Sample text for Chicken soup for the soul cookbook : 101 stories with recipes from the heart / [compiled by] Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Diana von Welanetz Wentworth.
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The Seat at the Head of the Table
We all have hometown appetites. Every other person is a bundle
of longing for the simplicities of good taste once enjoyed on
the farm or in the hometown (he or she) left behind.
I grew up in the Depression in three rooms behind my father's store in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Times were simple and our food even simpler. The word "gourmet" had not yet entered common parlance, and our total "pasta experience" was heating up a can of Franco-American Spaghetti. My mother's favorite meal was what she called New England Boiled Dinner -- throw everything in a pot and boil it. Our only seasonings were salt and pepper. We'd never heard of sage, let alone saffron. When I married Fred, a restaurant manager in New York, I had much to learn. "I hope you don't cook like your mother," he said on our honeymoon. "How else?" I thought to myself. Fred put me on an instant training program. When I served him hot dogs and baked beans on our first Saturday night, as I'd been brought up to do, he exclaimed, "Hot dogs belong in Yankee Stadium. I don't ever want to be served these beans again."
I left my New England heritage behind and quickly moved from tapioca pudding to Grand Marnier souffles. When my mother visited, I would prepare unusual gourmet treats, feeling it was my job to expand her culinary horizons.
During my mother's last years at a retirement hotel, she seemed to enjoy the bland food and simple surroundings. One day I asked her, "How do you like it here?" She replied, "This is the nicest place I have ever lived." I could hardly believe it! "Why?" I asked. "The first day I arrived," she said proudly, "they assigned me my seat in the dining room. They put me at the head of the table and gave me the only chair with arms on it."
Suddenly I realized that I had never put her at the head of the table or even cooked what she enjoyed. The next time I returned from a speaking trip I invited my mother over for the evening. I prepared a New England Boiled Dinner, seated her at the head of the table and gave her the only chair with arms on it.
While I was on my next trip, my mother passed away peacefully in the night and I realized I'd spent my life trying to train my mother instead of pleasing her. She had simple tastes and asked for so little, but it took me until the last month of her life to put her at the head of the table and give her the only chair with arms on it.
If you wish to be a blessing
And do all that you are able,
Find someone in need of a meal
And seat them at the head of the table.
Our Favorite New England Boiled Dinner
Makes 8 servings
4 pounds corned beef brisket, flat cut
10 small red potatoes
6 medium carrots
2 turnips, 2 to 3 inches in diameter
1 large onion
1 medium green cabbage
8 small beets, about 1 inch in diameter
Four hours before serving, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Rinse corned beef. (In the package may be a separate packet of spices; add them to the water along with the corned beef.) Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for about three hours, or 45 minutes per pound.
While the meat is cooking, peel potatoes, carrots and turnips. Cut carrots into 2-inch-long pieces. If the top part of the carrot is especially thick, cut those pieces in half lengthwise so that their thickness is similar to the pieces from the thinner end. Cut the turnips into quarters. Peel 1 large onion, leaving enough of the root section to hold the onion together. Cut the onion in quarters. Forty-five minutes before serving add the vegetables to the corned beef. Continue to simmer.
Cut cabbage into quarters, starting at the root end and cutting straight through to the other side. Cut each piece in half lengthwise so that you have 8 even-sized wedge-shaped pieces. Fifteen minutes before serving, place the cabbage pieces on top of the vegetables and corned beef. Cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil beets separately -- their deep color would turn everything else red. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add beets and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain; add cool water. One by one remove the beets and squeeze them. They will pop right out of their skins. Arrange them on the platter with the other vegetables and top with thin slices of butter.
To serve, remove cabbage and vegetables and arrange on a platter. Top with thin slices of butter. Remove corned beef and place on a cutting board. Cut into _-inch-thick slices and place on platter. Pass the platter at the table, and set out mustard for the corned beef.
Tapioca Cream Dessert
Makes 8 servings
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup quick-cooking tapioca
Cherries or strawberries to garnish
1/2 cup sugar
Separate eggs, placing yolks in a medium saucepan and the whites in a medium mixing bowl. Lightly beat the yolks with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Add tapioca, sugar, salt and rest of milk. Bring the mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it begins to bubble, remove it from heat. (Mixture will be thin.) Stir in vanilla and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat the whites until they form stiff peaks that just barely fold over at the top when you lift the beaters. Fold the hot mixture into the egg whites. Spoon into 8 individual dessert dishes and chill for several hours. To serve, top with a cherry or strawberry for garnish.
_1995. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Soul(r) Cookbook by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Diana von Welanetz Wentworth. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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