Tuesday, November 26, 2013

French Hunter’s Dinner—Retro Recipe

This post follows up on my previous one. It’s a recipe from Leota Busch’s personal cookbook, and she got it from my dear friend, the late Maryfrances (Schwartz) Ridgeway. I had to make it—for personal reasons. Because, I suppose, it connects me in a tiny way with someone who’s gone. Someone I miss.

The recipe itself? Well, at a glance you might think it’s one of those midcentury “culinary atrocities,” with the chop suey vegetables and such.

Somewhere, this recipe got pretty far away from anything French. (Unless French hunters shoot cattle and mix it with Italian spaghetti and American Campbell’s tomato soup!) It is what it is. As they say, boney patoots! (—Or something.)

But you know what? It’s pretty darned good! It’s kind of like a pre–Hamburger Helper hamburger helper. Unlike the prepackaged stuff, you control the sodium and fat. And it tastes much better.

It’s hearty, tasty, and good! Perfect for this time of year, as the weather gets cold and colder, and we get busy and busier. It makes a lot, and the leftovers are even tastier the next day.

I give you two versions: first, the original as it appeared in Mrs. Busch’s recipe book. Then, my interpretation. (No, I didn’t change it too much.)

French Hunter’s Dinner
(Original Version)


Garlic buds
1# hamburger (twice ground)
Suet (about a cup, diced)
1 medium onion
Chili powder
1 box spaghetti*
1 can lima beans (medium)
(Seaside brand at Piggly-Wiggly)
1 can tomato soup
1 can mushrooms (Sutton, or sliced; may be omitted if desired) (20¢)


Boil & blanch one box of spaghetti, while hamburger is being prepared. Rub bottom of skillet with 1 or 2 garlic buds. Render suet & remove “cracklings.” Brown hamburger, & stir constantly to keep particles segregated. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of chile powder in. Add salt & pepper (about teaspoon of each). Dice onion, & stir into browned hamburger. Stir into this the spaghetti. Then the can of tomato soup. Let cook for a while. Add lima beans. Mushrooms.

* One can of spaghetti in tomato sauce may be used in place of “fresh” spaghetti.

This serves 5 or 6.

One can of “vegetables for Chop Suey” makes it extra good and increases the portions. these vegetables have to be sliced or diced, as they are large-sized in the can (Delmonico).

Serve with hot rolls, relish, coffee, and dessert.

Prepare in advance, & re-heat for serving, for best results.

--Maryfrances Schwartz

My mom is always quick to correct people when they say they’ve used “So-and-So’s” recipe but then admit that they’ve changed things. To Mom’s thinking, if you changed it one tiny bit from the original, it’s no longer “So-and-So’s” recipe.

But who’s so anal to follow instructions to the letter, especially when casserole-like dishes are concerned? Also, since apparently all of the brands specified in the recipe are defunct, there’s already no way to follow the directions completely.

Plus, prices and packaging have changed, so quantities must be interpreted. And if you’re gonna go that far, might as well make a few other changes for modern cooking methods. Like, get rid of the lard, and use the whole two cloves of garlic, pressed.

So, here’s my rendition. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it. And what’s closer to the original recipe: tweaking it for 2013, in my kitchen, or never cooking it at all?

French Hunter’s Dinner

1/2 of a 16-oz. package of spaghetti
1 lb. ground chuck or ground round (beef; get the lean kind)
1-2 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed, crushed, or minced
1 16-oz. can lima beans (frozen and thawed would be fresher-seeming)
1 10-oz. can condensed tomato soup
1 4-oz. can mushrooms (drained)
1 14-oz. can chop suey vegetables (“Fancy Mixed Vegetables” or “Stir-Fry Vegetables”) (drained)

Start the spaghetti and prepare according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan with a lid, start browning the meat (if using lean beef, you might use a little vegetable oil). Sprinkle in the chili powder and add salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. of both; to taste). As meat begins to brown, stir in onions and garlic. When the meat and onions are cooked, stir in the can of tomato soup. Then add the (drained) spaghetti and stir gently to combine. Cook, half-covered, to meld flavors. Then add lima beans, mushrooms, and (if using) chop suey vegetables. Cook a little longer to heat through.

Oh yeah! And serving with hot rolls and relish, and ending with coffee and dessert, as instructed, is pretty darn good!

(—Boney patoots!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Personal Recipe Book of Leota Busch

I’ve recently been looking through the personal recipe book of one of Jefferson City’s (and Munichburg’s) notable residents. It belonged to Leota Busch. Leota was the wife of Arthur Busch, and the two ran Busch’s Florist from the early 1940s until his death in 1990. She continued to own and run the florist until 1996, when she sold the business. She kept working, though, doing flower arrangements for another eight years.

Busch’s Florist is just about two blocks away from my house, and it’s still gloriously in business, a true anchor for our neighborhood.

Busch’s is where my dad and his brothers used to buy my grandma flats of pansies for her birthday each March.

If you read Leota Busch’s obituary, you’ll see that she was a pretty neat lady, who lived a long and full life.

She and her husband didn’t have children, however, and when she passed away in 2011, she remembered the Old Munichburg Association in her will. When officers of the Old Munichburg Association met with Mrs. Busch’s bank, they were told that her survivors had declined to take some items that had belonged to Mrs. Busch, and her personal recipe book was one of these items.

I don’t suppose it has any real “value,” in any monetary sense. But then, I’m a collector of old church-ladies cookbooks, and I’m intrigued about anyone’s personal recipe collection.

As I’ve noted before, in prior generations, a lady’s ability to cook was a big part of her “job,” and her recipes reflected her and her family’s tastes. They reflected her triumphs, and they give insights into her creativity, her thought processes, and to some extent, her interactions with her family. It’s almost like a diary. I like reading “between the lines” in recipes. The things not said, because they are so well known, shows areas of special culinary prowess. The recipes splotched and stained with food spills were probably special favorites.

This little recipe book was meticulously prepared. Each recipe was typed (yes, on an old-fashioned manual typewriter!) with an admirable degree of stylistic consistency. She used asterisks as a stylistic way of denoting the ends and beginnings of sections.

It is neatly bound in a quarter-page-size, six-hole looseleaf notebook. There are thumb tabs for the different sections: meat, salad, vegetable, dessert, cake, candy, cookies, and “misc.”

(Yes, there are four entire sections for what amounts to desserts and sweets! Ha ha, take that, you ol’ “food pyramid”! Leota Busch lived to be ninety-nine!)

Anyway, there’s a lot in the recipe book that looks like a vintage church-ladies cookbook. Stuff we’d laugh at today, or cringe at, thinking about cholesterol and sodium and such. There’s a recipe for “Liver Cakes.”

Of course, times and tastes change. As expected, there are plenty of “ethnic” recipes done per mid-twentieth-century, midwestern style, and we’re all familiar with recipes like Leota’s “Spanish Steak,” which is “Spanish” by virtue of its having tomatoes, green and red pepper, onion, and optional “pimentos.”

Likewise, there is the de rigueur midcentury heartland recipe for “Chop-Suey” (from Clara Weber, Leota noted): “Have butcher cut meat into small pieces; put on stove to cook with just a little lard, salt & pepper.” In addition to onions, canned mushrooms, and celery, the recipe also calls for sorghum, a bottle of chop suey sauce, and “1 Can (Chinese) Chop Suey Vegetables.”

And the spellings—well, I shouldn’t talk. I’m an editor, and if it weren’t for the difficulties of writing in our language, I wouldn’t have a job. But I did almost snicker when I saw Leota’s big heading on one page: “Schrimp Salad.” She noted she got the recipe from a Mrs. Kimmel.

But no matter who decided to spell “shrimp” with a “c,” I have to bow to her and say, I can’t blame you, if you lived among German-types all your life!

And who wouldn’t spell it “Orange Sherbert” and “Pineapple Sherbert”? Isn’t that how you say it? (Well, against all reason, that’s how we say it around here!) And we’re not going to laugh at “Angle Food Cake,” because people still make that mistake nowadays, even people who “know better,” because we rely too much on our spell-checkers. And Mrs. Busch was a busy woman!

But I did finally laugh out loud when I saw the following recipe. I haven’t tried it yet, and I certainly wouldn’t serve it to any actual Arabs:

Arabian Stew

6 Pork chops placed in casserole after being seared.
1 slice onion on each chop
1 slice tomato on each,
1 ring green pepper on each,
1 tablespoon rice in pepper ring.
Salt and pepper.
3 cups hot water and bake.

Use raw rice.

Yes! Pork chops! It’s Arabian stew with pork chops! I hope you’re laughing, now, too!

Meanwhile, there are some awesome-looking recipes, too, no matter how they’re spelled or whose ethnicity they stumble over: “Carmel ice cream” must’ve been a favorite, as there are two versions of it.

. . . There was one recipe, though, that I had to try. According to the note at the end of the recipe, it had been given to her by Maryfrances Schwartz. Imagine my surprise, when it registered that that is the maiden name of a woman who was my closest friend my grandparents’ age.

Mrs. Ridgeway—Maryfrances Ridgeway—lived in my Columbia neighborhood when I grew up, and soon after her husband passed away, we became friends.

She owned a large tract of land. She rented the fields to others to grow soybeans, corn, and sorghum. (Or was it millet?) The forested areas were the magical green places of my childhood. The places I would go to think, to explore outside and in.

Her property was basically where the Columbia Menard’s is, and her lake—Lake Ridgeway—was bulldozed and remade into Bass Pro Shop’s “test drive your boat” lake.

Mrs. Ridgeway’s long gone, and I miss being able to ride my bike down the gravel lane to her house and talk to her. We used to talk for hours.

She’d grown up in Jefferson City, here in this Munichburg neighborhood, only a few blocks from where I’m typing this right now. She must’ve been friends with Leota Busch before marrying George Ridgeway and moving to Columbia.

. . . And so I had to make the recipe.

My next post will tell you how it turned out.