regaled you with our salmon and pork chop duel. However I neglected to finish off the post with the dessert we had that day. Desserts are rare around here. The only time we really get serious about dessert is when we have guests. For the most part our desserts are never interesting enough to share. I’ll get some Ben & Jerry’s sorbet and add a cookie or two. Or maybe it will be a bowl of fruit with agave syrup drizzled on top but this was Easter and we wanted to do something special. Curt remembered we had some canned pears dated 2010, still within a safe time frame.

We do not have pear trees but Curt’s folks had a pear tree which was very prolific. Curt’s Dad, Harold, always had a huge garden and Curt’s Mom, Jane, was a canner. In the fall when everything was getting ripe there was always a flurry of jars and lids and rings and hot water baths and pressure cooking going on in her kitchen. This had lessened over the years because the four kids had grown up and moved out a long time ago so there weren’t as many mouths to feed. Also in her last years Jane developed some dementia so it wasn’t  a wise idea to have her coordinating the incredible process of peeling and coring and blanching and fire and water that resulted in a pantry stocked with fruit and vegetables. However, they still couldn’t see all that good produce go to waste and probably together still did a few quarts of chowder and dill pickles. Harold died in August 2010. Curt’s sister, Mary, moved in with Mom until a suitable living arrangement could be found. In the meantime the garden kept ripening and the trees kept producing their fruit. The pear tree was loaded. Jane insisted on canning the pears and Curt’s sister had no choice but to join in, supervise and basically do it all since Jane was becoming increasingly forgetful.

The following April (2011) Jane, the canner joined Harold, the gardener and the children cleaned up the estate and divided up the more recent canned food, which included the pears.

When we opened the sealed jars last week, the pears were firm, had good color and taste. Curt wondered if, like a pineapple upside-down cake, there might be a pear equivalent and sure enough the internet came through again. Thus I give you:

Caramel Pear Upside Down Cake (modified from a modified recipe)

1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C unsalted butter
2-3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced (or a pint and a half of Jane’s canned pears)
1 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 C granulated sugar
3 medium-sized eggs
1/2 C plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ cake pan, then put a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom.

In a small pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over a medium heat. While the butter and sugar are melting, arrange the pears in the pan. Once the butter and sugar are melted, carefully pour over the pears.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, yogurt, vanilla and oil. When the wet ingredients are well combined, gently mix them into the dry. Do not over mix.

Pour the batter over the pears and caramel topping. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Allow to cool in the pan completely.

Now the tricky part. When cool, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it over to release it from the pan. Peal off the parchment paper. If for some reason a pear sticks to the paper, gently remove and place it back where its supposed to be. No one will know the difference. Ours didn’t stick!



Serve each slice with a dollop of whipped cream. Thanks Jane and Mary, the cake was delicious.

Let’s Eat! Sunday Dinner Follow-up

The wait is over. Here is what we did with the salmon, the loin chop and the rest of the meal.

My Mom is ready to eat.

My Mom is ready to eat.

The salmon was marinated in charmoula sauce and then cooked on the grill.

salmon w/ charmoula

salmon w/ charmoula

Charmoula is a tart marinade for fish which we use on eggplant. Today we used it on fish.


1 clove garlic
1 tsp.sweet paprika
pinch hot paprika
3/4 tsp  ground cumin
3 Tbls finely chopped cilantro
3 Tbls finely chopped parsley
3 Tbls fresh lemon juice
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisk  all of the ingredients together and drizzle about half over the salmon. Reserve the remainder for the table. Let salmon sit 30 minutes. Curt grilled the salmon on a plank.

Fresh from the grill

Fresh from the grill

Along with the salmon we had asparagus, roasted tomatoes, deviled eggs and cheddar popovers. I was the  person assigned the starch for the meal and I naturally started thinking potatoes, rice or pasta. But sitting in Barnes and Noble, drinking coffee and browsing magazines I came upon this popover recipe. Too cheap to buy the magazine, I scrounged through my purse for a piece of paper and copied it out.  Popovers are a bit scary for me because I never think they are going to poof up but these poofed fine even if they weren’t as cheesy as I would have liked.

Hot popovers

Hot popovers


4 large eggs and 2 egg whites
1 3/4 C  milk
1 1/2 C  flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 C  finely grated xtra sharp cheddar
2 Tbls butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put empty popover pans in the oven.

Meanwhile whisk together eggs, whites, milk, flour and salt. Stir in cheddar, set aside.

After the pans have been in the hot oven for about 10 minutes, remove pans, brush cups with butter and put in batter. Return to oven. Bake 25 – 30 minutes. Cut a small slit in each popover and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove, serve hot. Good as is, better, spread with butter. ( Note: With the cheese my popovers were pretty brown after the initial 25 minutes so I turned off the oven for the additional 10 minutes. Also I had to loosen them with a knife to get them out of the pan so put in plenty of butter of maybe a non-stick spray)

But where you ask is that huge smoked pork loin chop? It was fully cooked so a quick heat through in a pan had it ready in minutes. Truth be told, Curt was going to put it on the grill with the salmon but he forgot. Lucky  for him it didn’t take long on the stove. It was great and plenty leftover for a second meal.

Leftovers for sure.

Leftovers for sure.

How was your Easter dinner?

Eating Fried Eggs

Okay some of you are already saying, “Eww, fried eggs.” Well just get past that and read on.


Over easy with sausages and a bran muffin

Growing up I wasn’t a big fan of eggs. When I finally convinced myself to eat an egg it was scrambled. Yellow, fluffy and I didn’t have to make any decisions to eat it because every bite was the same. I don’t know when my palate expanded but today I will eat them hard-boiled, fried, scrambled, poached and deviled. I hold the line at pickled. That glass barrel of pickled eggs sitting on the bar in your local saloon always looked creepy. Now that’s “eww!”

Pickled eggs in jar

Anyway, many years ago at some family gathering, we were all sitting around and my mother, always the conversation starter, asked everyone how we ate a fried egg. This might seem like a conversation killer but much to our surprise it was pretty lively and everyone had an opinion (from that you can immediately tell how exciting it gets around here).  To refresh my memory I asked my sister about this “event” and she said “Huh? What? Where?” so maybe it’s not memorable to everyone.

Before I give you everyone’s answers some clarification on terms. When checking the internet descriptions vary but for the most part here are my definitions for fried egg cooking terms:

Sunny side up – cooked on one side, white firm, yolk yellow, visible and runny
Over Easy – turned, cooked on both sides, white firm, yolk runny
Over Medium – turned, cooked on both sides, white firm, yolk cooked on edges but soft in center
Over Hard – turned, cooked on both sides, white and yolk firm

Here’s how we eat them.
Me: Over easy, then I cut off some white and break the yolk a bit so I can get some on the white and eat it together. Just keep doing that till its gone.j eggMy Dad: Over easy. He would eat all of the white first leaving the yolk intact. Then he would break the yolk with his toast and mop up the yolk on the toast finally just eating with his fork whatever remained.

My Mom: Over easy to medium. She eats most of the white first but leaves a ring of white around the yolk. Then chops up the remaining yolk and white together before eating it.

My Sister: Over easy. She takes a knife and fork and cuts it all up together and then eats it.

My Brother-in-Law: Over medium. Takes a bite of white, then a bite of yolk.

My Husband: Over easy. He eats all of the white, then cuts the yolk in half. Eats each half then mops up the plate with his toast.

I recall the conversation being very silly and everyone campaigning for their way of eating the egg as if a sash and crown would be awarded to the most reasonable, the most correct. But of course no one was going to relent and agree with another’s egg consumption. So I wonder, how many other ways are there to eat a simple fried egg?

empty plate

I became a Mom 25 years ago Today

Today I want to leave behind our normal theme of food or birds or art and celebrate the birth of our son, Nathan John. Twenty-five years ago today on a Sunday at 11:02am, he was born. Nine pounds, three and one half ounces of baby boy.

He’s a great guy.

Short hair days

When a child he was a beige eater: cheerios, buttered noodles, applesauce, Kraft cheese slices. He quickly graduated to more adventurous eating and this evening he told me he is going to a sushi happy hour with friends. His own cooking skills aren’t too bad and once he has a decent kitchen of his own I know his Dad’s good example of preparing the food in our house will serve him well.

He’s a science guy. Always wanted to be a paleontologist and from an early age could pronounce the dinosaur names way better than I. He has made it as far as a degree in geology. The job market has not been kind but who knows where the future will take him.

He’s a gamer and has been sitting at computers and working the mouse since he was four, now he owns a primo laptop, a so-so laptop and and desktop computer.

My son, age 4, and the Mac Plus (1991)

But he is also very much a nature lover.

He is a birder like us. Probably because we took him out on all our forays into the woods. His life list now is longer than mine after scoring 50 life birds on a trip to Belize. I don’t ever remember him saying ‘birdie’ as a kid but rather calling the bird by name…’robin’, ‘goldfinch’, ‘sparrow.’ On our road trips he would sit in the back seat and memorize the bird guide book.

The Birders: Nathan & Curt

He has a temper that flares up quickly but he can be as gentle as a lamb, catching bugs in the house and escorting them outdoors rather than squashing them flat as I am prone to do.

He can talk your ear off on a subject he is passionate about but make you pry every word out of him in a phone call.

Ever since high school he has wanted yellow pants. He always bemoaned the fact that guys clothes were in such boring colors. I finally located yellow pants this year. And some orange ones. Happy Birthday, don’t get mugged.

He has hair down to the middle of his back and a beard on his face. Wonder where he got that from? His parents were such a conservative looking couple.

12 inch ponytail

Ponytail parents













He is a fine young man, a good friend, a great son. So happy birthday Nathan, we love ya, and we are glad you came before Groundhog’s Day.

Chowder Making in Bergholz, NY, 1974

This is an article that was originally published in the July 9, 1974 edition of the Niagara Falls Gazette and reprinted in the July/August, 2010 issue of Der Brief, the newsletter of the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York. My family was from Bergholz.

I don’t remember people standing in line for 3 hours but there certainly was a line.  Otherwise, this article rings true.

If you’re interested in Western NY Firemen’s Chowder I have previously posted two blogs about my dad’s chowder and chowder recipes that he used at Chicken Chowder and Chicken Chowder – revisited.

By Ruth Fees
Gazette Correspondent

WHEATFIELD – Chowder-making has been a tradition with the Bergholz firefighters for over half a century, and last week they, with their wives and children, put in countless hours preparing the ingredients for over 700 gallons of chicken chowder for the Bergholz Volunteer Fire Company’s 54th annual inspection and field day, July fourth.
About 7 a.m. the day before the chowder bash, Louis Heuer (Note: I believe this should read, Lewis Heuer, my dad’s cousin who, with his brother Elmer, owned Heuer’s Market in Niagara Falls) and Wimpy Shimschack drove up to the firehall to unload the meat, chicken , and green vegetables to be used in the chowder. The canned goods and vegetables had already been stacked up inside the building. The two men spent about an hour unloading 1,000 pounds of chicken, 400 pounds of choice beef and 500 pounds of beef bones, in addition to the endless quantities of celery, green peppers and onions. Potatoes had been soaking in vats, waiting to be cleaned. The tear-jerking job of of onion peeling is done by the men.
Huge cast-iron kettles weighing 300 pounds apiece were lowered into their cooking jackets and smoke stacks were attached. Bergholz firefighters fill nine such kettles to the brim with chowder for their annual field day activities. The kettles hold 79 gallons each. The ladle alone dips up a gallon at a time.
Additional chowder makers drifted in around nine am. , and things really got under way. The kettles were scrubbed and scalded, and the chickens inspected and washed.
Beef, chicken and bones are all cooked separately. Chickens are cooked whole, cooled, skinned and boned for dicing. The cooks explained that old potatoes are used to make the chowder because new ones don’t hold up well and tend to overcook. The spuds are invariably ordered from a local farmer a year in advance. Before city water was available in the Bergholz hamlet, tankers drew water to the chowder kettles.
Until six years ago wood was used to fire the kettles. Nowadays both natural and propane gas are used.
As the work day progressed, women arrived to battle the mounds of green vegetables; endless batches of potatoes were eyed and diced. The used to be pared by hand, but a peeler now eliminates that job. Giblets are simmered for the help to eat, along with sandwiches and other refreshments, during the long day. The women have long cit-chats with their friends and neighbors while working.
There’s always a group hard at work. Some may leave for short periods, but others come in to take over. Children help to sort the 60 pounds of dried lima beans.
Adolph Wiegand, one of the chowdermakers, explained that firemen used to buy beef on the hoof, and then cut up the meat under the supervision of the local butcher. They also ground their own hamburger. “We only paid 32 cents a pound, dressed weight,” he said.
When all the meat and chicken were cooked, they were cooled before the tedious chore of cutting and dicing began.
Later in the day, all the broths were strained from the kettles into stainless steel vats which were placed into a trough, water cooled, and then packed in ice until the next morning. Any fat on the broth surface was removed before returning the stock to the kettles.
Firemen were up a the crack of dawn July 4, to begin the second phase of assembling the chowder.
By 6 am., fires were relit beneath the kettle jackets and all green vegetables prepared the day before were simmered for a few hours.
The came the tubs of vegetables, meats, chicken and other ingredients; six kettles were filled to capacity. As soon as one kettle of chowder had been emptied the cooks assembled another batch, until nine kettles of chowder had been cooked.
Before the ingredients had been blended in the pots for cooking, chowder lovers had already lined up a hundred strong, and the kept coming. It was a long wait. Some people stood in line about three hours. The carried all sorts of containers – buckets, pots and pans, thermos jugs, even turkey roasters. The line always forms early because no one wants to be left with an empty pot. The chowder-makers never have to worry about leftovers.
It was hot and muggy that morning, and the heat from the jackets made it difficult to stand near the bubbling pots as the cooks rotated the ingredients with wooden paddles.
When the kettles reached a boil, they practically stirred on their own; the broth began to take on its true color as the contents started to flavor. The aroma was swept by the breeze clear to the church yard and another long line was formed by those who would be spoon dipping on the premises
One woman, standing in line with a large bucket, said, “Every year I buy more, hoping to freeze some. It really holds the heat and I set down on the stove to cool. But the family keeps dipping in and I never have much left.”
And its taste? A Buffalo chowder-lover said, “Chowder is a lot like peanuts to me! The more I eat, the more I want. I can down four bowls at a crack, but keep that under your hat.”

A Can of What?

When you come to our site looking for recipes and food ideas you are usually getting Curt, who cooks 90% of the time in this household. But I do some of the cooking and there are a few recipes that I still make that I have been making since we were first married. Back then I probably cooked 50% of the time but as our schedules changed, Curt was home earlier than I was and he enjoyed cooking so I just let him run with it. I ended up with clean-up duty but that was fair.

Last night I made one of my newlywed specials that has been a family favorite even if the recipe contains a can of condensed soup! Horrors!! Recipes with  soup have always gotten a bad rap. For one thing, too much sodium but also because it’s not in the spirit of field-to-fork, or of  using the purest ingredients possible, or just because of the times we live in.  Soup is considered a cheat, or not good enough. Only new brides who know zip about cooking use “those” recipes and then they learn how to really cook later, right? Has my husband ever used a can of soup in his recipes? No! Does he love  “Quick Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe”? Yes!

“Quick Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe” is the original name of the recipe I gleaned from a Family Circle magazine back in the early 70’s (We were married in 1973). It has since been called Jeanne’s Macaroni and Cheese and after Nathan was born, Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese. And it was never confused with squeezy cheese (Cheese Whiz?) stirred into hot noodles that Nathan ate when he was a little guy. We never got into Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Had to draw the line somewhere.

Over the years I have tweaked the original recipe but the basic structure remains intact. Last night I cut the recipe in half for the first time since there are only two at our dinner table now, so the pictures you see will be a half recipe even though I’ll be giving you the full recipe.  A full recipe for two generates leftovers, or it should. I have to say I made this for one of our friends one evening. A friend who is a very good cook and tries many types of cuisine in her cooking and she liked it. At least she said she did and even had seconds. So here goes…   My changes, alternatives are in italics.

Jeanne’s Macaroni and Cheese
(originally Quick Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe)

4 servings

1 package (8 oz.) elbow macaroni  or cellentani, gemelli, fusilli and campanelle are fun too.
1 can cream soup (chicken, mushroom, or their variations) I’ve tried others but these work the best.
1  1/2  C. shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese (or both) I rarely use Swiss.
1/2 C real mayonnaise
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt (I never use this anymore since the soup has plenty of salt in it)
1/4 tsp cayenne or black pepper (use less cayenne to suit your taste)

1 10 oz. package of frozen vegetables, lightly cooked and well-drained. Or use fresh veggies blanched. I have used limas, edamame, corn, peas, beans, cauliflower or combinations. They shouldn’t be fully cooked because they are going to bake in the mac and cheese.

I used edamame

1 C. diced cooked chicken, ham. turkey. I have used canned white chicken, but leftovers work great. Tried lobster once, don’t!

Leftover smoked chicken

1. Cook pasta, drain, keep hot.

2. Meanwhile combine soup, cheese, mayo, dry mustard, (salt), pepper in a large bowl.

Cheese, soup, mayo mixture

3. Add macaroni, stir.

noodles stirred into sauce

4. Spoon cooked veggies over the bottom of a lightly buttered, deep ( 2 qt) casserole. Top w/ the chicken. Spoon macaroni mixture on top. I also add a light layer of shredded cheese, usually parmesan, and bread crumbs, this creates a nice crust on top. Lately I’ve been doing a layer of half veggies/meat, a layer of noodles, then remaining veggies, meat and noodles.

Layer in veggies and meat

Ready for the oven

5. Bake in 375 degree oven for 40 minutes until bubbly hot. Yes, it said “bubbly hot” in the original recipe. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

This is a half recipe


It’s great comfort food.