Category Archives: Men I Wanted to Know

Quarantine Cooking in the Year 2020: Grandpa Darrel’s Sheepherder Potatoes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Upstate New York  I  Sunday, 1 November 2020

Idaho russet potatoes, or yellow potatoes
Onions
Butter
Salt (Redmond RealSalt is preferred)
Pepper

I’ll leave the quantities up to you, since I don’t know how many you’ll be feeding, and I never ate his cooking. I DO know he loved onions, and so did my mother, so I used one medium onion: to one large potato: to two tablespoons butter.

Do NOT use margarine in this recipe, or Grandpa Darrel will come back from the grave to lecture and haunt you, just like all the other farmers I know. He died in 1970.

Bake the potato, stabbed with a fork on two sides and wrapped in foil, in a 350 degree oven for around an hour, or however long your oven takes make a potato that’s easily pierced with a fork.

Carefully remove the potato from the oven and unwrap, being careful not to give yourself a steam burn. You can let the potato rest, as it’s much easier to slice when it’s cooled.

Slice the potato in half, so you can always have a flat side down on the cutting board.

Choose your sharpest knife. If you can’t slice easily through the peel, pierce the potato with your knife point first, and then place the blade of the knife in the slit and then slice as thinly as you can, without the potato crumbling.

Once your potato is sliced, chop up an onion. The pieces don’t have to be very small, as they will cook down.

Choose a metal spatula, NOT plastic or wood, one with a flat end. You’ll be using the spatula not only to stir, but to turn the potatoes, and to chop any large bits of potato and onion into smaller pieces.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. I don’t know what type of pan he would have used, but I’m guessing cast iron, based on the time period he would have been making this recipe, and the type of stove or campfire he was might have been cooking on. I use vintage Revere Ware.

When the butter is mostly melted, add the onions all at once into the pan, and stir them around in the butter until they start to soften and take on a clear appearance. (This is called sweating an onion.) Push the onions to the sides of the pan, leaving the center open for potatoes.

Next, add your potatoes, making sure to only add as many as you can place in the pan so most of one side of each potato is touching the pan and will get nicely browned.

Once the potatoes are crisply browned around the edges, you can stir the onion and potato together. Continually stir them, until the potato pieces are brown and white and the onions a dark brown.

Remove from pan to a warm ceramic or stoneware plate. I suppose if you had a small cast iron skillet, you could place it on the table on a dishtowel, and eat directly from it.

I don’t know what Grandpa and his kids put on top of Sheepherders, other than the infamous salt and pepper. I love to streak ketchup across mine, and eat them with a slightly runny over-easy egg.

I think a glass of orange juice tastes best to wash them down with, but I also like to have a mug of milk on the table, too.

Grandpa Darrel, the farmer, would want it that way. Enjoy!

 

Grandpa’s Sheepherder Potatoes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 26 January 2018

I never knew my grandparents, really. Both my paternal grandparents, James and Emma Christina, died before I was born.

On my mom’s side, Grandpa Darrel died just eight days shy of my third birthday. Grandma Gladys died when I was almost 31, but I barely knew her.

I have vague and fuzzy memories of her sternly crimped grey hair, polyester pants and button-down shirts, and her love of gardening. I also remember her orange-and-brown velvet sofa, and the hot cereal she would serve for breakfast.

She wasn’t a cookie-baking grandma, although I’m told by my mother and cousins she made delicious bread, twelve loaves at a time, to feed her large brood on a Great Depression, farmer-husband budget.

I’m also told by my cousins she had a room full of beads upstairs, and they loved to go over to her house and make jewelry. I, however, have no memories of this, although I surely would have loved to banish my boredom at her house by making a necklace or bracelet!

I DO have two white necklaces she made, though, and I wear them all the time, close to my heart. I wear them to remember my mother, Carol, who wore one of them very often to church.

I wish I had known Grandpa Darrel. My mom, his oldest daughter, says he made the BEST Sheepherder Potatoes. And he was, you know, an actual sheepherder, in southern Utah. That’s where he met my grandmother, when she was teaching school.

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REPOST: Welcome to Skinny Classics!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I  26 November 2017

(Author’s note: this was originally published on 1 May 2015, when I was still living in West Valley City, Utah. Enjoy!)

DSCF7806LUNCH WITH ETHAN/7806BB

Howdy, friends and family! Would you like to read some books with me? OF COURSE you would! Pretty sure I don’t have any friends who don’t like to read, as I’ve been selling books for the past fifteen years. I also hung with a pretty bookish crowd in high school. Of course, we didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure back then, since we were too busy studying for tests and cruisin’ the boat docks by the Hudson River.

But, as an elementary school kid, I’d read five library books a week (thank you, Philmont Public Library!), as I lived way out in the country with no friends nearer than a mile away. A great treat was to go to Bookland, an indie bookstore near where my mom grocery shopped. I still remember the little, round, yellow kiddie table in the back, and spending my babysitting or house cleaning money on book after book after book…

This idea has been dancing around in my head for a long time, the idea of a Skinny Classics Book Club. There were even physical meetings for awhile, but I had to stop going because the only time we book peeps could all get together was on Sunday nights, when our store closed early, and that just didn’t work for me.

Sunday nights were a flurry of motherly activity: most importantly, squeezing in a nap after church, and secondly: making a nice Sunday dinner, cleaning up afterwards, getting Thing 1 and Thing 2’s lunch money envelopes and school clothes ready, signing school papers (NO! They could not POSSIBLY have been dug out of a festering backpack on Friday afternoon!) and preparing my own lunch and clothes for work the next day.

Monday morning comes so very early.

Most of my friends at the time were younger, and either single or without kids, and seemed to have waaay more play time than I did. I simply just couldn’t carve out the time anymore.

Years later, enter my friend Jason (he’s the one who came up with my blog’s tag line: pretty living for pennies). He and I fantasize quite a bit about co-teaching a high school English class. Half the year will be spent reading and discussing Skinny Classics (under 250 pages), and will be taught by yours truly.

The other half of the year will consist of reading books which are indicators of the time they were published. (The Great Gatsby is the perfect example of a book which details the history and society of the time it was written, the Roaring Twenties.) Jason will teach that half of the year.

Now, if we could just stop fighting over where the class will be held. He says California, she says New York. NO WAY are we meeting in the middle, in Kansas, so don’t bother to bring it up.

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Welcome to Skinny Classics!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  1 May 2015

DSCF7806LUNCH WITH ETHAN/7806BB

Howdy, friends and family! Would you like to read some books with me? OF COURSE you would! Pretty sure I don’t have any friends who don’t like to read, as I’ve been selling books for the past fifteen years. I also hung with a pretty bookish crowd in high school. Of course we didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure back then, we were too busy studying for tests and cruisin’ the boat docks by the Hudson River.

But, as an elementary school kid, I’d read five library books a week (thank you, Philmont Library!), as I lived way out in the country with no friends nearer than a mile away. A great treat was to go to Bookland, an indie bookstore near where my mom grocery shopped. I still remember the little, round, yellow kiddie table in the back, and spending my babysitting or housecleaning money on book after book after book…

This idea has been dancing around in my head for a long time, the idea of a Skinny Classics Book Club. There were even physical meetings for awhile, but I had to stop going because the only time we book peeps could all get together was on Sunday nights, when our store closed early, and that just didn’t work for me.

Sunday nights were a flurry of motherly activity: most importantly, squeezing in a nap after church, and secondly: making a nice Sunday dinner, cleaning up afterwards, getting lunch money envelopes and school clothes ready, signing school papers (NO! They could not POSSIBLY have been dug out of a festering backpack on Friday afternoon!) and preparing my own lunch and clothes for work the next day.

Monday morning comes so very early.

Most of my friends at the time were younger, and either single or without kids, and seemed to have waaay more play time than I did. I simply just couldn’t carve out the time anymore.

Year later, enter my friend Jason (he’s the one who came up with my blog’s tag line: pretty living for pennies). He and I fantasize quite a bit about co-teaching a high school English class. Half the year will be spent reading and discussing Skinny (under 250 pages) Classics, taught by yours truly.

The other half will consist of reading books which are indicators of the time they were published. (The Great Gatsby is the perfect example of a book which details the history and society of the time it was written, the Roaring Twenties.) Jason will teach that half of the year.

Now, if we could just stop fighting over where the class will be held. He says California, she says New York. NO WAY are we meeting in the middle, in Kansas, so don’t bother to bring it up.

Continue reading