Category Archives: Fall

A History of Transparency – or, Pecan Pie

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‘Tis the season, and I thought you might be interested in the humble beginnings of one of America’s favorite holiday desserts.

Transparent, or Syrup, Pie, has been around the US for eons – it uses the most basic of readily available ingredients and even the poorest usually have them on hand: eggs, butter, and a sweetener in the form of whatever’s local (honey, maple, sorghum, cane, molasses).   The Industrial Revolution came along and the US began to have a surplus of corn, and of course, we had to figure out what to do with it, so,  at the beginning of the 20th century, a cheap liquid sugar was invented using cornstarch, by the Corn Products Refining Company – and they called it Karo. 

In the late 1920’s-early 30’s an executive’s wife (of the heretofore mentioned Corn Products Refining Company) made a transparent pie using Karo, and added pecans.  Notice the wife’s name is not in the history books.  As usual in a capitalist society, let’s create that need then fill it!  The CPRC began heavily marketing KARO pie and an American staple was born. 

This same pie, with added cream, is called syrup pie.  It tastes (no WAY!) creamier and more custardy, but is still extremely similar to transparent pie taste.  It’s a little runnier and you need to adjust your solids to your liquids if you’re going to try this avenue.  A great way is to substitute only egg yolks instead of whole eggs as the yolks contain less water than whites.

My bottom line is – if you like historical recipes, go ahead and try Karo Pie (google google google!).  But if you really want a great tasting Pecan Pie, use an original sweetener – my favorite being maple – but that’s for YOU to decide.  I also add bourbon because I’m, well, me!

Sweet Potato or Yam, Ma’am?

Tis the season…and Oh, the drama!  Which is it?  They are NOT related, and another fun fact, the sweet potato isn’t even related to the potato!  First, let’s scientifically (but not TOO scientifically) differentiate:

Sweet Potato:    Originated in Central/South America.  A relative in the Morning Glory family.  Skin a plethora of colors.  Flesh a plethora of colors – the lighter the starchier.   The bad news is…you can never tell the color of the flesh until after you buy them!

Yam:        Originated (and 95% still comes from) Africa/Asia.  A member of the Lily family.   Mostly soft fleshed.  Can grow to over 100 pounds!  Sweet Potatoes are frequently mislabeled in the US because African Americans called them Yams as they resembled them.  Yams are hard to get in the US.  You’d have to go to an international market.  You WILL see sweet potatoes labeled as yams in grocery stores.  But if you look closely, they are also labeled sweet potatoes, because it’s the law.  A wonderful use of sweet potatoes, on the menu now at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering is our Roasted Sweet Potato Salad! You can order as a side with your lunch or entree at www.lulasforlunch.com  Yummy Yummy!!

Those Crazy Gourds

It’s butternut squash season… a few hints and tips:  Choose one that’s “dusty” looking – shiny means it was picked too soon.  DID YOU KNOW…uncut squash can last up to 3 months at room temperature?!?!?  This is, obviously uncut and skin on.  So if you like it, stock up!  You can be eating squash in February/March when it’s all gone from the store!!  Butternut squash lends itself to both sweet and savory preparations.  One of my favorites (surprise) is soup – with sage. Lula wishes you heady gourdy delight!

The Kindness of Strangers and Last Minute Shopping

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If you have someone on your gift list that has everything and is very hard to buy for, consider Heifer International , a well vetted (by not only me but the charitable community) wonderful non-profit that helps people help themselves.  I’ve been donating in my parents name for several years.  The first year it was a goat (private joke – they never got it – but my mom used to call me a goat whenever my young adult choices were less than desirable to her).  This year I donated a “Flock of Hope” in their name – various chicks, goslings, etc. that will help a family or female (your choice) feed themselves and provide sustainable income.

‘Tis the season of Thanksgiving AND giving…though in reality that should happen all year. While traveling home from down south last Sunday on a trip that took almost 11 hours instead of 6, I was amazed at all of the “evil” drivers after surely, they were all coming from their bounteous tables of love, and heading home full of gratitude as well as stuffing…  I know I am grateful for the best meal I think I’ve ever had at Thanksgiving – it’s amazing how good it can be, as my brother says “when nobody plans and everybody just pitches in and brings what they love”.  I am grateful for being able to stay in my brother’s new house and for meeting his new girlfriend.  I am grateful for my sister making me laugh.  I am grateful for being able to see her “I just returned from Colorado and even though it’s 70 degrees and sunny,  I’ll be damned if I’m not going to wear my snow bunny outfit that makes me look so CUTE!”  I am grateful for my brother and sister in law’s good humour and generous spirit, and for being able to visit with their son, my nephew, and enjoy his charisma. I am grateful for my almost 16 year old Pug, Oscar, behaving like a 2 year old the entire week.  I am grateful for working not one, but TWO puzzles with my mom and dad!  The puzzles really had us feeling stubborn.

What I’m most thankful for, though, is the kindness of strangers.  I don’t share much in common with Blanche Dubois (well, maybe her flair for the dramatic and hopefully, her eloquence), but one thing we ALL share with Blanche is that we “have always depended upon the kindness of strangers”.   We all like to think we’re an island and we “can handle it” but make no mistake, the kindness of strangers, whether you’re aware of it or not, has helped you along your way.

I’m a dingbat, but I expect the best of people, and I’ve found that when you expect goodness, people deliver.  Twice this “season” (fall) I have either left my purse in the grocery cart or in a public bathroom.  Both were promptly returned to the register untouched and unharmed.  What amazed me most though, was leaving the scene of an unusually large catering for 170 (a favor for a good client) and KNOWING (hint hint, string theory) as I maneuvered the cart containing chafers, fuel, stands, platters, bowls, baskets, hot boxes,  tablecloths, bags, etc. that I was in over my head (or under the cart as it will soon seem).  I’m Wonder Woman right?  Why would it occur to me to have help there?

So I’m on the cobblestone area of a sidewalk moving toward the curb where my vehicle is parked, in a not so great, dark neighborhood in downtown Cincinnati.  I’m maneuvering slowly, the images and thoughts swelling in the back of my cortex…”this isn’t a great idea – I’m feeling the cart a little unbalanced, losing a little control…no no No NO NOOOOOOOOO! as it swerves away from me and all aforementioned supplies go flying off the curb and into the middle of the street.  Within TWO SECONDS I was swooped down upon – a man and a woman came running across the street, a car came out of nowhere and zoomed past my passenger side and zipped to the curb in front of me;  the driver flew out and I swear his feet didn’t hit the ground before he was gathering up all of my accoutrement and, along with the other two, was arranging it neatly in my cargo area.   I was so tired – my feet hurt so badly, had I NOT had the accident it would have taken me 10-15 minutes to load everything properly; with the fall and their help, it took all of 2.   Whooosh!  The Ninja Turtles disappeared.   Strangers, wherever you are, thank you!

To Paraphrase Ben Franklin…

 

“We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle.  But this conversion is, through the wisdom of the Universe, made every day before our eyes.  Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that the Universe loves us, and loves to see us happy.” Benjamin Franklin    

To see how Lula transforms wine into food, go to www.lulasforlunch.com and check out our Beef Bourgignonne and Chicken Vouvray, among other recipes!

An Ode to Daddy – HOT Breakfast!

Daddy, I woke up this morning to an incredibly blustery day, the house knocking about, wind whistling as tree branches beat up the windows.  Even snuggled in the bed I could feel the “closeness” and the humidity, and knew that it wasn’t cold outside even though it SOUNDED cold.  I knew when I opened the front door warm, moist air would accost me, and it did.

They say we have a lot of memory stored in our noses, and I’m a firm believer in that.  The sounds and smells of this morning brought me right back to late elementary school – 5th grade to be exact – and a rubber 2 sided raincoat with a hood…one side bright yellow, and the other a navy blue.  I remember being jealous of the other kids whose parents bought them “duck shoes”, but I loved my coat and was proud of it.

Then all of a sudden my memory switched to breakfast every school day made by either you or mom –depending on which shift you had worked the day before.  I started remembering the array of breakfasts you guys cooked to both satisfy your time constraints or keep from being bored…oatmeal (YUCK!) topped with put up homemade jams & jellys that we could stir in to make it sweet…scrambled eggs with diced onions & peppers (always with rye bread I seem to remember!), a fried egg with bacon and toast, Cheesetoast with half a grapefruit or orange (ALWAYS white bread and sharp cheddar), or the Frank Special: burnt, raw pancakes (yes, both can be accomplished at the same time).  I never wanted to hurt your feelings but I knew if I tried to eat them I would throw up, so I complained.  You were mad, but you took them back and threw them back in the frying pan.  To this day I love my pancakes crispy dark on the outside with just butter, no syrup, just like I did in elementary school.  Thank you both for giving us hot breakfasts every school day (and it has been proven since that this makes smarter kids), while everyone else I knew prepared their own cereal!  xoxoxoxoxoxo  What’s YOUR elementary school breakfast memory?  Post it here:  http://lulasforlunch.com/blog

“Holiday Thanks to YOU (and Bojangles)!”

Happy Holidays everyone!  Just a week ago I was able to spend a minute or two with family in South Carolina for Thanksgiving.  Since the holidays are my busiest season, it’s particularly hard to make this visit at this time, but this year my mother’s health was failing and a Christmas visit  looked like a “no-go”.  So, once again, Over the River and Through the Woods I went.  Amazingly, this was one of the most pleasant drives I have ever had.  I had some of my favorite CD’s to sing along with (or screech along with, these days), and I had the thing that I am absolutely the most THANKFUL for right now…my 2000 Toyota Avalon with 200,000 miles on it.  She’s not as pretty as she once was, but she’s aging gracefully and in tip top shape (must be the trips to Jazzercise).  She can turn a mean corner and she sometimes sprouts wings.  She’s got great cup holders and her dashboard can be used as a buffet when necessary.  On this trip she served Bojangles Country Ham Biscuits, Bo-tatos and milk.  One of the things on my “look forward to” list for this trip.  I indulged both coming and going!

There are things I have looked forward to over the past 33 years regarding this trip (550 miles and so NOT worth it to fly with today’s rates/schedules – it takes as long to fly as drive!), and things I DON’T look forward to – in particular the drive itself.  One never knows whether there’s going to be snow or an ice storm or a wreck backing up traffic in the mountains for HOURS.  Over the years I have had to turn around and cancel the trip, I have had to pull off and stay the night in the only not so savory hotel available (that’s another blog and a gross one at that), and I have had to sit in a thankfully tanked up car for hours while wrecks are cleared.  I have even driven on solid sheets of ice (this happened in another Toyota – a Celica) in the “pull-over” lane to make up for lost time and get home to SC.  Ah, youth.   I am thankful I have never been a victim (my family would insist perpetrator) of a crash, but I have had to bear the consequences of other’s misfortune.

I promised Gordon I would be careful, and I was..I can be very careful at 75mph.  I am extremely watchful and always know what’s going on around me.  But the cars kept cruisin’ on by so 30 minutes into the trip I just said “screw it” and went with the flow…250 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes.  You do the math.  Honey, please don’t ever mention this to me.  I was wearing my seatbelt.  Be grateful.  It’s that time of year.

I swear in 33 years I’ve never seen a highway patrolman until I hit the SC line, and then suddenly there are 10 laying in wait before I exit to my parent’s house.  This trip was a reversal, but the universe was with me.  The first gauntlet was in Kentucky north of Lexington, 7 sets of blue lights within 5 miles.  The second gauntlet was in Tennessee with 5 “blue light specials” within 2 miles.  Thankfully, I survived both.  With Cake in the CD Player and nary a thought of inventory, to do lists, chopping or stirring, I began to relax for the first time in months.  With relaxation, comes a drifting of the mind…and I was suddenly at a Barbra Streisand concert (a lifelong dream) and tearing up at simply the prospect of breathing the same air that she would breathe…stop rolling your eyes please.  I’ll just BET you have a secret weird fantasy.  I shivered at the thought of her brilliance and passion for life and the sheer genius of her being.  I thought to myself, “if only we all committed to ourselves and our passions the way she does”, and I realized, in one “a ha” moment (thank you Oprah) that I was slipping a little bit in my own life.  I swore once, about 10 years ago after a period of professional burnout, that I would NEVER allow myself to lose the love for what I do again.  I would NEVER allow myself to become so enmeshed in the idea of success, or more, or the thought of the next great opportunity, that I would lose my passion for what I do, and THAT is cooking for YOU.

What is life if it is not passion and love?  It’s mere existence.  It’s taking up space and breathing valuable air.  It’s amazing what taking a little break and a little time away from the things (and people!) you love will do for your commitment to those things.  In my case, 7.5 tiny little hours. So…in closing, I’d like to thank the participants of my 2014 Turkey Day (which happened the day after so I could actually GET there):

My sister Angela (aka Angie; Gigi) – a fabulous meal.  I want the Asparagus recipe.

My daddy Franklin – moist turkey, creamy EPIC whipped potatoes, and DUKES  (oh, and biscuits & gravy J )

My mom Margie – for being just foggy enough to allow daddy to have a dog, and to LOVE him (no WAY!)

My brother Gerry – for his stillness, his kindness, his “warmth” and his Larceny.

My brother Michael (woops, Mike) – for his white knuckles (and his density – he won’t get that), and his re-“fine” ment.

My sister in law Susan – for being the loveliest Southern Belle I know.

My nephew Michael – for his humour.  “Howdy”, Michael.

My clients and friends (this year someone cooked for ME, YAY!)  – I carry you with me in my heart.  Why else have a heart?

Honey – I missed you, and it felt good.

A Little School Cafeteria Nostalgia…

This time of year I get nostalgic – visiting the department stores and grocery stores, seeing all of the “back to school” specials on clothes, backpacks, supplies, etc., and it makes me remember the school cafeteria. In my case, fondly. I come from the deep south in the 60’s, and processed food was just beginning to reach our area by the time I entered high school – in our district, that meant 9th grade. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I have fond memories of the lunch ladies and the goodies they prepared in elementary school. I wonder just how lucky I am if anybody else remembers school lunches with affection. I was a very picky eater (believe it or not) up until 9th grade, then a growth spurt changed all that and I ate everything that wasn’t nailed down for a couple of years (joining the tennis team didn’t hurt the appetite).

In elementary and middle school (6-8th grade for you “junior highschoolers”), we had lunch ladies that cooked from the heart. The regulations weren’t so strict that they couldn’t bring in overages from their gardens and farms and put them to good use, and fresh produce, not canned, was standard delivery. Our food was mostly fresh in the spring and fall months, and BBQ’d chicken was the highlight of my week. South Carolina BBQ (on Lula’s for Lunch and More! Catering ‘s Menu today, by the way, was taught to me by the lunch ladies. Not that they took me into the kitchen or anything, but I guess I was born with a contemplative and studious palate, and I was dissecting foodstuffs and their effect on my tastebuds even at the tender age of 6. I knew we were having BBQ’d chicken before the clock struck 10AM.  I could smell it in the classroom – the warm, pungent mustard and vinegar mixed with honey and spices. I don’t know how they did it but they actually managed to get a crust on that mass produced chicken – I always hoped when they handed me my tray that it would be the tray with the blackest chicken skin! I still love char to this day – who doesn’t? It is a devilish trick that carcinogens taste sooo good.  Don’t you think? I also fondly remember the little 4oz cardboard “cups” of ice cream, and though I always chose white milk, I always ate CHOCOLATE ice cream!

I’d love to know what YOUR favorite food memory from the school cafeteria is- chime in! In the meantime, Lula wishes for you lovely food experiences that create fabulous memories.