Wednesday, October 08, 2008

No Whining Today (at least from me!)

So, yeah, things aren't as rosy as I imagined, but they are still pretty darn good. I have to remind myself to not be such a perfectionist, to enjoy the little things, and to cut myself some slack.

Today I am going to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart. Food. But not just any food. Food of the Midwest. (Mom, turn away now. I am going to skewer the family cookbook) There are only 3 seasonings allowed in Midwestern cooking. Salt, pepper and garlic powder. Oh, the occasional dehydrated onion might appear, but that is abby-normal. All good casserole dishes begin with a can of cream-of-something soup. Start with the soup, add in any combination of meat, potatos, noodles or exotic ingredients like vegetables and voila! A hotdish to feed the family. A favorite is tater tot casserole. Cream of mushroom soup, hamburger, and tater tots, topped with some cheese and baked to yummy gray goodness. (Oh, and if I hadn't mentioned it, most Midwestern recipes are totally lacking in color)

Except for the Jello! Here color variations abound. Did you know that Jello is much more than a dessert? Why yes, it is! And what makes it rise to the super-side-dish category? Why a jello mold! If you knew this you get 10 points (which are completely useless but sounds good huh?)

How creative can you be with solidified neon gel? How about nuts and olives? Cabbage? Mayonnaise dressing? Shredded carrots and raisins? Cottage cheese? I've had them all and a few more that I can't even tell you WHAT was in them! Look at this one. Onions? With jello? Eeew.

And what exactly is this? Pimento loaf jello surprise? (Kudos to this website for the cool pix and a lot of laughs!)

Another favorite dish I remember from my youth was Porcupine Meatballs. Now don't get worried and go all PETA on me. No real porcupines were harmed in the making of these meatballs. The term comes from the fact that there is rice in the meatballs and it sticks out sort of like porcupine quills. This isn't a very good picture, but hey, that's what they looked like. This may be the beginning of my long-standing hatred of all ground meat.

Then again I think Swedish Ham Balls, a great traditional Christmas food, are to blame. I can't find a picture but think of grayish pink meatballs (they contain ground ham and pork) cooked in a mustard/sugar/vinegar sauce to chewy perfection and often served with some sort of preserves. They made me wish I was Jewish.

Ok, Ok, I might have exagerated a little. Or maybe not. My Mother is a wonderful cook. If you ever get the chance to try her Dane Dumplings you will want to marry her. But food in the midwest when I was growing up? It was...umm, ......interesting.

Krystal - those are the doorknob cover we have and Moose boy is getting them open. I had to grease the doorknobs underneath. I am seriously considering barbed wire.....

Thanks to all the kind words. You all are the best! Even when I am a mess!!!


Vanessa said...

It's all gravy, soups, seafood and gumbo here in the south:)

dana said...

You are in luck, I have Grandma B.'s cookbook. I will send you a copy. No one cooked midwest food better than grandma!! Ah, the bacon grease!! A little of that and maybe Ahren will be too slipery to get anywhere... If that fails, check with Dad's famous midwest handbook on Duct Tape uses. It came in handy when Alexa was 3.
Love you!

Elle said...

you could have also titled that post: How to be Lutheran. We have 6 variations of tatertot hotdish in our family cookbook. And I have a Jello mold recipe that calls for lime jello, horseradish, vinegar, minced onion, mayonnaise and grated cucumber. Mmm. Now doesn't that just make you want to gag.

Amy said...

Umm....YUCK!!! I am soooo happy I was born in the south!!! Come over and I'll cook you up some real food ;)

Anonymous said...

I am a lurker that has read your blog for a long time. Your post got me to giggle out loud! I was raised in the midwest and have eaten many of those dishes myself! Actually, I still like the porcupine meatballs! My daughters cringe everytime my Mom puts a jello dish on the table. Thanks again for the laugh!

The Merry Widow said...

LOL! I remember having this conversation with you about 5 years ago when I told you that my in-laws are from North Dakota! My favorite jello dish that they have introduced to me has Dr. Pepper in it! But I still just can't bring myself to try jello mixed with mayo. Ick! I'm not judging though...afterall, my family eats menudo. Yum!

Anonymous said...

An Iowa farm girl lurker here (does it get any more midwestern than that?).

We grew up eating meat and potatos at EVERY meal.

If I never see tator tot casserole again it will be too soon.

The carrot and raisin jello was a "treat" gag.

We also always had pickled beets - another great big gag, and some kind of peas mixed with mayo type salad.


Priscilla said...

at least you call them jello molds, instead of the southern "congealed salad"!!


I am, however, going to try my hand at tater tot casserole. :)

Whittemore Family said...

I died laughing reading your post. Being from the Midwest, I can totally relate to your post. I am sooo guilty of those tator tot hotdish!! I guess I need to get myself a Southern Cookbook and mix it up a little!!!! Thanks for all the laughs, again!!!


kitty said...

Hey now! lol! I was born and raised in Iowa and I cook mostly Italian and Mexican dishes. I never had tatertot casserole growing up. I guess im not missing much huh?