I cannot really claim that my mother was an indifferent cook because she was quite talented and she knew how to put a pretty meal on the table. The fact of the matter was that she was an annoyed cook. She was, by the time I came along late in her life, tired of the whole kitchen routine and resented the heck out of it.
On the other hand, I really was interested in cooking. Mother found the idea of training me unfortunately tiresome and expected me to pick things up through some sort of culinary osmosis--this is probably why I am still slap-dash and somewhat inventive in the kitchen.
I recall one Saturday when I had been reading a book about girls in the late 1800's and being curious when they mentioned having Lady Fingers at tea. I knew that must be a sort of cookie and I figured that my mother knew pretty much everything, so I asked her what Lady Fingers were like. Mother (reclining on the sofa and reading a book herself) reminded me where the cookbook was and told me to go to the kitchen and figure it out. I made several batches of Lady Fingers that afternoon before I got it right but I was only eleven at the time. And I cleaned up the mess I made, too.
Mother's old standard recipe book was long-ago given away (annoying because I dearly wanted it and the person who got it probably didn't care) but I still have her much-battered A&P cookbook (minus the cover and very likely some of the pages). That's where I went today when I was trying to figure out what to cook for my Thanksgiving meal.
Actually I had planned to make something else: Tomato Dressing. (You can find out more about this tasty treat in this post: The Best Comfort Food Ever.) I also thought about several other things I could do but nothing seemed quite right. I didn't want fancy. I needed something warm and comfortable and maybe reminiscent. It was while I was thinking ("having a cogitate" as my family used to say), that the memory of my mother's corn soufflé popped into my head.
It ticked all the boxes: warm, comfortable, reminiscent. One problem.....well, maybe two or three. First, I have never made this before. Two, I suspect that the original recipe was from the long-gone book. Three, it's egg-based and I don't easily tolerate eggs.
I used to be able to eat eggs but when my health failed, so did my ability to deal with some foods. It's okay if an egg is cooked into something else (like cake or bread) but fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, devilled eggs, lost bread, goldenrod eggs, and so many other good things are off the menu. But I'm careful and I haven't messed about with egg recipes since last February when I tried Anglesey Eggs (yes, that is a link to the results there) which were inspired by my reading of Marguerite Patten's cookbooks and which didn't kill me or make me ill. The Anglesey Eggs were nice but I didn't feel the need to make the recipe again.
Still, the idea of my mother's corn soufflé was enticing. There were a couple of things I knew: although she called it a soufflé, it wasn't really because the egg whites weren't whipped separately. (She liked changing the names of some things to make them sound more interesting.) I knew that the recipe had eggs and corn and milk and flour. And I knew that my mother added lots more freshly ground pepper than the recipe might call for. I found what I was looking for in that old A&P cookbook.
Let's hope I'm not mucking about with copyright by sharing this here.....
2 cups corn kernels, fresh canned or frozen
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or light cream
1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
Beat eggs until thick, add corn. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and pepper; slowly stir in milk or cream; blend in butter. Combine with corn mixture, blend well. Pour into greased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Bake in a moderately slow (325 F) oven 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Makes 4 servings.
Now, thanks to a very kind and very welcome holiday gift of canned goods from a local church, I have lots of canned corn (like six cans of creamed and five of regular) so that seemed like an encouragement to do this. I opened one can and it measured 1 1/2 cups, so I decided to reduce the entire recipe by 1/4 (with the exception of the flour). And, of course, I increased the pepper substantially.
.....Currently awaiting it coming out of the oven and all I can smell are cooking eggs.....oh my.....In the meanwhile, I'm gonna go see what other kitchen trouble I can get into.....
So, after a search of the pantry and the fridge this is what I was inspired to have for my Thanksgiving supper: corn pudding, boiled onion with sour cream, bread dressing, and cranberry sauce.
And it didn't occur to me until I plated it that I had *gasp* cooked Yankee food. Kindly do not tell my dear Mississippi neighbors. Honestly, my very most favorite meal in the world is cornbread and mustard greens and vanilla pudding for dessert--can't get much more Southern than that. But when it comes to traditional holiday stuff, I guess we all go back to what we were raised up on; in my family that was mostly Northern and British recipes.
The corn pudding (or "soufflé" according to Mother) came out just as I remembered it, and it really was nice. Will I make it again? Unlikely. As I said: eggs = dodgy risk. Plus there's a ton of it leftover and some of it will likely go to waste (that is to say, I'll be tossing it into the woods for wild creatures to feast upon).
Since I had some time on hand while I awaited the corn pudding and since the oven was (to use my grandmother's expression) already hotted up, I finally made the Robin Cake that I intended to bake the other day but didn't. I remembered as I was mixing that I had some elderly crystallized ginger from last year. It was hard as a rock but I threw it into the food processor to chop. The processor protested mightily (the sounds of it being tortured probably terrorized all of the other kitchen appliances) but I persisted. The cake is all the better for the extra ginger. Isn't everything? I love ginger.
It has been a lovely warm day (in the mid-70's) so I opened the windows for fresh air while I was in the kitchen, and Daisy spent her afternoon cat-napping on the porch. The leaves are finally turning, and they look so pretty on the trees round my pond. A just-right, just quiet, just very nice day.
And so, I want to say that I hope that there has been goodness, peace, and plenty for everyone this Thanksgiving day.
There is much to be thankful for.
Life is good.