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Finding harmony mixing things up a bit in the kitchen

May 22, 2013

Growing up, no one (at least in my sheltered northern Indiana community) ever heard of putting fruit in a green lettuce or tossed salad. The first time I ever had grapes in chicken salad I thought, ooh, that’s weird, how can it be good?

Of course, kids are notorious for not wanting their mashed potatoes to touch their chicken or green beans—ever. Mom made jello salads with fruit in them, or fruit salads with just mixed fruits, but put fruit in a lettuce or green salad? Not so much. (In those days, we only ever ate iceberg or garden lettuce.)

It’s amazing how cooking in North America has changed in the last 50 years—and fun to imagine how cooking and foods might change in the years ahead.

An elderly neighbor and good friend lost his wife about ten years ago. Charles wanted to pass on to me some of her cookbooks.


Partial cookbook collection of Letha Townsend, a renowned gardener and one of the first farmer/couples to bring goods to the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. After she died, I wrote a tribute in my Another Way newspaper column here.

Even though I have little use for the actual recipes, they are fascinating to browse for the history and the community connections.


(I love the august names some of these have, such as “Woman’s Society of Christian Service.” Whoo. And I love the drawing of the firefighter on the front of the Ladies’ Auxiliary cookbook who ends up looking more like a witch stirring a brew, you know?)

Another type of cookbook that was very popular in the day was the one that came whenever you purchased a major piece of kitchen equipment, like a stove (of course) or a mixer, or even a piece of farm equipment: the famous Troy Bilt Tiller.


That one at least makes sense, given the fact that tillers are for gardens, ergo:


And in that cookbook, I did find a recipe mixing fruit in a garden salad: of course it comes from exotic California:


Unfortunately, most of these cookbooks don’t even have dates in them. If you’re going to the trouble of making a cookbook (and I have many more “fundraiser” cookbooks on my shelf) date them!


My most-used “fundraiser” cookbook, from my home congregation, North Goshen Mennonite, Ind.

But I have learned from friends, colleagues and church cooks the delicious art of mixing things up a little more, and the results are mostly enticingly good.

Here’s a simple salad perfect for the mid-Atlantic region in May when fresh strawberries are coming on, and some greens from the garden, and maybe some radishes. Add some nuts, crumbled feta cheese or other, and Kimberly’s simple but tartly tangy dressing and you have an awesome lunch or dinner side dish.

Finding harmony in the kitchen–between new dishes and older, or between the way your mom used to cook and what you enjoy now–can be a metaphor and example for appreciating diversity in other areas of life.

If you grew up in the 50s and 60s, what are your strong memories of foods from that era?


Enjoy. From my book with about 100 recipes, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime

Raspberry Poppy Seed Dressing

Kimberly Metzler

I tried a raspberry poppy seed dressing at Bear Trap Farm in Mt. Solon, Virginia, during one of my husband’s work Christmas parties. After hearing me talk about it, a friend made up this recipe for me.

1/3 cup / 75 ml red wine vinegar
1/3 cup / 75 ml canola oil
1/8 cup / 25 ml sugar (or splenda)
2 tablespoons red raspberry jam
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Blend all but the poppy seeds in blender until smooth. Then stir in poppy seeds. Refrigerate.


From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

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