Maybe being pregnant makes you remember food from childhood. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that when I bought some Chinese cabbage today at the supermarket I remembered a favorite meal very vividly! Back when I was in my early teens, I would say, we would occasionally have taco salad for lunch. I will guarantee, however, that it was not the same as most people’s taco salad! To start with, we did not mix it ahead of time, but rather each person built their own on their plate—a lot like the “straw hats” or “hay stack” that are popular in some circles. Then, instead of buying corn chips, my frugal mother made corn bread. And by the way, I’m very thankful to my mom for instilling frugal values in me, although I’ve never pinched pennies quite the way she did. We would crumble corn bread onto our plate, then add a layer of pinto or kidney beans (we cooked enough to make about two quarts of beans, then added a pound of fried hamburger and seasoned it with salt and pepper). Next would be a thin layer of grated cheese, and then chopped dill pickles and onions. In season, we would use chopped tomatoes; the rest of the year we opened a couple of jars of canned tomatoes. I always liked to add some extra tomato juice to soak up the cornbread! The top layer was either lettuce or Chinese cabbage, depending on season; Mom always grew Chinese cabbage in the fall and stored it till about December. From then till summer, we had no salads except the occasional coleslaw and Iceberg lettuce once or twice when it went on sale. We got so hungry for salad by spring! But I digress. On top of the stack, we poured Basic French Dressing, a recipe from the old Oster blender cookbook, or Hidden Valley Dressing. Yum! That was before we started making salsa; when I was in my late teens we started making taco sauce and then salsa.
All the ingredients, ready to assemble!
My plateful, ready to eat. It was as good as I remembered! Everyone else liked this, too, and there were hardly any leftovers—a spoonful of beans, a few chopped pickles, and some tomatoes.
The recipes we used:
Cornbread (from Joy of Cooking)
Mix: 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-2 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
Add: 1 egg
2-3 Tablespoons melted butter or bacon fat
3/4 cup milk
Mix lightly, bake in two loaf pans or a 9”x9” pan 20 minutes at 350°F
Basic French Dressing (from old Oster Blender cookbook)
1 1/2 c salad oil
3/4 c vinegar
1/2 t sugar
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t paprika
2 t dry mustard
Put all ingredients into blender. Cover. Process until well blended. Shake before using.
Hidden Valley Dressing (my mom’s creation)
Put in blender:
1 3/4 t salt
1/2 t dry mustard
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t garlic powder
2 t dry parsley
good shake black pepper
1 T vinegar
1 T lemon juice (or another Tablespoon vinegar)
1/4 c oil
Start blending. Immediately remove feeder cap and slowly pour in another 3/4 c oil. Then blend in 1 1/4-1 1/2 c buttermilk.