Stirring up memories
Too Hot to Cook
June 22, 2005
As we head
full-blown summer, it may be too hot to cook, but that doesn’t keep me
from thinking about it—and reading about it and talking about it. A good cool place to read about cooking
is our own Gilbert Gragg—Decatur County Library, and good people to talk
to about cooking are Andy Porter and Susan Ralph.
Andy smiles when he thinks about cooking, and
he just about can’t remember when he was not only thinking about cooking
but doing it as well.
The Boy Scouts in Lufkin, Texas subsisted all
on the usual Scout fare of hot dogs, hamburgers and canned beans. The last night of the campout was
different. They all turned to
Andy to produce the traditional pot roast.
were already a good cook?” I asked.
“I was the only one who had
skills as a home chef grew along with the lad. He remembers that as soon as he got back
to Lufkin for a holiday from the University of Texas,
the phone would ring. The folks at
St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church would be after him to make his now-famous
chicken spaghetti. (Andy was a Methodist.)
It was enough to feed a crowd, or to feed a small family several
meals. Andy still makes it.
1. Simmer a 5 to 6 pound hen with water to
cover until tender. Save the
broth. Strip the meat from the
bones and set aside.
2. Sautè in one stick of butter:
1 medium onion,
3 or 4 ribs of
1 jar mushrooms
1 green pepper,
1 can water
1 jar pimentos,
1 can sliced ripe
3. Cook one sixteen-ounce package
spaghetti in the reserved broth.
4. Mix the cooked spaghetti with the
ingredients and add:
can cream of mushroom soup
can cream of chicken soup
soup can milk
5. Pour in to two greased 9 x 13-inch
or 3 8-inch square pans. (9-inch works too)
Top with 8
ounces grated cheddar cheese before baking.
6. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for
notes that this dish freezes well, but warns that the cheese shouldn’t be
frozen. Wait until the dish is
thawed and ready to cook before adding it.
is a self-taught cook. He mostly
learned by trying things out and by reading cookbooks. For the last several years, he has
shared his enthusiasm for cookbooks with the Library. This makes sense. Andy is a long-time volunteer and
chairman of the library’s board.
the Porter family moved into smaller quarters some ten years ago, they donated
a substantial part—over 100 volumes—of Andy’s cookbook
collection to the library. Since
then Andy has worked with Public Service Librarian Susan Ralph to build the
collection. They’ve been
wildly successful. Together they
have made it grow to over 700 volumes.
efforts have enriched our community and our collection,” Susan Whittle, Director
of the Southwest Georgia Regional Library, told me.
dropped by to check it out. There
is truly something for everyone—and every cook. Worried about your health? Volumes on weight loss, cooking for
diabetics, those with heart disease and cancer survivors. Dreaming of far away places? Books on the recipes of India, China,
name it. Want to stay home? The
popular Southern Living series as well as many books from local churches and
more, there are cooking videos.
I’m intrigued by “How to Cook a Duck,” and
asked Susan and Andy to pick a few favorites. It was hard. Susan leaned toward soup—Splendid Soup or Soup for Everyone because she remembers her grandmother’s
has many favorites. To learn the basics, he suggests CookWise which gives the “hows and whys of successful
cooking,” plus more than 200 recipes
Andy pulled down Dessert University. What a book. A complete education in preparing
desserts from simple poached apples (cook them in sugar syrup with lemons)
eleven different recipes for crêpes.
of crêpes, Andy says he makes a mean crêpe Suzette himself. But when it comes to desserts. His favorite to make isn’t in any
recipe book. In fact, it is a
secret—or has been until now.
Once again remembering his college days, Andy told me how a fraternity
brother, a member of a prominent Texas restaurant family,
shared the famous, but secret, formula for the restaurant chain’s
signature pie. Andy agreed to
reveal the recipe, but not the restaurant chain. (As a native Texas
2 baked and cooled 9-inch pie
1/4 pound butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 tablespoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
together powdered sugar and butter.
Add egg, salt and vanilla.
Beat until fluffy. Chill. Set aside.
cream with a dash or two of sugar.
Fold in pineapple and nuts.
powdered sugar and butter mixture into cooled pie shells. Top with whipped cream mixture.
refrigerated, covered with foil or plastic wrap.
has a favorite dessert recipe as well.&nbs=
She suggests that should you make it, you whip off a double batch and
drop one by the library—just so Susan and the rest of the staff will
sure you got it right!
Susan’s Chocolate Mint Squares
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (16 oz.) can chocolate syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter; gradually
add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating
well after each addition. Add vanilla. Combine flour and salt; add to the
creamed mixture alternately with chocolate syrup, beginning and ending with
flour mixture. Pour batter into greased and floured 13” x 9” x
2” baking pan; bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes. Cool completely.
(Cake will shrink from sides of pan.)
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp. Crème de menthe
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
gradually add sugar and crème de menthe, mixing well. Spread evenly over cake; chill about 1 hour.
1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup butter
chips and butter in the top of a double boiler; bring water to a boil. Reduce
heat to low; stir until chocolate melts. Spread over frosted cake; chill for at
least 1 hour before cutting.
you agree it’s to hot too cook, or if you’re just hungry for
something new, drop by the library and check out the cookbooks.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network