Traverse City Record-Eagle

Edna Shaffer: Grandma's Kitchen

May 17, 2010

Grandma's Kitchen: Vittles and rituals

It's been fun here, this first day of May. This afternoon, I have been watching the fuss surrounding the annual Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

The present topic of discussion is the fascinating food! I feel like I should be out in the kitchen cooking up some Kentucky Burgoo or cheesy grits in honor of the occasion. I prefer their traditional ham biscuits because they are quick and simple. It is amazing to me how every locale and culture across our country has its own spring ritual. Food plays an important part in these rites. For instance, up here we tap maple trees and hunt the elusive morels.

Spring is a great time to take a journey back home, if only in memory. I loved springtime in the Ozark foothills, with the fragrance of blooming magnolias. I recall the old-timers digging their sassafras root for making "spring tonic" tea to thin their blood. The commonly held belief was that your blood thickened during the winter of inactivity and required thinning with sassafras tea and wild greens, sort of like changing the oil in your car. This thinning prepared you for the rigors of spring plowing, planting and removing the snakes that had kept warm in the storm cellar. All of this needed to be completed before the arrival of tornado season. Granny kept busy trying to pry Grandpa out of his beloved long johns. His theory was if they kept out the cold, they would keep out the heat! I hope you are enjoying your memories too, with the coming of spring.

After reading all the mail perpetuated by last month's column, I feel I need to revisit the natural laundry soap recipe. There have been many questions about the difference between the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and their baking soda. Use only the washing soda in the soap. You will find it alongside the laundry products at the grocer's and it should not be confused with the baking soda, which is a food product. We welcome your questions.

I appreciate your stevia questions, too, and the inquiries on how to use it. As with so many products, there are variations between manufacturers, their suggested uses, and corresponding measurement conversions. Molly and I use the KAL brand. It is pure, organic, powdered stevia — with no additives. It's the only product we use. It is so potent that even a fraction can make a big difference in the taste of your dessert. Because you have asked, here is a reprint of the Baked Custard. Some of you missed the correction when it was printed last month.

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