Quick Recipes and Easy

The Church Ladies, God Bless Them All

I am a sincere admirer of the church ladies. These are the ladies who are the back bone of their parish and neighborhood churches. These ladies come in all sizes and denominations and they do excellent where ever they are found. They clean the altars, they make certain the church vestments are clean; they make certain that the churches have flowers and are appropriately decorated for the seasons. They are the volunteers who staff the church offices. They are the church members who come in early to mind the younger children who are left in the church nurseries while the parents attend the services. They are the ladies who teach Sunday School. They are the ladies who visit the sick. They are the ladies who raise money, in various ways, so that the churches can fund their various projects. And how do they do this? Well, they run carnivals and craft shows and sundry other things. But for me, the thing I like best is that they raise money by publishing cookbooks

I like these cookbook, and I have many of them that I found in various cities throughout the United States and Canada. Often when I want a recipe, I reach for one of these cook book before I reach for the books place out by the guru’s of the cooking world (I will not name them here, but we all know who they are). I reach for the church ladies cookbooks because I know that the recipes I find will be familiar, simple to prepare, with simple to find ingredients. These recipes will be time and family tested. They won’t have me running around in the wild looking for pine nuts or trying to milk a goat to satisfy a recipe calling for it. They do not call for tofu.

One of the things that I notice is that these cookbooks usually have the same basic recipes with slight variances depending on the region in which they were published. For example, recipes from the Southern United States use more sugar than the same recipes found in Northern cookbooks. Likewise, recipes from the Southwest generally have similar recipes as those found in the other regions, but they generally are spicier.

All of these books have recipes for Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Soup, Roast Chicken, Apple Pie, and Jell-O Salads, and all the other ancient favorites on which we were raised. In one of the books I have, is a recipe called “Mystery Salad”. And it is aptly named and is printed below for your enjoyment and amazement. Oft times, these books will have recipes named, for example, “Aunt Louise’s Barbecued Green Beans”, or “Mom’s Best Bubble Bread”.

Incidentally, when you read these books, you will be amazed at what these ladies can do with Jell-O. Reading these recipes can be one of the most amusing thing you will ever do on a cold wintry day when your car is stuck in the snow and you are looking for something excellent to read (I like to read cookbooks). Or perhaps you are looking for something fun and simple to cook.

None of the church ladies who write these books and contribute their recipes seem to care a fig about calorie count but many of them, showing their thrifty bent, will substitute margarine for butter in their recipes. I applaud their decisions with regard to calorie count (for the most part, we are much too caught up in this). I prefer to diet as the French do: eat what you want, eat hearty and well and take a walk or two during the day or evening so that you can indulge without guilt. But, I reckon all things taste better with butter and so, if you use one of these books, use butter and find another way to save a small money.

When I cook with a recipe from the church ladies’ cookbooks, I feel a kinship with them that I never feel when I use a cookbook written by Ina or Martha or Rachel or any of the other master chefs who have cookbooks out. It’s not that I don’t use these chefs fine cookbooks because I do when I have the time and the inclination to prepare their more complicated dishes. But when I just want excellent ancient fashioned home cooking like my mother’s, I turn to the church ladies’ cookbooks every time. Frequently these books will have the names of the contributor’s printed under their recipes and I like to imagine that I may be cooking the same recipe that Betty or Tammy or Barbara (or whoever) might be cooking at that very moment.

And so, I am glad to be able to salute these women who are cataloging the recipes that have been, and still are, the mainstay of the average families’ daily meals. And I want to urge you to look for these cookbooks remembering that when you buy them you are contributing to the excellent works done by the tireless and unsung church ladies.

The following recipes can be found in the Crestwood United Methodist Church (Crestwood, Kentucky) cookbook entitled OUR BEST HOME COOKING published by the ladies of the church in 1996.

MYSTERY SALAD

1 (3 oz.) pkg. Raspberry Jell-O
¾ cup hot water
1 (16 oz.) can of Stewed Tomatoes
2 or 3 drops of Tabasco Sauce

Topping
4 oz. Sour Cream
4 oz. Mayonnaise
2 tsp. Horseradish

Method
Dissolve Jell-O in hot water. Stir in tomatoes which have been broken up. Pour into a mold and refrigerate until firm. Mix the topping ingredients and spread on Jell-O to serve.

PERFECT CORN PUDDING

Ingredients:

3 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. Cornstarch
3 Tbsp. Sugar
2 cups of corn (1 can of cream-style is best)
1 tsp. Salt
2 cups of milk
Melted margarine or butter

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add to corn. Stir in beaten eggs and melted butter. Stir thoroughly and place in buttered casserole. Bake for 1 hour or until set at 350 degrees. Don’t overcook.

HOLLY COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 stick margarine
30 Large Marshmallows
4 cups Corn Flakes
Green Food Coloring and a Bag of Red Hots

Method:
Melt margarine and marshmallows in double boiler. When melted add 3 drops of green coloring and stir in the corn flakes over low heat, then spoon onto wax paper in Holly Shapes. Sprinkle immediately with red hots. Let cool until shaped.

Maureen R. Sinclair is an American (via N.Y.C. and Lexington, KY). currently residing in Nova Scotia, Canada. Educated as a Registered Nurse, she holds an M.S. in Psychology. Ms.Sinclair has traveled widely and has many interests. She is an accomplished artist and writer. Ms. Sinclair can be reached at: mailto:mrs3371@hotmail.com mrs3371@hotmail.com or at mailto:msinclair@onlinecooking.net msinclair@onlinecooking.net.

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