Friday, December 26, 2014

Chapter 8- Muffin

1968 was an exciting year, elections, riots and police brutality on network TV, and we got our first pet. After much begging by me and Diane, my mother gave in, and we went to the shelter to get a cat. We settled on a grey tabby kitten with singed whiskers; my mom said the mishap was a sign of a curious and healthy cat. The shelter said it was a girl, and we named her Muffin. A few weeks later when we took her to the vet, we found out she was a he! However, I don't think Muffin cared what we called him as long as we called him for meals!
the sewing machine was the ideal spot for scouting kitchen table offerings

At first Muffin was supposed to be kept in the basement, but was very quickly allowed in the breeze-way where we watched TV. Every chance he got, though, he would bolt for an open door, so he soon had the run of the whole house during the day. Diane and I would have made that 24 hours, but he could not learn to be quiet at night, so my parents made him go back to the basement at night. I can't remember if it was finished when we got him, but if not, it was not long before he had carpet, chairs and a hide-a-bed to lounge on.

Muffin was playful, sometimes scaring us a bit when he'd make a mad dash across the back of the sofa. He was also fairly tolerant of us playing with him, submitting to the indignity of being dressed up in Easter bonnets and swimming caps. He loved his cat food, and would even jump for it, so meal time came to be called "Hop Hop" However, he also loved people food. My mother was oddly lax about letting him jump on the kitchen table, and many mornings he'd be stalking my cereal bowl. I would try to block him with cereal boxes, but that just made it more fun for him. Eventually, he'd be rewarded with the milk in the bottom of the bowl.

Other times he was fast and sneaky enough to get things we had not given him, pepperoni off a pizza, tuna right out of the sandwich as my dad was eating it, a nice buttery corn cob out of the trash! He didn't have much sense about it sometimes, jumping on the counter and helping himself to bacon grease put him in some severe digestive distress! Another unfortunate occurrence was eating the string from a rolled beef roast, my mom got the unpleasant duty of helping pull it out of his rear end! He even ate through a plastic bag to get at chocolate chip cookies a few times, luckily he did not get enough chocolate to get sick.

Muffin was supposed to be an indoor cat; he was allowed out on a leash in the backyard only. Once in a while he would escape and start exploring the neighbor's bushes. Usually he was quickly lured back with food, but sometimes he managed to be gone for a few hours. One thing he really, really liked was licking the wrappers from instant milk, a fad of the early '70s. One time I was not sure if he'd got past me when I came home from school, so I opened a milk packet. No cat came running inside the house. Then I looked out the back door and he was right there! Could he possibly have heard me open that from outside? I don't know, but it got him in.

So nearly any recipe from my youth would work for this chapter, Here is one of my mother's specialties that I'm sure Muffin liked taste testing if he got a chance.

                          Swedish Meatballs

Recipe By: Donna (Nelson) Simonian
Serving Size: 4

-= Ingredients =-
1 pound Ground beef ; or turkey
1 1/2 cups Bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Onion ; minced
1/2 cup Milk
1 ea Egg
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Butter
2 tablespoon Flour
5 ounces Beef stock
1 cups Milk
2 tablespoon (or more) chicken stock or

-= Instructions =-
Combine first 9 ingredients ( easiest in food processor) , blend well and form into 1" balls. Place on a cookie sheet , greasing may not be necessary, bake at 350 about 25 min. until brown.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan. Stir in flour. Gradually stir in beef consomme and milk. heat just to boiling, stirring constantly,

Add meatballs and simmer 15 min. Add sherry, heat 15 min. more. Serve over noodles.

Friday, December 5, 2014

chapter 7 Television

I can remember when we had just one black & white TV. Eventually, we got a smaller one for the kitchen, too, but we did not get a color TV until I was 12. That was a little behind the neighbors, but not by much. TV was still rather new when I was young, there were only broadcast channels, no cable, and no video players. However, there was no monthly fee other than the electricity to run it. We did develop the unfortunate habit of watching it at lunchtime. At first that was Bozo the Clown or a game show, a very suitable thing for kids. But then these got replaced by soap operas! So I was not even out of grade school when my mom got us hooked on All My Children.
Muffin lounging on our first color TV

Supper was different though, perhaps my dad did not approve, so TV at supper was only for special events, like a genuinely classic movie on Family Classics on Sunday. Diane and I, like most kids of the 1960s, liked our Saturday morning cartoons, but we still had to get our cleaning chores done, too. Evening TV was very much a family event with lots of “wholesome” shows like Andy Griffith, Batman, Dick Van Dyke, I Dream of Jeannie and Hogan’s Heroes. Bewitched was one of my favorites; I think Samantha may have influenced me quite a bit.

Advertising had its effect, too, perhaps only slightly less insidious than it is now. I know we ended up buying and eating certain breakfast cereals because Diane and I would see them and ask for them. However, it seems the positive side of TV was more prevalent back then. There was a lot of educational programming for kids before Sesame Street- we had Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room, Garfield Goose and Friends, and others.

On weekends, long before there was any Food Network, public television aired the French Chef! My mother was probably watching Julia Child to learn, but Diane and I were more likely enjoying the showmanship. I recently revisited some of these, and giggled at the ruined crepe tossed to the floor all over again. One way or another, I think we were all influenced, and my mother bought the show’s companion cookbook. I don’t know if Julia’s recipes were served at some of the elegant buffet parties my parents had for my dad’s department at Christmas, but she may have set the style for those. For me it was also more about the style and fearless attitude than actual recipes. Bœuf Bourguignon was the famous first episode of the French Chef. Watching that again, I realize the recipe I'm using is not much like it. However, it is one I tinkered with until it was tasting the way I thought it should.

                            Beef Burgundy

evolved from several French recipes I've encountered with much fat trimming

Recipe By: Nicole
Serving Size: 8

-= Ingredients =-
24 ounces Beef bottom round ; cubed
1/2 cup All purpose flour ; for dredging
2 tablespoon Olive oil
2 Onion ; chopped
2 clove Garlic ; minced
4 stalks Celery ; chopped
2 Carrot ; sliced
2 teaspoon Dried thyme
2 teaspoon Dried marjoram
1 teaspoon Tarragon
1 cup Burgundy ; or other dry red wine
1/2 cup Tomato sauce
4 cups Beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup Peas
4 large Red potatoes -optional
Salt ; to taste
Tabasco sauce ; to taste

-= Instructions =-
Dredge beef in flour. Brown in olive in Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add onion, celery, carrot, and herbs when beef is nearly brown and continue cooking until beef is brown.

Add burgundy, tomato sauce and beef broth-broth should just cover meat, you may need to adjust amount depending on your pan. If you are using potatoes, add these now. Simmer about 2 hours until beef is tender. Or put everything in crockpot on low for 4-8 hours after browning beef.

Add peas (and pearl onions for that variation) and heat through. Add salt and Tabasco to taste-if your broth is salted , no extra salt may be needed.

Serve with a crusty French bread, or over noodles or rice if doing the pearl onion variation.