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Posts Tagged ‘Family Recipes’

By Bob Chrisman
 

Aunt Annie Saluting, photo 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Here’s to you, Aunt Annie!, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




A cup of tea with sugar brings back memories of my first cup, the day my mother said, “You’re old enough to drink tea.” Sacks of pale orange “circus peanuts” remind me of the stale ones in Grandma Hecker’s candy dish. Homemade caramel-covered apples take me to Mrs. Wallace’s kitchen where I taste tested them the night before Halloween. Ritz crackers transport me to Mrs. Thompson’s house where we played Ring-Around-The-Rosie.

Certain recipes hold special memories. I bake scalloped potatoes topped with pork chops the same way my mother did and in the same glass loaf dish. When I make Hamburger Splatter, I remember the adults who my mother babysat when they were children stopping by for the recipe. My favorite holiday dish recipe is scalloped oysters. Aunt Annie, Mom’s youngest sister, made them every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I asked my cousins why their mom fixed such an exotic dish for such meat-and-potatoes people. Neither of them knew but thought a neighbor might have given the recipe to Aunt Annie. Oysters don’t grow in northwest Missouri. My mother and her sisters didn’t have unusual tastes in food. Yet every holiday dinner, sitting next to the freshly roasted turkey, the real mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, and the fresh raspberry pies made from home-canned raspberries, we’d find the scalloped oysters.

I asked my aunt for the recipe. I didn’t want her to pass away without someone having it. “I don’t really have a recipe anymore. I just know how to make it,” she said. She wrote down the ingredients and instructions on a piece of notebook paper, which I lost the first time I used it. My recipe, which I carried in my head until now, captures the taste and consistency of the original.

Scalloped oysters remind me of family gatherings when my mother, her sisters and their husbands were in their prime. I remember long prayers while we held hands followed by huge meals, hours of card games, and the feeling of being loved.

Most of all I remember my Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete. They loved one another very much. They had an ease with one another and they treated each other with respect. She wasn’t always easy to live with (none of the sisters were), but Uncle Pete never fell out of love with her. I always thought, of all the sisters, Aunt Annie had the happiest marriage.



Uncle Vernon (Pete) O. Simmon in uniform, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Uncle Vernon (Pete) O. Simmon in uniform, image
© 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.





Photographs from the 1940’s capture a dashing young man in a military uniform and a dark-haired beauty. They made a striking couple all of their lives.

After he returned from the war, they bought a little house on Garden Street where they raised their three children and hosted many holiday dinners. I always envied my cousins for the parents they had.

I grew closer to them as I aged. Many times I would leave my mother’s house and stop by theirs before I drove home. Aunt Annie told me stories about her sisters and the family, things my mother never mentioned. Uncle Pete would interrupt, when he could, to offer his two cents on the subject. I loved them both and came to treasure those times with just the two of them.

Uncle Pete died of pancreatic cancer in October 1996. His death broke Aunt Annie’s heart. They had been married for over 50 years. She went through the motions of living for about a year before she took sick and died in December, 1997. I think that he was waiting for her when she passed. If he had anything to say about it, I know he was.

Here’s the recipe for her famous scalloped oysters. I hope the recipe generates some good memories for you and your families.




Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete, image © 2009
by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.





Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters



1      1-pound loaf of Velveeta Cheese (sliced)
32    Saltine cracker squares (approximately one package out of a box of four)
4-5   8-ounce cans of oysters (pieces-and-bits or whole or a combination)*
2      12-ounce cans of evaporated milk**


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice Velveeta Cheese into slices about an eighth of an inch thick. Open four cans of oysters and drain off most of the liquid. (Note: Keep some to pour into the casserole to add more oyster flavor, if desired.)

Use a casserole dish that has a lid (even though the lid isn’t used except for storage of leftovers). Grease it with your choice of oil; I prefer butter.

Then begin the layering process:

Crush enough Saltine crackers to make a layer on the bottom of the dish. Next place a layer of oysters with some liquid from the can. Cover with a layer of slices of Velveeta Cheese. Pour enough evaporated milk to wet the layers. Repeat.

The amount of the ingredients given above makes about three layers. Top the dish with another layer of Velveeta Cheese. Bake until the cheese on top is melted and a warm brown, about 90 minutes (longer if you want it crustier).

This dish will serve at least 8-10 people and maybe 10-14 if plenty of other food is available. You can make smaller portions by using a loaf pan and only making two layers. I do that when I have no one else to join me. The leftovers make a tasty, if unusual, breakfast treat.


*The number of cans of oysters you buy will determine on how “oyster-y” you want the dish to be. I found that four cans make generous layers. I usually buy two cans of pieces-and-bits and two cans of whole oysters.

**You will have approximately 1/2 can of evaporated milk left when you finish. My youngest cousin says that she uses regular milk.

Hopefully you have a strong heart and clean arteries. Bon appetit.




Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. His other red Ravine posts include Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

We’d like to thank Bob for providing this recipe and the story of the aunt who inspired it. And thank you, Aunt Annie! We’ve been dreaming about scalloped oysters since last Thanksgiving, when Bob made mention of the dish in a conversation in the post Reflections On The Other National Bird.

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Old family recipes remind me of the good parts of childhood. The smells are familar and warm, enveloping me in a giant culinary hug. The tastes are like ancestral footprints, distinct to each family, passed down for generations. (They don’t call it comfort food for nothin’!)

My 5 siblings and I have started pulling together Mom’s family recipes, many of which are Southern. She grew up in the South but has lived in the North for almost 41 years. Out of 6 kids, 4 of us lived in the South part of our childhoods, and 2 have only known the Northern climates as home.

After we moved from Georgia, Mom learned to cook favorite Pennsylvania dishes. And we grew up with a distinct blend of Northern and Southern cooking. I think we are all richer for it. My heart will always be rooted in the South, but my feet have been firmly planted in the high North for over 40 years.

I posted Mom’s Soft Dumpling recipe a few days ago. My brother, R3, sent the Banana Pudding recipe to me in an email. There aren’t many gatherings in our family without banana pudding on the table. It’s a family tradition. And, let me tell you, it’s not long before it’s all gobbled up!

Here’s Mom’s Southern Banana Pudding recipe, complete with R3’s commentary. It’s perfect for Turkey Day. It’s perfect anytime!

Happy Thanksgiving!



Southern Banana Pudding (by R3)

Banana pudding has always been a family favorite.  I am not sure where it came from but it doesn’t seem like a complete family gathering if we don’t have banana pudding.

The recipe is basically very simple.  The ingredients are bananas, cooked vanilla pudding (you need whole milk for this) and vanilla wafers.

I usually make a 9 X 13 inch pan of banana pudding because that seems to be the right amount for our family. I also use Nabisco “Nilla” vanilla wafers because they are the ones Mom always used. I have tried others but the taste of the Nilla wafers reminds me of home.

As for the pudding, instant pudding cannot be substituted for the cooked version. Not only does the instant taste “grainy” but you need the heated pudding to help cook the bananas and to infiltrate the cookies to make them softer. The bananas should have no green on them and be just starting to spot, so they are still firm but at their peak of flavor.


Shopping list:

2 – 3 packages of cooked vanilla pudding (depending on the number of layers and the fact that the portion sizes from packaged foods are getting smaller. No instant pudding! Use the real deal.)

1 – 2 boxes of Nabisco Nilla wafers (I used to be able to use one but the volume of cookies has decreased, and my consumption while I make banana pudding has increased!)

3 – 4 bananas (depending on how big the bananas are and how many layers you make. Bananas should have no green on them and be just starting to spot, so they are still firm but at their peak of flavor.)


Cooking Instructions:

Cook the vanilla pudding per the package instructions (using whole milk for the total experience).

While the pudding is cooking, place a layer of Nilla wafers on the bottom of the pan and top with a layer of cut banana slices (cut into disks). I usually use 1 to 1 1/2 bananas per layer.

When the pudding is cooked, pour about a third of the pudding over the sliced bananas and cookies. Make another layer of cookies and bananas and cover them with more pudding. If you have enough for another layer then do another layer of cookies and bananas ending with a top layer of pudding.

If you want to get fancy you can put cookies around the sides of the dish, pushing them in vertically and another layer on top.

Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight (this is an important step because banana pudding is always best if it ages overnight in the refrigerator).

The next day grab a spoon, a cereal bowl and enjoy (cereal bowl is optional).


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

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