Despite her German heritage and the fact that she raised her family in Oregon, my mother is a Southern belle at heart.
Hazel B. grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Her family owned a market, where Mother worked until she married my father, Merlyn, and moved to The Dalles, Oregon.
She took along the recipes she acquired from her German grandmother, her mother and the family’s housekeeper, Mattie. Mattie greatly influenced my mother’s taste for Southern fare.
So it’s no surprise that my mom’s best meal features Down-Home Chicken served with Poached Corn, Freezer Coleslaw and Gingerbread Boy Cookies.
Down-Home Chicken evolved from a recipe my mother saw on a local television show in the 1950s. We lovingly called it Goopy Chicken because of its thick molasses sauce. It was the most requested dish on birthdays, and extra napkins were always in order. Fresh, sweet Poached Corn and crispy Freezer Coleslaw were just the right complements.
Her chewy Gingerbread Boy Cookies are the best. My brother, sister and I often brought friends home for after-school snacks. Mother excelled at baking goodies like Southern Sour Cream Jumbles and Wagon Wheel Cookies. But the gingerbread boys were our favorites. My sister once asked for them instead of birthday cake. (My mom made a round cake and put the boys hand to hand around it.)
The first thing Mother taught me to make was cookies from scratch. She also taught my sister, Hazlyn, and me how to cut up a whole chicken. We didn’t like touching the raw chicken, so I covered my hands with plastic bags. Hazlyn wore oven mitts!
My dad, who was a railroad conductor, seldom helped in the kitchen, but he was my mother’s biggest fan. He often said he’d put her cooking up against anyone’s.
Words of Wisdom
Mother used to tell me, “Always cook too much, not too little.” I took her literally the first time I made rice soup for my husband, 40 years ago…not realizing that rice expands. We had lots of leftovers!
My husband, Mark, and I are retired teachers and volunteer at the local hospital. We’re also historical interpreters, re-creating bygone days at area historic sites.
Our daughter, MeLeesa, is a teacher, and son Drew is a state education department specialist. We have two grandchildren.
Although my mother doesn’t cook much anymore, she made her trademark mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving last year and supervised our family candy-making day before Christmas.
People always recall Mother’s wonderful cooking. My 40-year high school reunion proved it. Former classmates came up to me and asked, “Does your mother still make…?”
I hope you’ll enjoy my mother’s menu as much as we do.