Being the mother of three sons, I particularly enjoyed this , well, it's not technically a "cookbook", but rather, a recollection of one man's memories, both good and bad, of the food and kitchens of his lifetime. Supper Time: Recollections and Recipes by Leon Hale, a Houston Chronicle columnist, is a treat. I smiled, laughed, got teary-eyed, and then copied-down some great recipes; it accomplishes everything that a successful book full of food chat should do. Mr. Hale has written ten books and four column collections, so he knows how to spin a tale that intrigues the reader.
Hale begins the book with food creations that he came up with in a one bedroom apartment, living in the new world of bachelorhood at 60, after a divorce. He pulls no punches as he describes his trips to the grocery stores in the wee hours of the morning (because he couldn't sleep). He talks about well-meaning friends and compassionate ladies in his apartment building who gave him cookbooks, and goes on to explain how useless the books were because, for example, a recipe would call for boiling a chicken first and then on with the next step. He needed a book that told him, in detail....how to boil a chicken!
He tried cooking one new food item at a time; his "Vienna sausage period" was followed by several months of chicken pot pies for every meal, sometimes twice-a-day. At one point, he craved cooked vegetables, and so, invented "The Soupwich" consisting of vegetables he had on hand, cooked into a type of stew and poured over a thick slice of wheat bread. His was a method of cooking by trial and error- out of necessity. It reminded me of talking on the phone with my middle son who's in grad school, and his thrill at discovering frozen skillet meals and vegetables in steamer bags...I think these items make up the bulk of his grocery shopping purchase.
The more tender parts of this delightful read are about the author's food recollections from a boyhood during the Depression; a move to his grandma's farm; carrying school lunches (and fried pies) in a syrup bucket; his army days in mess halls and Italy (and dreams of Mom's cooking); college cafeteria food in College Station, Texas and his his mother-in-law's and grandmother-in-law's kitchens and dining rooms.
This book, published in 1999, is not filled with recipes, but the ones he gives, relate to the people in his past that were precious to him. The recipes are all easy to fix with ingredients that are available in any grocery store. I really thought this one was worth the time. I would like to read some of his other ten books! If you want to look for it, the ISBN is 0-9657468-3-6
Green Beans and New Potatoes page 125
1 pound string beans or Kentucky Wonders
6 or 8 new potatoes
1 piece salt pork, 2-3 inches square
1 large pot, filled three-quarters full with water
3 or 4 whole black peppercorns
Peel the potatoes.
Cut off the stems of beans, pop in half, stringing them if necessary.
Score the salt pork in several places with a sharp knife. Place the pork and potatoes in the pot.
Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the beans. Reduce the heat to a simmer and partially cover.
Cook the beans like this until they are thoroughly done and the potatoes are tender (half hour or so). At this point, some people will heat a scant TBSP bacon grease in a skillet until it's sizzling, then add the cooked beans and potatoes, tossing them lightly in the grease for a few seconds until they are shiny. Then add salt and pepper if needed, and serve.
***Happy Mother's Day to my own great mom and all the rest of the hard-working, wonderful moms out there***