Category Archives: Carol

Carol’s Corn Chowder

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, NY  I  Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lately, I’ve felt like eating soup all the time. It’s sooo comforting, after Christmas is over and the bleak, grey, bitter-cold reality of January sets in. I only know how to make one kind of soup, corn chowder. This, of course, isn’t counting a brief foray into French Onion Soup in the 90s. (When my date wasn’t super impressed, I moved on. From French Onion Soup and him. Ha!)

I’ve also felt like eating soup a lot lately because I got a fabulous set of gumbo spoons for Christmas. (Gumbo spoons are big, like soup spoons, but rounder.) They’re in the Oneida Evening Star pattern from 1950, which was one of my mom’s wedding silverware designs. They’re so pretty and shiny, I just want to use them all the time!

I just made a big batch of corn chowder recently, because my local, small-town library has a soup sale every Wednesday evening in January. Patrons donate big batches of soup and the Library Director sets up the large community room with all kinds of Crock-Pots to keep the soups warm.

The soup sale is eagerly anticipated each year, by staff and patrons alike. It’s something to look forward to when the post-holiday blues try to creep in.

You can buy a pint of soup for $4, or a quart for $7, and they even throw in some French bread slices, too. Isn’t that a great idea for a fundraiser?

I don’t really have a recipe for my corn chowder, I just wing it. And I call it Carol’s Corn Chowder, because my mom says she liked to have a pot of this on in the church kitchen when she knew there were going to be visitors who had a long drive home. It’s easy and filling, plus you can easily stretch it if more people show up than you expected.

All I do is saute some diced onions in butter in a medium-sized Revere Ware frying pan while I’m boiling some diced, skinned potatoes to about halfway done. I cut up some hot dogs, or Smokies when I’m feeling rich and fancy, and put them in with the onions.

Everything goes into a large pot at this point.

Then I dump in some cans of creamed corn and drained regular corn, along with the drained potatoes. I stir the mixture a lot, and try to get it thoroughly warmed through before adding some milk and/or half and half. I don’t add any salt, because I figure canned corn already has plenty of sodium.

The only way you can really go wrong is if you boil the soup after adding the milk and get that creepy milk skin. So, after you add the milk or half and half, keep the heat low and stir it constantly, just until warmed through.

Voila, Carol’s Corn Chowder! It’s cheap, easy, and delicious, a great prescription for the January blues.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE]
This post was originally entitled Churchy Corn Chowder, when it was first published 14 January 2017.

Post name was later changed to Carol’s Corn Chowder and light edits were made.

Carol passed away 25 September 2017. This post was republished 25 September 2020, in her memory.

She was a wonderful cook, and is sorely missed by her family and friends. Rest easy, Mama.

 

Kitchens I Have Known and Loved: The V House

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 13 April 2018

Food is memories.
Hassan Kadam, The Hundred-Foot Journey

It’s hard for me to write about this kitchen, now my mother is no longer puttering around in it.

This is the downstairs kitchen at the V House. Even though the place has been in our family for 50 years now, we were still calling it by the previous owners’ last name, to distinguish it from the other houses my parents used to have.

Finally, 1 1/2 years ago, when I moved here, to the upstairs loft, I decided to rename it the V House. My father’s first name starts with V, and so does mine, so why not? Plus, the people who built it, a German family, their last name starts with V.

Growing up, I always thought this kitchen was…not so great. The counters were a yellow-and-white Formica, and the walls a kind of strange-colored tile. Is it salmon? Or coral? I’m not quite sure, but I’m leaning towards coral. And to make matters worse, the tile was trimmed at the top with a deep purple tile, I’ll call it eggplant.

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ORGANIZING RECIPES

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Monday, 26 February 2018

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.
~Laurie Colwin

After my mom died recently, I commandeered all the cookbooks and recipe files she had here in New York.

Some of my most treasured memories are of our family, sitting around the table, eating certain meals she made over and over throughout my life, the perennial favorites.

Some of her recipes can be traced back to a mysterious Sister Lunt, a lady who was serving a church mission with her husband, here in New York, and just so happened to rent the upstairs apartment I now live in, Valoftten. This would have been in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

I can’t picture Sister Lunt’s face, and I don’t even know her first name, but I’m told she was from Hawaii. She must have been a pretty good cook, and a big influence on my mother, who would have been in her late 30s or early 40s when they knew each other.

Sister Lunt made cream of mushroom pork chops, and a special kind of chicken, which my mom aptly named Lunt Chicken.

At the end of Mom’s life, she made Lunt Chicken as often as two times a week, still referring to various renditions on umpteen index cards she’d written and rewritten of this now infamous recipe.

It got to the point where I could recognize the smell, wafting up the stairs, the smell of green peppers and chicken. It was like my mom got stuck, in her ripe old age of 85, stuck on Lunt Chicken.

Mom seemed to forget she also knew how to make killer creamed chicken with homemade mashed potatoes, an amazing boiled beef dinner with tangy, yellowy, saucy mustard pickles I still long for, a melt-in-your mouth Swiss steak, and yummy goulash.

Mom also knew how to make a superb rhubarb cobbler, sinfully rich apple dumplings, and a showstopping Black Forest Cake.

But, in her later years, she lamented that her cookies never turned out right. She was starting to get fuzzy…

But getting back to me, and my own little kitchens. For a long time now, I’ve been bothered by the state of my own recipe collection, or lack thereof. Shambles, complete.

I have umpteen file folders with: color pages torn out of magazines; black-and-white photocopies from magazines and cookbooks; loose clippings from cans, bags, and boxes; and lots of recipes on index cards, as well as odd-sized sheets of paper.

How in the world to make any semblance of order out of this mess? I’ve been wondering for pretty much years now…

The only solution, in my mind, seems to be to organize them into a looseleaf binder, with a table of contents. Smaller recipes can be combined onto one page.

I feel a sense of urgency, now that Mom is gone, to organize her recipes, not only for myself, but for the rest of her posterity.

Her favorite recipes are positively filthy with splatters and fingerprints. That’s how you can tell, you know, someone’s favorite cookbook.

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