Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Memories of Meatless Meals Mom Made

When I think about the good foods of my childhood I of course think of my mother's cooking. She was a wonderful cook-from-scratch cook but she'd also make "semi-homemade" meals from time to time using prepared items from the grocery store. Growing up in a devout Catholic family, she always said her biggest challenge was coming up with a variety of meatless dishes to serve on Fridays. Prior to November 18, 1966 Catholics in the U.S. were required to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays of the year. After that date it became just the Fridays in Lent. Catholics in other countries (such as Poland) still abstain from eating meat on Fridays year round.

My mom came up with 5 meals that she rotated each week so that we wouldn't have to eat the same meal twice in a month. Why did that matter to her? I have no idea. It didn't matter to the rest of the family. We all loved all of her dishes and would have gladly eaten them twice in a month!

The 5 meatless meals my mom made were:
  1. Spaghetti with Tuna Fish Patties or Macaroni and Cheese with Tuna Fish Patties: Spaghetti pasta was topped with a can of Campbell's tomato soup (heated but undiluted); macaroni and cheese was made from scratch and baked in the oven; canned tuna was combined with egg and bread or cracker crumbs and dried onion bits, molded into patties and pan fried in Crisco.
  2. Egg Placki with Cottage Cheese: Placki (pronounced plah-ski) is the Polish word for pancake so we're talking egg pancakes here... thicker than a crepe, thinner than an omelet and they are filled with a cottage cheese and egg batter, folded and pan fried in a touch of butter.
  3. Pierogi (sauerkraut and potato and cheese): My mom made pierogi from scratch and always used to complain about how time consuming a meal it was to prepare. Boiled or fried? Both. Par-boiled first than pan fried in Crisco. We loved her pierogi and always made sure to praise her when she made them!
  4. Potato Pancakes and Pork and Beans (without the pork): My mom used a pretty standard recipe for potato pancakes and always served them with applesauce on them. She'd open a can of Campbell's Pork and Beans and throw out the piece of pork that comes in it. Served up hot with those pancakes... yum!
  5. Fish, Fries, and Cole Slaw: My dad liked to fish. When he brought fish home (usually lake perch) we'd have fresh fish for dinner (breaded and pan fried), otherwise we'd have frozen fish fillets (from the grocer's freezer). She'd make french fries from scratch and had a special pot she used for deep frying. She made the cole slaw from scratch too... the real creamy kind :-)
I've found my mom's recipes for tuna fish patties, potato pancakes, and pierogi so I can recreate some of these meals. I don't remember the macaroni and cheese all that well. She didn't make that one as often as the spaghetti. The one that most eludes me is the egg placki. I found a recipe for something similar on the internet. I'll have to give it a try one of these days and see if it comes close. The really frustrating thing is I used to make these (from memory) back when I was in college and during the early years when I was first married. If only I'd thought to write the recipe down!