I love reading about the history of food.
Researching and making my Mom’s recipes has become a hobby of mine and I’m often amazed at the evolution of food through the years – especially during my lifetime; I find that food is in many ways like fashion.
I enjoy taking trips down the international food aisle at the grocery store. It’s here I can be surprised and delighted with foods I’ve never heard of… not to mention the interesting and artful packaging.
My international food journeys remind me of the things I often mistakenly take for granted. Things like:
- Some foods are no longer available. I discovered this the hard way with one of my early BCN posts when searching for madrilène so I could make this tasty avocado soup. Also extremely hard to find? A garlic cheese roll. If you were a chocolate and caramel lover eating between 1973 and 1981, you likely remember the Marathon Bar which was sweet and savory braided deliciousness that was a treat about as big as a Texas sunrise.
- Packaging sizes have changed. I often find that cans and packaged foods are trending larger than they did in the good ole’ days. Supersize Me! And give me seconds. And please don’t forget the cheese.
- Food packaging has changed. Wine in a box? Get real. (Pssst – it is real)! Refried beans in a bag? Just heat ’em and eat ’em! Tomato paste in a tube? Totally tubular! Let’s get rolling!
A Cheesy Love Affair
I got super sucker-punched in the belly when I lived in Italy. I thought I knew most everything about the country – Heck, it was my seventh trip there. But living far and away for more than a couple of weeks taught me a lot about the presence and absence of food.
Most notably I learned that authentic Italy does not sell or consume yellow cheese. Wait, what?!? Yeah, no yellow cheese! You can imagine the sadness and horror that became my new face as repeated trips to every store in the region produced no yellow cheese. This Texas boy quickly developed a serious health issue when I realized there would be no yellow cheese for me. No homemade mac and cheese. No cheese n’ potatoes. No queso. NO QUESO?!?
This is the solid truth – had someone told me there was a store in a province within a one or two day walk from Tuscany, I would have walked there and back just to score a single log of Velveeta. Pinky swear it. Joe will back me up on this.
I begged our great friends Jeanie and David who were flying over from Texas for an Italian New Years to please, please, please bring me a block of Velveeta. And if they could also find it in their Texas-sized hearts to tuck some taco seasoning in their bag, I would be eternally grateful. And I am.
My dream came true for NYE 2012 when three beautiful blocks of Velveeta arrived along with several packets of taco seasoning, some Pace picante sauce, Rotel and even a bottle of Don Julio tequila. It was a Holiday to Remember! ← Read this post of mine to learn more about shopping Italian style.
Get On With It
OK, OK! So what does all this have to do with this recipe? Everything.
The optional yellow cheese? Yeah, forget about it. It’s not that you’re in Italy … it’s because this dish doesn’t need it.
Most notably this is a typical recipe circa 1970s that is less about sizzle and more about sustenance. No fancy presentation draped with a demi-glaze sauce. It’s good ole’ timey tasty. For me the combination of swiss cheese, ham and pickle was a delicious trio that packed a lotta taste. The mayo, onion and peas only sealed the deal.
foodie tips ~
❤ While perfect as a side salad my appetite was trying to find other ways to enjoy this aside from “just a salad.” I wound-up making lettuce cups out of mine and enjoyed every delicious bite. I think a toasted sandwich filled with the stuff would make the world a brighter place, too.
❤ American Cheese is optional for this dish; I did not use it but I love me some yellow cheese, as the story above reveals.
❤ Dill pickle lover? Check out my other post for Sauerkraut Bend’s Potato Salad… plus a video revealing the history behind the little pickle that made Texas famous.
1 box | Bird’s Eye frozen green peas
½ teaspoon | salt
1 ½ cups | water
1 ⅓ cups | Minute Rice
¾ cup | mayonnaise
½ cup | chopped dill pickle
1 teaspoon | onion, grated
1 cup | slivered cooked ham
1 cup | slivered swiss cheese
1 cup | slivered american cheese (optional)
to serve | tomato wedges (optional)
ii. what to do
1. Add the peas, salt and water to a saucepan. Cover and bring to a full boil.
2. Add the Minute Rice and mix to moisten all the rice. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for 13 minutes.
3. Add the mayonnaise, pickles and onion and mix/fluff with a fork. Chill in the fridge.
4. When ready to serve add the ham and cheese. Serve on lettuce with tomato wedges and enjoy!
Yields 6 servings
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
You’ll love ’em, too!
The perfect party-starter-pick, these tarts will warm olive-lovin’ hearts.
Sadly, I don’t remember mom’s friend “Betty Boardman,” (although I remember hearing of her), but she makes one mean tart! And I mean that from the bottom of my tart-heart.
Luckily, I can celebrate mom’s friend’s art of the tart… and now, freshly shared from mom’s missing “recipe vault,” so can you.
2 cups | grated natural sharp american cheese
1/2 cup | soft unsalted butter
1 cup | sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon | salt
1 teaspoon | paprika
48 | stuffed olives
1. Blend cheese with butter.
2. Stir in the flour, salt and paprika. Mix well.
3. Wrap one teaspoon of the mixture around each olive, covering completely (see my soon-to-be patented tip below).
4. Arrange the olives on a baking sheet and freeze firm.
5. Transfer olives to plastic bag until you’re ready to serve. Return to freezer.
6. Just before the party shows, transfer the frozen tarts onto a baking pan and place them into a 400°F oven. Mere 15 minutes later…
…when the timer rings… enjoy!
Foodie Tips ~
♥ To wrap, flatten the mixture like a mini tortilla (see above). Place olive in the center and fold the mixture around the olive. Roll the coated olive between palms. The warmth of your hands should ensure a perfect coating.
♥ Try experimenting with your favorite kind of olives. You may need to adjust the amount of the cheesy coating to ensure a full wrap.
♥ If you use a measuring spoon to consistently measure the mixture, you can extend the batch to about 85!
♥ To maximize smiles, serve these tarts warm. Um, H-Mmmm!
♥ You can dip these cheesy delights in ranch for a different spin, but I didn’t think it was necessary.
Shortly after reclaiming Mom’s cookbook and sharing the good news with my brothers (Tim and Roger), Roger asked if I had found the “S.O.S.” recipe. Funny, I had forgotten about chipped beef until he mentioned it!
Roger said Dad would make S.O.S. for us kids when Mom (Betty) was in stenography class (she was studying to become a successful court reporter. And she became just that)!
While Mom’s recipe below calls for toasted hamburger buns, I also remember Dad topping mere pieces of white toast with the creamy mixture. Super simple S.O.S.
Roger sent me this passage from his daughter Kim which taught me a thing or two about the history of this time honored dish:
“After reading the history of chipped beef and its relation to the military, I can understand why your Dad probably enjoyed making it. For Army soldiers, chipped beef was a favorite meal and for him it probably carried a lot of meaningful memories. For you, I can understand why you wanted us all to sit down as a family when we were kids and try it. Although we literally were in tears because of how bad it tasted, I can understand now why it had meaning for you. :)
Love ~ Kim”
While Kim didn’t find the Stouffer’s version of chipped beef terrifically tasty, I have to admit that after eating mom’s casserole, I’ll be giving it another go soon. I was surprised how great it tasted without my usual *mandatory ingredients* of salt and pepper.
1 can (16-17 oz.) | peas
1 cup | evaporated milk
¼ cup | butter
2 tablespoons | chopped onion
¼ cup | flour
1/2 teaspoon | paprika
1 teaspoon | prepared mustard (we prefer Jack Daniel’s mustard)
3 hamburger buns | split and toasted (we prefer seeded buns)
1 jar (2-1/2 oz.) | shredded dried beef
1 cup | grated American cheese
ii. what to do
0. Preheat oven to 375°F.
1. Drain pea juice into a 2-cup measuring cup then add enough water to make 1 cup of liquid.
2. Stir-in evaporated milk; set aside (reserve).
3. Melt the butter, add onion and cook together until tender, but not brown.
4. Blend-in flour, paprika and mustard.
5. Add the pea reserve and cook, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
6. To half of sauce add peas; spoon into a 10 x 6 inch baking dish.
8. Add beef to remaining sauce and spoon on top of buns.
9. Sprinkle with cheese. If your local store doesn’t offer American cheese, you can substitute a mild cheese, like Colby.
10. Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes.
Makes six 1970s portions, or two 2011 portions! Yeah!