Love Makes For Weird Menus

I grew up on a farm, although my father worked in a lab. My parents lived on one end of the farm, while my father’s parents lived on the other end. This was perfection in many ways. But, the best thing was that my brother and I got to spend a seemingly infinite amount of time with our grandparents. They thought we were perfect, in spite of daily evidence to the contrary.

Today I’m particularly thinking about my grandmother’s cooking. I have a friend who just needs a casserole tonight, or maybe tomorrow night. I don’t think she’s ever been the victim of a drive-by-cassseroling. That’s where you know someone with stress, so you drop off dinner. It’s always good to dump and run as quickly as possible so that you don’t add to their stress with an unexpected visitor. I like to put the food in completely disposable containers in a completely disposable box with a note. I leave it on the doorstep, ring the bell, and leave immediately. Its important to take something that will keep until the next day in case they already have dinner plans. It’s nice to add disposable cups/plates/forks to minimize cleanup. If you want to rise above the standard, add a CD of appropriate music. I just love sending stuff for nachos with a CD of Mexican Mariachi music.

That prompted me to think about menus. Some families have very set menus for different occasions, and some families don’t. My husband’s family has whatever his mother feels like cooking. I find that odd. Very odd. Obviously, I was raised in a family that believes in tradition and continuity while he was raised by wolves.

We always went to my grandparents for the big family get-together at holidays. I mean all holidays, not just the biggies. We even celebrated “Decoration”, which seems to be a regional day when cemeteries are decorated in the Spring. The menus rarely changed. Things were occasionally added, but never taken away because there was a reason they were added in the first place. When my brother and I were little, my grandmother noticed that we weren’t especially excited about the feasts. Clever woman that she was, she thought that if we each got to pick a menu item that we would be more eager to actually eat something other than dessert.

That may be the only time my brother and I managed to successfully cooperate. Each of us picked an item that we both loved, ensuring that we both had two favorite items on the menu. My grandmother was shocked when we announced our decisions, and appalled when she realized there was no swaying us.

I picked ChickenRice and my brother picked DeviledEggs. The ChickenRice is a “leftover” dish made from chicken that falls off the bone to the bottom of the pot as it stews and DeviledEggs are a decidedly “Summer” dish. She tried to explain those weren’t appropriate for family-holiday-dinners, especially during the Winter. In the end, she didn’t have the heart to deny us. So. There they were on the menu. They stayed on the menu for decades in spite of protests from everyone that wasn’t me or my brother. Every time we saw them (even in spite of protests and her better judgement) we knew she loved us more than she loved having a perfect table.

I’ve started to allow my boys to have some input into special family meals. I can assure you, love does indeed account for some VERY weird menus.

Here’s the recipe for ChicenRice, which is particularly yummy warm and especially great cold (for breakfast) and extra wonderful when you’re sick and spectacularly nice when you’re well:


4 cooked chicken breasts, chopped (I like the ones with the bones-in, you bring them to a boil, turn them to low, and leave them for a few hours. The meat will fall easily off the bone. Pull the fat off the front. Just flip the breast over, and pull the rib-cage off the back side. There will be one more bone attached to the top of the breast. You’ll find it when to chop the chicken up into little tiny pieces) Incidentally, the chicken freezes beautifully before chopping, but after boning. That way you can have some in the freezer for when you need a really quick meal.

4 cups cooked rice (Bring four cups water to a boil, add 2 cups white rice. Put lid on pot. Turn heat off. Check back in 30 minutes) Do NOT use “minute rice”. That stuff is just wrong.

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken condensed soup
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Celery condensed soup

About 1 ½ cup of heavy cream (or half-n-half). You need enough to fill one empty Campbell’s soup can.

1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle a little more pepper on top (to make it pretty) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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