In my last blog post, which (once again) focused on the “Growing Up in Worthington” Facebook site, I had intended to clue you all in on a phone call that I received from a former school cook. But alas, I got a bit wordy and the recipes got a bit long, and I just couldn’t fit it in.
But I was delighted to hear from former District 518 longtime employee Judy Eckerson, who spent 10 years as a school cook and another 18 as the district’s food service supervisor. She confirmed that the much-loved pizza burger recipe was instigated by the late Ella Mae Sall. And the recipe that has been printed here is accurate, with one major exception. According to Judy, it wasn’t Velveeta in the pizza burgers, but just regular ol’ cheddar. (I had suspected that, as I knew it was unlikely that Velveeta would be one of the commodities available to school cooks.) So, to be authentic to the way the pizza burgers were back in the day, she advised you use cheddar.
Judy was also heartened to hear that former students had a hankering for some of the food cooked up in the cafeterias.
“I can’t believe how they’re raving over the food,” she said. “We didn’t know it back then.”
With that bit of business taken care of, it’s on to some seasonal fare. Before it got covered up by a load of dirt for our neighbor’s new garage, I had noted that their rhubarb patch was beginning to sprout stalks and leaves. Since that was a couple weeks ago now, I assume that other patches are by now close to bearing usable “fruit.” So I beseech all of you avid readers once again to share your favorite rhubarb recipes. (Yes, Audrey R. – I know your favorite is the much-reprinted “Quintessential” Rhubarb Dessert from DotMom’s column!) We love those oldie-but-goodies, but would also like to see some new options.
In the meantime, I turn to a relatively new cookbook that has come across my desk. “Good Food from Mrs. Sundberg’s Kitchen” was devised and assembled by Holly Harden, a writer for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” with the forward written by Keillor himself. It was published by Adventure Publications: www. adventurepublications.net.
“Well, it’s here at last, the Cookbook, years in the making, and Mrs. Sundberg couldn’t be happier,” writes Harden on the book’s website. “ Last I saw her, she was napping by a window, the Cookbook open on her lap, her apron askew, cheeks pink, and a smile on her face. I didn’t wake her. Naps, I am told, are one of the most civilizing things we can manage, and never wake a napping person unless an emergency arises. As for the book, you’ll find it full of good and simple recipes for the kinds of food your mom makes, or your grandma back in the day, and most of it feels familiar.”
The book is organized by months, beginning with September – “the real start of the year at Mrs. Sundberg’s house.” Rhubarb shows up several times throughout the year (evidently Mrs. Sundberg must freeze the stalks for later use ) including a pie for September Labor Day weekend at the Cabin; in a sauce over ham at Easter; and in a cake for a July family reunion. Here’s the cake recipe:
Rhubarb Custard Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
4 cups diced rhubarb
¾ cup sugar
1 pint whipping cream
Mix cake according to the directions on the box. Pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Cover the batter with the rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar over. Pour the whipping cream over the top.
Bake 55 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm.
Send your rhubarb faves to firstname.lastname@example.org; or via regular mail to Lagniappe, Daily Globe, Box 639, Worthington 56187