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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where're the biscuits?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yesterday I fixed myself a pimento cheese sandwich on toast. The container says the cheese spread was made from imitation cheese.

Sometimes when I'm not too lazy, I will make pimento cheese. You know, grate the American cheese, add a jar of diced pimentoes, some grated onion, and mayonnaise. It tastes a lot better than the store bought imitation cheese spread.

My homemade pimento cheese takes my mind back to those high school days when I would stop by a small restaurant on Ward Avenue in Caruthersville, Mo.

The pimento cheese was made from real cheese and was "handmade" right there in the restaurant. I can still savor the taste of that sandwich all these many years since. I would sit on the bar stool and enjoy each bite, stopping now and then to take a bite of the dill pickle that was always served on a small dish with the sandwich. No foam plates either.

I remembered, too, the hamburgers served at The Milk Bar across the street from the high school. That's the same high school that was destroyed by a tornado that devastated the town not too many years ago. It was my alma mater. The school has recently been demolished to make way for a new high school complex now under construction.

Anyway, I remember crossing the highway at lunchtime to fight for one of those hamburgers served to a mob of hungry high school students. I do mean fight. We shoved against the counter, holding our hands high, hoping we would be the lucky one that would nab one of the hamburgers being handed out by the waitress.

Eventually, we would all be served and things quieted down, somewhat. Occasionally a couple would get up and jitterbug to a tune on the juke box. The juke box didn't get much rest during lunch hour.

The hamburger was good. It must have been made from pure beef, not cheap hamburger.

I remember that I loved mom's mashed potatoes. She used real potatoes, of course. Now many homemakers prepare those packaged instant potatoes, restaurants too. But I maintain there's nothing to compare with mashed potatoes made from "real" potatoes, peeled and quartered.

But I've met some youngsters who grew up on instant potatoes and refuse to eat those made with real potatoes. They just don't like the taste.

I'll be honest when I say my mother wasn't a great chef. She knew only how to cook the basics, such as cornbread, beans, potatoes, soups, greens. Basic foods like that.

She would take the leftover white (soup) beans and make bean cakes. That's a dish that no one fixes or serves today. Many cooks I've talked with have never heard of bean cakes.

Here's how it's done.

Take the leftover white beans, mash them with a potato masher, add a beaten egg, a dab of flour, salt and pepper. Stir all that together. Form them into several flat patties, not too thick, and brown them in shortening in a skillet. Cook on low to medium heat, turning the patties once or twice until they are golden brown. Then serve hot. The trick is to get the right amount of flour, maybe 1/4 cup or less.

Not enough and they won't hold together. Too much and they are too heavy. The amount of flour depends on the amount of leftover beans used in the preparation.

Did you ever eat boiled rice as a breakfast cereal?

I have and I always liked it. Mama would cook a pot of rice on the stove, making sure that almost all of the water was cooked out. Then I would scoop up a bowl of rice, add sugar, a spoon of oleo, and a dab of milk.

Today I don't personally know anyone who serves rice as a morning cereal.

It's so much quicker and convenient to open a box of cereal or to pop a Poptart in the toaster.

Families are too rushed for a sit down breakfast of bacon, sausage and eggs and biscuits.

Where're the days of from scratch biscuits like mama used to make for breakfast? There was nothing better than those big biscuits and homemade milk gravy poured over the biscuits. My grandmother called them cathead biscuits.

Instead, we open a can of Ballards or bake frozen packaged biscuits (as I did this morning). And we fix packaged gravy mix too.

Some families skip the breakfast scene altogether, perhaps grabbing a soft drink or a quick cup of instant coffee.

One of my friends says she serves three meals; frozen, microwave or take-out.

Ah, yes. We need to stop and smell the roses, and the homebrewed coffee too.

Peggy Johnson
From These Hills