Sunday, October 31, 2021

Stories from the Kitchen Table

 One of the most powerful memory makers is food, and the meals of my family especially those homestead meals of my childhood are solid frames for the stories of my life. From cornbread and beans to fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy there is a story behind each meal and a meal behind each story. The reach of these stories was extended a while back when my cousins sent me several pages of Grandma Walker's recipes. Granny Goodwitch as she was affectionally called, had written down some of her old-time favorites and shared them with her granddaughters before she passed. These recipes, mostly deserts, harken back to a time when a lot of recipes were based on what was on hand. My grandparents were farmers in southern Ohio, and Gramma didn't have a lot varied of ingredients to draw from. I decided this winter to honor my grandma and mother and duplicate their recipes in my kitchen and share them with you. Some may seem familiar and others, not so much. We'll make slumgullion and milk-pie, devise our own recipe for moose track stew, and track down hard-to-find items like Kitchen Bouquet.

This week, Grandson Sawyer helped me make slumgullion, which I thought was a word my mom had made up, but it turns out this is an actual term for a skillet dinner of ground meat and macaroni, the precursor of Hamburger Helper. Slumgullion was a go-to meal for mom and busy weeknight dinners and she really liked it after she got an electric skillet (avocado green of course). I didn't have a recipe from mom and I'm sure it's one of those dishes that she usually threw together. A quick search of the internet and brought forth a plethora of slumgullion recipes with variety as wide as American taste buds. Sawyer and I settled on one that looked the most like what mom would have made, and it had the critical element of being a one-pot recipe. Yes, you cook the macaroni in the skillet. We didn't have moose meat, but we had a pound of ground bison which made a good choice, though budding chef, Sawyer, wanted more flavor in the meat. Our adaptation is below.



1 tbsp olive oil

Half cup diced onion

2 garlic cloves or minced /Granulated garlic

1 lb lean ground beef/Italian sausage

1/2 tsp italian seasoning

1/2 tsp oregano

1/8 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

14.5 oz can water

8 oz elbow macaroni

grated parmesan or asiogo cheese for garnish

Brown meat, onion, and garlic. Add seasoning, tomato, macaroni and water. Cover cook, simmer until pasta is done. Stir occasionally and add water if needed. Feel free to add spinach, peas, or kale (that's the green in the photo).

This was a hit with Nana and the grandkids and it carried the flavors I remember from my teen years in Anchorage.  This recipe is also very adaptable. Here are some variations worth trying:

  • Use Italian sausage and/or flavored canned tomatoes
  • Make it chili mac by using taco seasoning and adding beans.
  • Add any variety of vegetables to make the dish healthier
Mom would also make this with bacon and tomato paste, two staples that were always around our pantry even when times were lean. This is one of the first dishes I learned to make when started getting involved in meal prep as a teen. Mom work and Peggy, David, and I had to pick up chores around the house, and I quickly learned that cooking was more fun than cleaning up. When I was younger and there were seven or eight of us at the dinner table, mom had to have recipes that really stretched her resources to fill all the hungry bellies. At the homestead, we bought macaroni in fifteen-pound boxes, tomato paste by the case and bacon by the full slab, with the skin on. That bacon rind shows up in later recipes. Stay tuned.  And while you wait, try making old-fashioned slumgullion for the hungry bodies at your table.