Part 1 — The Heartland
This is the first installment of a three part odyssey surrounding my trip to the Columbus West High School Class of January 1956 Reunion. It’s all about the food, what I call Ohio food. It’s different than what you’ve been reading about in this space for two reasons: For one, I’m traveling, and for two, the choices in Ohio are different than those in Northern California, much different.
Since I made the long trip to Ohio for a weekend, I extended the trip on each end for some adventures in Cincinnati, and passed through Carol’s homestead in Lancaster in each direction, as well. This epistle is divided into three parts; The Heartland, Columbus and the Reunion, and finally Lancaster Redux and Cincinnati.
Wednesday August 16
My flight was scheduled at a reasonable time of 7:40 a.m. but current security regulations obliged me to arrive at the airport at 5:45 a.m. Not reasonable, but that’s the flying life nowadays. Curbside check-in was easy so I had plenty of time to get a coffee and an oatmeal raisin cookie at Just Desserts on the concourse. One would expect that a dessert maker would make a scrumptious cookie, but no. The cookie was large and looked right but turned out to be dry as dust. Half was all I could eat, so I saved the rest for later, but ended up tossing it.
As toward the West the constant sun proceeds
Day after day across the sky
So will our hearts hold true to you
West High, West High, West High
I’m off to Columbus, Ohio for my High School Reunion, so keep your eyes open for the skinny on Ohio food and good eats.
One of the very first entries in this blogâ€”noted “entered 21 December 2005 by Marcus”â€”was actually entered by Eric, the guy who gave me this WordPress template for Christmas, four days later. He had already posted five entriesâ€”taken from my eats4one bookâ€”to demonstrate what it would look like (looks good!).
I didn’t work up the confidence or technique to make my own post until January 14th when I put together Broccoli di Cicco.
I love beets!
Red beets. I’m not partial to Golden Beets or Chioggia Beets, although since they’re non-staining, they have their place. Red Beets deliver brilliant color, silky texture and pronounced earthiness. Red beets are of the earth. One imagines them being dug and turned over and the fresh, sweet smelling earth knocked off. The beet greens are delicious, as well, but I don’t like to eat the greens as often as I like to eat the beets, so I’m likely to buy the beets loose, without the greens.
My mom made this for us as kids in Ohio, and it usually made an appearance at church suppers and whatnot. I loved it!
Spam, as the meat of choice, was just right. Its saltiness and soft texture blends well with the salty over-processed texture of the canned vegetables, and is set off by the crunchiness of the canned noodles.
Who knew this wasn’t the real deal? There were no Chinese restaurants in Columbus, Ohio in the â€˜50’s, or if there were, we didn’t go there.
Mom didn’t settle for just the can of chop suey, she made her own additions of the extra vegetables, but you needed the can of chop suey to get that dark brown sauce that was so good. This was a staple in our house.
Years pass and we’re living in Newton with kids of our own, Julia Child on the TV, and a new Vulcan restaurant range with six burners. So I go about recreating my mom’s chop suey using fresh bean sprouts, fresh vegetables and even fried, fresh Chinese noodles. And I made my own sauce, no cans for me (okay, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots are still canned). I stuck to the Spam, because after all, that’s “American.”
Folks, it ain’t the same.
From the Mother Hale, served regularly on Harrison St., best with squishy buns to soak it all up.
1 onion, chopped
2 T. butter
2 T. vinegar
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. mustard
1/2 cup water
1 cup catsup
1/2 cup chopped celery
Mix all together and pour over one pound of hot dogs in a shallow dish.
Bake at 350 °F for 30 minutes.
Man, is this tangy and finger lickin’ good. Put the hot dog in a bun and ladle over the sauce to make the bun good and mushy. Eat with a knife and fork.