Comfort Food For Thought

Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 11:05 am
By: Doug Lund
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Great day for a motorcycle ride. Bike starts..bike stops. Install  new set of sparkplugs..(no easy chore) Bike starts..bike stops. Now it sits taking up space in the garage like a big lifeless black lump on wheels and I’m faced with the prospect of having it hauled off to the repair shop to be fixed for god knows how much..probably more than its book value. That’s not going to sit well with Linda who hasn’t been too crazy about me riding anyway. (She may have put a curse on it..or sugar in the gas tank..kidding.)

So, I’m feeling rather glum as I go into the house to work on my blog. I fire up the desktop computer. It starts..then stalls. Good grief. I reboot; machine finally starts but incredibly slow. It has been acting like a tortoise in a blizzard for some time now so, even though I’ve not had much luck fixing things lately, I decided it was time to perform a little computer clean-up. Now, you have to understand that I know just enough about computers to get myself in trouble but figure by going to YouTube I’ll find some geeky guy or gal on there more than willing to walk me right through process at no charge. There is no shortage of these people on You Tube and all tell pretty much the same story; clean up your hard drive, defragment the system and get rid of programs that automatically startup when you turn the computer on. Then they show you how to do it. I have followed their instructions implicitly and it has helped so I’m one for one in the do-it-yourself department.  They also suggest I buy additional ram. That’s all I need; a male sheep to keep my dead Kawasaki company.

Then I go to post my blog on the internet and I’m denied access. I was reasonably certain it wasn’t my fault since I couldn’t get on to WordPress with my laptop either. That was two days ago. The “access denied” gate was finally lifted this morning but the blog was rather dated so this is a re-write.

After such a rough day, I needed some TLC and, for me, there’s nothing that soothes the soul of the inept handyman better than foods that have given me comfort since childhood. Linda’s Tater Tot casserole has this healing effect. Although, it’s a definite diet killer, it’s as delicious as it is easy to make; just a layer each of hamburger, onions, cream of mushroom soup, green beans and as many Tater Tots as possible on top. Bake for an hour and a half at 350 degrees..and, voila, before your watering mouth is the greatest mood improvement drug since Prozac.

During the recent South Carolina reunion of the Lund brother’s families, we got to talking about some of our favorite dishes from mom’s kitchen in our youth..foods that we haven’t tasted in a very long time. It should be noted that our mom went out of her way to please her boys at the table. She loved it when we gobbled up her stuff. Our idea of a balanced diet was when the homemade French fries weighed about the same as the hamburgers made from half frozen ground beef.

I was really surprised to come across this photo while going through mom's things. It's a view of our kitchen table where mom served up all those comforting meals for her family. It was also right there where she rolled out and baked throusands of pounds of lefse.

I was really surprised to come across this photo while going through mom's things. It's a view of our kitchen table where mom served up all those comforting meals for her family. It was also right there where she rolled out and baked throusands of pounds of lefse.

 She used to fix regular fried potatoes in a cast iron skillet and to make it stretch farther, would dice up chunks of day-old bread in it. They would crisp-up and become even more tasty than the spuds. All three of us boys have tried to duplicate this recipe without success. Maybe she used lard. Whatever..it’s a taste apparently lost to the ages. We always looked forward to mom’s salmon loaf. Again, I’m not quite sure of her technique. I seem to remember her combining cans of salmon, eggs, saltine crackers and baking in a round pan until it achieved that crispy crust on top. It was remarkably good and something I haven’t had in 50 years. I remember really enjoying those little round salmon bones that gave a lovely crunch. For some reason, after leaving home, I never cared for salmon..or any fish for that matter.. other than canned tuna and oyster stew. In that same syle pan, mom used to fix a recipe that involved cooked rice which she would place under the broiler for a few minutes again achieving that delicious crust on top. We’d scoop big spoonfuls of  those delicious morsels into a bowl, add milk and sugar then devour it like ravenous wolves. I’ve tried to make this too but wound up with a dry pan of tasteless disappointment. I’ve also tried to duplicate mom’s pop-overs. But rather than achieving her soaring towers of inflated eggy goodness..I get flat little hockey pucks. I’ve tried in vain to duplicate her homemade tomato soup, oyster stew and roast beef  gravy.  About the only thing my brothers and I have managed to recreate is her dumpling recipe. They must be hard as a carp..never mooshy. (Just use plenty of flour, eggs, salt and time in boiling water). Denny loved them so much he made the mistake of telling his high school buddies who..to this day..still call him “Dump.”

Gosh, all this talk about comfort food has made me hungry.

I wonder if there’s any left-over Tater Tot casserole in the fridge.

Yeah, right..like there would be left-overs.

17 Comments

  1. Joanie says:

    That sure sounds like rice pudding to me!!

  2. Schmieder says:

    I’ve got some leftover Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper that you might like. I’m blowing it off for leftover Shrimp Broil from last night’s excellent visit to Tre!

  3. Alona says:

    I remember that little kitchen in Volga SD Spent a lot of time in there when we were painting your Mom’s house.

  4. Connie says:

    I have tried to duplicate my Grandma’s potato salad for years to no avail…I am certain she used a secret ingredient that she didnt want to share with me…Same goes for her oxtail soup, dumplings, fried chicken, bread, cinnamon rolls, listy leaves, and the list goes on and on..or maybe its just the memory I have of her and I making all these wonderful things together that made them all taste so much better…I hope your bike is a minor fix…Love your blogs…

  5. Cam Lind says:

    O. K. enough food talk. I have to go out on West 12th and Western. On the way back I have to drive past Bob’s Chicken……………………..enough said………………

  6. Lynnal Nelson says:

    We Anundson girls always talk about when Mom made us rice with cinn & sugar…….Dad always got meat so we think they couldn’t afford meat for all of us, but rice is a treat to this day! and homemade tomato soup…………I can make that as good as moms! yumm………….good memories!!!

  7. Per Pål P says:

    Ahhhh Salmon Loaf, Salmon Loaf, Salmon Loaf…wonderful fantastic Salmon Loaf….And Ja….complete with the bones and the skin….and I still like extra crackers in both Salmon Loaf and Meat Loaf…I think Mor used extra crackers to “make it go further”… I still like to use “whole” melk…in both Meat Loaf and Salmon Loaf…Just that little extra touch from our youthful days cuz you can bet that our Mother’s didn’t use skim melk. One time Bernie Hunhoff, of South Dakota Magazine, told me that his favorite “dish” to fix is Salmon Loaf…but, he has a “secret ingredient”….Mayo….I tried it and it is good, but I still make it like Mor…. Did you see in the Argus…..some of the best cooks are going back to using lard…. Ja…Lard….We were never able to make fattigmann bakkels like Olga Erickson did….then one time at Nordic Fest in Decorrah there was a lady making the best fattigmann bakkels …and when I asked what she frying them in…she said…”feit…ja…feit”…(lard) And that’s what Olga did….and now we do too.
    Doug…it’s been a long time since I made salmon loaf….but, you can bet it won’t be very long now.
    Thanks for the great memories….

  8. Pat K says:

    isn’t it wonderful the things you learn at Nordic Fest? My youngest daughter and family live in Decorah…son-in-law owns the Pizza Ranch! thats a good eat, too. Nordic Fest is a fun wkend the end of July for anyone to attend. Pat

  9. Suzan says:

    Seeing that kitchen pic brought a flood of memories of time in the kitchen with Grandma and Grandpa. It sure seemed bigger then! I can remember sitting at that table eating Sugar Corn Pops for breakfast and later Sardines. Both treats Grandpa liked! Tough, chewy dumplings are the only way to go. I thought that was your recipe. Your chili is a staple at my house. Mmmmm…tater tot casserole. In my house of non-potato eaters, I could have the whole thing! Adding tater tots to the grocery list. Now I need to find something to eat!

  10. Sweeps says:

    At our family reunion last weekend, several of us cousins talked about Grandma’s kumla. There was no stuffing bits of ham inside; she boiled them in the broth of uncured ham, which was served along side the kumla. It’s very hard to find uncured ham, so if any of you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them! (And I’m a city girl, so please take pity on me if I’m misspeaking about “uncured ham”; maybe that’s all ham is, cured pork. I don’t know, but I’d love to find out!) Thanks for the memories and the blog, Doug!

  11. Per Pål P says:

    Several questions…. Doug…. What was on the plate on the wall next to the table? What was on the table ? What color was the table ?

  12. Doug Lund says:

    Grant. I remember the small glass plate on the wall had a religious message..God Bless This House..or something like that. I’ve enlarged the image but still can’t tell for sure what’s on the table..which had a green top, by the way. It could be that we had company for dinner that day because the table is pushed against the wall and the extra kitchen chairs aren’t there meaning they were being used for the dining room overflow. Or it could have been an anniversary. The items atop the table could be gifts; a mystery beyond solution, I’m afraid.

  13. grouse says:

    I’d guess there was company coming. It looks like the sun is shining low in the west window, and like Doug said, the chairs are gone, so someone was coming for supper.
    Everyone used lard and butter. Then, some major company started touting how healthy vegetable oil was, and that lard and butter and cheese would clog your arteries and kill you dead in your tracks. They forgot to mention killer trans-fats. As a result, we’ve suffered a lifetime of poor pastries, and mediocre cooking. This week, surprise your grocer, and demand lard. Word will get out…they’ll order more! The vegetable shortening folks will wonder what happened. Their prices will drop like a rock. Lard prices will soar, benefiting local hog farmers. They in turn will buy more stuff locally, creating more jobs here and afar. No wait….Crap, they’ll buy more stuff on line…and then we’re all gypped.

  14. Jeni says:

    True to Southern cooking, which my father was, my mother fried everything using lard, bacon grease, or any fat drippings.

    When my brother was around 13 years old he developed symptoms of arthritis due to all that fried food. Lard was banned, so was butter, and bacon was placed on paper towels to remove the excess grease, fat was cut off from meats before fried. Reducing the fat reduced my brother’s symptoms so that was good.

    My mother used to make salmon patties instead of loaf, using the same recipe as above. Those were good. She and I would remove as many of the bones as possibile before blending it with the other ingredients. Eventually, salmon was canned “boneless,” i.e. bones removed before canning, but we would still find a few.

    I was never much of a brown gravy fan, oh, but creamed gravy was wonderful! Bad for the arteries, but we did not know it then so maybe it didn’t count? LOL

  15. Per Pål P says:

    I’m just home from the grocery store with 2 cans of Deming’s Red Sockeye Wild Alaska Salmon…(In my opinion, the ONLY kind to buy)….1 for Salmon Loaf…the other for another favorite Salmon Dish….Creamed Salmon and Peas on Toast…. (Ja…I know most Norwegians love just creamed peas on toast)…but Creamed Salmon and Peas…fantastic. Just take your fry pan and put in a nice dollop of REAL butter….then dump the can of salmon…juice, bones, and all into the pan…on a VERY low heat…saute the salmon and butter….then mix a rue of Melk (whole melk) and flour and add to pan….just “bubble … low and slow” when thickened, add peas (I like canned peas, the little early peas in the silver can but frozen are good too)… 4 slices of buttered toast…add a nice portion of creamed salmon and peas on each sliced…as you stack’em up) And it never hurts to add a nice dollop of butter on top and watch it melt down the sides. Salt and Pepper to taste…. Smakke godt…
    Grouse…who ever came up with Canolla Oil? That’s worse than uffda…that’s right down with ishda..(Ishda…what Norsk women said when the hired man walked in the kitchen with manure from the pig barn on his shoes).

  16. grouse says:

    That canola oil, vegetable oil, linseed oil are all gonna kill ya quicker than lard. My new motto is to ask the missus to use lard for cooking, butter for buttering, cream for creaming and red wine for cooking and drinking. It’s proven that red wine is great for the heart. So based on the chemistry that I learned at Volga High (Go Cossacks!) all the bad stuff should be neutralized and made harmless with some red Schade wine. It’s the good Norwegian Lutheran stuff. If you analyze every third letter going diagonally from Luther’s small catechism you’ll find that the phrase “drink more red wine so says the Apostle Paul.” Now that’s a big enough hint for me!

  17. Patricia Koerner says:

    can relate to the food comments. remember coming home from country grade school and walking in the door and smelling the aroma of homemade bread. has to be one of the best smells on earth! Oh and the fried potatoes, always tasted the best in the cast iron fry pan.

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