Karen is a very special “M.O.M.” because she is Anna Josephson’s (one of our very special cooks) mother. Karen grew up on “plain food,” which is what her mother and father liked. Both her parents were Minnesota farm-bred people, who had moved to Council Bluffs, a major Iowa city when Karen was five years old. Most evening meals consisted of fried meat (sometimes pot roast), gravy made from fried meat drippings, boiled potatoes & canned or frozen vegetables. Baked potatoes with meat loaf, scalloped potatoes with cheese soufflé, or anything from the oven was a treat. On rainy summer days an oven meal was often made to “take the dampness out of the air,” and Karen would long for those more complicated meals. There were many rituals around food –baking of pies and cookies on weekends for weekday lunches, waffles and bacon after cleaning house on Saturdays, buttermilk pancakes on Sundays, and oyster stew on Christmas. Another ritual was the announcement of Karen’s father to “kiss the cook” whenever there were no leftovers. It meant that her mother had prepared a meal that the family was unable to resist and every morsel was consumed. Karen and her sister always complied, as did he, proudly planting a smacker on his wife’s forehead.
When Karen went away to college the culinary world opened up to her. Once she was dragged out to breakfast and discovered the delight of creamed eggs on toast. The “mystery meat” that others decried was fascinating to her because it had not been fried but rather prepared in some other fashion. When she got married in 1968 she received the latest Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook from her mother as a shower gift, purchased with Betty Crocker coupons clipped from cereal boxes.
It was when Karen and her husband Walter bought their first house that her foray into gourmet cooking began in earnest. She borrowed a copy of “Gourmet” magazine from her neighbor, tried a recipe for Sour Cream and Chive Biscuits and never looked back. From then on she tried any recipe that looked interesting, became bold enough to alter recipes to her family’s tastes, and daring enough to create new recipes using what she had learned. She now has twenty-five years of “Gourmet” magazine organized neatly near her kitchen, along with five shelves of cookbooks.
Kiss the Cook!
slow-cooked corned beef on grilled country bread with melted swiss cheese, sauerkraut & thousand island dressing, served with pasta salad
fresh egg pasta layered with ricotta cheese, parmesan & mozzarella cheese, béchamel (white) sauce, broccoli, zucchini, carrots & spinach
Chicken Pot Pie
stewed chicken, carrots, potatoes, peas, mushrooms, green beans & potatoes in gravy, topped with a cheddar & bacon biscuit crust
Corned Beef & Cabbage
slow-cooked corned beef brisket with potatoes, cabbage & carrots, served with horseradish cream
mom didn’t make this, but it’s Anna’s favorite dessert — ladyfingers dipped in kahlua and brandy, layered with mascarpone & cream