This Tardy Gift Leads To Culinary Capers

by Kevin Burton

   Good things come to those who wait, so they say. Well, I have waited.

   This was supposed to be a gift for my wife’s birthday. Then I learned that it wouldn’t be shipped by then and not even by our anniversary two months later.

   Well here it is, finally, better late than never. 

   It’s a cookbook called “Tastes Across the States,” marketed by my local newspaper The Wichita Eagle and the other papers in the McClatchy chain.  It’s filled with recipes from readers who entered local newspaper contests.

   Getting this cookbook for Jeannette was me going against my better judgment in a way.  I usually read cookbooks for comedy. That’s because people jam way too many ingredients into these recipes and the end product comes out as something that has no place on the table of a meat-and-potatoes guy like me.

   But Jeannette is more adventurous than I. She will consider some of that frou-frou stuff.  A quick glance through the book tells me that there is a lot of that. 

  There is “Squash and Apple Bake” submitted by Kathy Hocker, who reads the Charlotte Observer.  God bless Idaho Statesman reader Renae Hoff, but no thanks on the “Quarantine Quiche.”

   But we only need a few of the recipes to pan out (get it, pan out!) to make the purchase worthwhile. Another good thing, we know these recipes come from people who still read newspapers. My people.

   Cooking new things is something we’ve become more interested in during quarantine.  It’s something fun we can do together.  Jeannette rates as a b-level cook, me a c-plus usually. But we can conjure up some good stuff with proper inspiration.

   We created some decent homemade pizza in February. It was good enough that we’ll probably make it sometime when our granddaughter comes for a visit.

   We tried homemade fish and chips once but have decided not to pursue it further. To get the fish to taste like what I used to get from Arthur Treacher’s you have to nullify all the health benefits of the cod fish by deep frying it.

   We also talked about making homemade pot pies.  There are at least two pot pie recipes in Tastes Across the States. We’ll check into those.My idea was to make a nuclear hot pot pie by including hot pepper

   The book has main courses, side dishes and desserts. There’s some gluten-free stuff in there too.

   So what looks good from the book? 

  “Diana’s Lasagna” from Diana Gouyton, who reads the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, is a strong possibility.  We just won’t tell her that we plan to tone down the garlic she calls for.   

  Yes, and here’s a shoutout to Deboarah Thompson, who reads the Rock Hill Herald (That’s in South Carolina). Her “Sausage Cabbage” calls for one quarter teaspoon of Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning.

   If you get one thing from this post, get past the name and get yourself some Slap Ya Mama.  It comes in an 8-ounce canister and is sold by Walker & Sons, Inc. You won’t be sorry. Tell them Kev sent you.

   With Jeannette’s first choice comes our first cookbook controversy. She picked “Broccoli, Chicken and Rice Casserole” submitted by Deborah Thompson who reads the Lexington Herald Leader.  Remember though, Deborah Thompson is the one who supposedly lives in South Carolina and submitted “Sausage Cabbage” that I liked.

   Well Deborah Thompson is a common name, but still, I don’t know. Slap Ya Mama is a common ingredient in the two dishes.

    Something in this cooking story smells fishy. Maybe Deborah Thompson is a Walker & Sons employee, going to extreme measures to promote Slap Ya Mama?

   I wasn’t planning on this being an investigative piece. But I’ll certainly go wherever the story leads me. 

   Jeannette also chose “Smoked Cream Corn” from Allison Barker who reads The Olympian, in Olympia Washington. That’s a paper I competed against back in the day.

   Choice of a dessert as usual is left to Jeannette. She picks “Bourbon Cinnamon Pecan Bundt Cake,” a recipe from Kimberly Pina who reads the Kansas City Star and is one of the national grand prize winners. 

   Writing this is making me hungry and making me feel nostalgic for the days when all those newspapers rejected me when I was trying to break into the business.   

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