Friday, July 23, 2010

Local Foods

I made "hockies" for breakfast this morning.

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Now I might not ordinarily have mentioned that, not wanting to admit that we ate what is pretty much fried grease with butter (actually it's fried bread dough), but I came across an interesting new web site today. It's called

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and is about sharing little pieces of your everyday life with people all over the world. Not the flashy, touristy kind of pictures but pictures of “real life”. Sounds like something right up my alley. There is a theme posted each week and you have a week to post a photo which represents the theme. Previous themes have included "green," "transportation," "corners" and "wheels."

This week's theme is "local food." And since hockies are local not only to my kitchen, but specifically to my family, it seemed a good place to start. The name "hockies" was handed down from my great grandmother and it was a breakfast favorite in our house. My mother would get a pound of bread dough from the local baker and then pinch off little hunks of dough, flatten them with her floured fingers until they were thin, then drop them in hot fat to fry until they were golden brown and puffy. It was a good day when we sat down for breakfast to a plate heaped with hot hockies and a cube of butter. Karen and I always had a competition to see who could eat the most (I think my all time high was 8).

I know fried bread dough is common in many countries, but we are probably the only family that calls this recipe "hockies." I haven't made a batch in years but just had a hankering for them. Walt loves them too. Now, though, I make my own bread dough, since we are beyond the day of the corner bakery where you can pick up a pound of unbaked dough!

It's interesting that this "food" theme came up today because I've been thinking about food and recipes. I was asked to submit a family recipe for a cookbook project and so I've been going over cookbooks to decide which would be the best to submit.

There was a time when I had a huge collection of cookbooks that filled a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. Cookbooks were the thing that I collected. But with the advent of the internet and the ease of finding what you want on line, I rarely look at a cookbook any more. My once large collection has dwindled down to just a couple of shelves--and most of those are hidden behind family photos.

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There are still some recipes that I need a book for, of course. My lemon meringue pie comes out of a pie cookbook and Walt sometimes makes a lamb chop recipe out of "Thrifty Cooking for Wartime," but most of the recipes I refer to are generally ones that were never published in a book in the first place, but recipes that I've collected from other people over the years. I pasted a lot of them in my "Good Housekeeping Cookbook" (which was my bible for years--I never did like "Joy of Cooking.") The front and back covers of the cookbook are filled with special recipes I didn't want to lose.

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They are nothing extra special, but, for example, I wanted to know what Walt's mother added to ground beef for her meatloaf when I first had it. It just tasted different and so I kept that record (a slice of bread soaked in milk, an egg, worcestershire sauce, a dash of tobasco, and a crushed bouillon cube...she topped it the last 15 minutes with cream of mushroom soup). I've been making that recipe, or a variation of it, for 40 years or so.

I also had my mother come and make her enchiladas for me. She learned how to make them from a Mexican neighbor and never used a recipe. I told her I wanted to watch her before she forgot it entirely. It's a complicated recipe, but I recorded it all, though it never tastes the way my mother's did when I make it.

When Nora came here from Ireland she made peas for a big family dinner that were so incredible, I had to have her recipe. Very simple--Fry 6-8 strips of bacon in olive oil till crisp. Add chopped onion during the cooking. Add 1 lb of frozen peas, 1 tsp sugar, black pepper and basil to taste. Stir fry it all for another 10 minutes. Fabulous.

There are longer recipes that actually represent a history of the Lamplighters era of my cooking. There is a Ham Mediterranian Casserole, with cashew nuts, that I got from an actor friend with whom I am no longer on speaking terms.

There is a tortelini salad made by an actress who was in one of the most special Lamplighters shows with which I was ever involved. The salad, which is flavored with fresh dill and Parmesan cheese and contains peas and broccoli is still one of my favorites to take to pot lucks, when I'm not bringing clam dip.

Arthur Sullivan from the Lamplighters always made a crab mold for cast parties, and I have his recipe, though crab is so expensive now I can't remember the last time I made it.

And there is also a recipe for a Jewish dish called Tzimmes, which is a mixture of carrots and sweet potatoes and apples mixed with apple juice, brown sugar and chicken fat. Gilbert once mentioned that he loved that as a child and hadn't had it in years, so someone in the Lamplighters chorus gave the recipe to me. It was a huge hit when I made it for him.

My mother used to have a cookbook like my Good Housekeeping Cookbook. All of the beloved recipes of my childhood were in that book but, Virgo that she is, when she reached the point where she didn't think she would ever do that kind of cooking again, she just threw it away without asking me if I were interested in it. So gone are all those delicious memories.

Given the hockies breakfast this morning and how many calories were consumed, it's probably a good thing.


harrietv said...

Fascinating that you should have a recipe for tzimmes. Like the traditional Boston baked beans, this dish could be kept in a warm oven (or the ashes in your fireplace) over the Sabbath, so that one would not be actually cooking on the Lord's Day.

The Joy of Cooking was my prime reference for how things work (like buttermilk and baking soda) and background information. I'll still go to it for proportions. I guess we just approach cooking differently, you and I.

Babs said...

I really like the photos from "everyday life" -- and those "hockies" look so darn good!!
Do you have a particular bread dough recipe that you use? (I sure wish we still had the option of buying it at the bakery, like the good ol days!)