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Monday, March 20, 2017

My Small Town America

I grew up in a small town in the central part of Illinois. This small town had pride and still does. Tractors and the American flag were both popular during my childhood. Both my grandparent were farming families and even though my parents grew up in town I must say that it was a town that is very different than were I raise my own children. It was a town where everyone knew each other and the streets were safe to walk on. It was nothing for your mom to let you go up town to buy a loaf a bread or spend the change you had collected at the young age of eight or nine. Every summer in this small town we would spend time out in the country enjoying Grandmas cooking on Sundays, playing baseball in the pasture or taking a leisurely walk looking for mushrooms.

Morel mushrooms were what we were after and when the weather started getting warm and after a good spring rain we would head out to look for them. Have you ever had morel mushrooms? Recipes to prepare the mushrooms may vary but the one that we loved the most was:

1 big haul of fresh morel mushrooms

2 lbs real butter (or margrine)
1 doz eggs
1 box saltine crackers

Mushroom Preparation - Wash and cut fresh mushrooms into quarters, slicing long way. Soak in large bowl of salt water to remove and kill all those little pesty critters. Leave soak in refrigerator for a couple hours.
melt butter in the skillet dip mushrooms in egg and then roll in saltines that had been crushed. Fry to a light golden color and then all there is left to do but enjoy

Spring is also the time for softball and baseball. Most kids in this area play ball from the age of six years old til they graduate in highschool. My grandmother and mom always believed in making a good meal with plenty of carbs for energy before playing the game. Whitey Herzog was the coach of the ST. Louis Cardinals when I was playing softball as the catcher of the team. In one interview that he gave he mentioned that spaghetti was the meal that many members of the team would have prior to playing ball. So guess what my mom went and did. yes, you guessed it she would make spaghetti dinner each night before playing a game of ball. Here is the recipe that she often used when I was a kid

1/4 cup Crisco

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound lean ground beef

1 tsp garlic salt

1 (4 oz) can mushroom stems and pieces, drained

1/4 cup chopped parsley or 2 tsp dried parsley flakes

1 (8oz) can tomato sauce

2 cups (1 lb can) tomatoes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp pepper

dash basil

bay leaf

1/2 pound thin spaghetti

In a large skillet melt Crisco, add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in ground beef and garlic salt; brown. Add mushrooms, parsley, tomato sauce, tomatoes, salt, oregano, pepper, basil and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Uncover and cook for about 1/2 hour longer, until sauce is desired consistency. Cook spaghetti as directed on the package; drain. Spoon meat sauce over spaghetti on platter or on individual plates.

These are just a few of my memories from early spring when I was a kid. Depending on where you lived you may have your own memories and they may be very different from my own. What were your memories? Would love to hear about them. Be watching for upcoming post as I share more about my childhood and the recipes that my mom, grandmas and my favorite cooks prepared.

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