Lessons Learned At A Mother's Side

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Cooks in the Rim country, like most of our mothers and grandmothers, rarely used a recipe to fix a meal. They had been taught the steps by their mothers, and years of practice made measuring and mixing and timing almost second nature.

Patty Taylor Rhoades, the daughter of Richard and Valda Taylor, said her mother never really used recipes for their meals.

"Growing up, we didn't really have casseroles, except at family reunions. We had our own beef or pork or chicken. That's what we had (for meals) along with beans and corn bread," Rhoades said.

There were family reunions every year. Rhoades' mother was a member of the Pyle family, which has its reunion the Sunday after Mother's Day every year. Her Taylor family joins with the Belluzzi family on the first Sunday after Father's Day for its reunion.

At every reunion Rhoades went to with her parents, her mother would bring her Hot Tamale Pie casserole.

Valda Taylor's Hot Tamale Pie

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 medium onion, minced

1 green pepper, minced

3/4 pound ground pork

3/4 pound ground beef

1 (15-ounce) can enchilada sauce

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup ripe olives, sliced

Cornmeal mush prepared per package directions

In skillet, cook onion and green pepper in butter until light brown. Remove from skillet. In same pan, brown beef and pork. Return onion and pepper to skillet and add rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.

Make cornmeal mush following recipe on yellow cornmeal box.

Grease a 2-quart casserole and line bottom and sides with cornmeal mush. Pour hot meat mixture into casserole and top with remaining mush. Bake at 375 degrees for an hour.

A family favorite, especially for holidays, is a fruit salad. Rhoades' sister, Lois Taylor Bissett, shared the recipe in "Rim Trail Ranch Recipes," a cookbook compiled by the Belluzzi family members.

Rim Trail Ranch Fruit Salad

Dressing:

2 eggs

4 tablespoons of sugar

4 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon butter (add after beating)

In the top of a double-boiler, cook to pouring consistency, beating to combine.

Salad:

1 can pineapple chunks, drained

1 can Royal Ann cherries, drained

2 oranges, peeled and sectioned (or 2 cans of Mandarin oranges, drained)

1/2 package of miniature marshmallows

1 cup whipping cream

Put pineapple, cherries, oranges and marshmallows in a bowl. After dressing has cooled, pour over fruit and mix. Whip cream in a separate bowl, then mix with the rest of the salad.

Salad should be made a day ahead of when it will be eaten.

While recipes weren't the norm for meals, they were used when preparing desserts and treats, according to Rhoades.

Grandma Nellie Beard's Sugar Cookies

1 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1/3 cup milk

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream shortening, add sugar gradually and beat until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, then the milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mix, plus vanilla or nutmeg. Combine and drop onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes.

"Grandma always had these in her cookie jar and they were always decorated with sprinkles or a Red Hot candy in the center," Rhoades said.

This is an unusual way to prepare oatmeal cookies -- it uses bacon grease. Shortening can be used in place of the bacon grease, since cooking today does not produce much bacon grease or meat fryings.

Valda Taylor's "Meat Fryings" Oatmeal Cookies

3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

2 cups flour

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup meat fryings (bacon drippings or shortening) -- In the "Pioneer Women of Gila County, Arizona and Their Descendants" compiled by the Daughters of the Gila County Pioneers and published by Jayne Peace's and Jinx Pyle's Git a Rope! Publishing, Inc., Taylor's recipe noted "I prefer bacon drippings." Rhoades said the bacon drippings gave the cookies a wonderful taste.

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

5 tablespoons water or milk -- Taylor noted here she preferred using water.

Mix oatmeal and meat fryings together and let set awhile. Beat eggs and then add sugar. Mix dry ingredients together and add to eggs and sugar. Add water, then mix in oatmeal, raisins and nuts. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees to 375 degrees until done, approximately 9 minutes.

Rhoades shared a couple of other family recipes, both a little out of the ordinary: Chocolate Bread Pudding and her Grandma Pyle's Potato Cake.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

2 cups dried bread crumbs

4 cups milk

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, separated

1 cup coconut

3/4 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons vanilla

Make crumbs by grinding bread through food chopper. Add milk, sugar, cocoa, coconut, vanilla and egg yolks. Stir well. Pour into a greased pan and bake in a slow (250 to 325 degrees) oven. When set (the egg yolks have cooked), cover with meringue made from the egg whites. Brown in oven. Chill and serve with or without cream.

Grandma Sarah Pyle's Potato Cake

1 scant cup butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa or grated chocolate

1 cup mashed potatoes

1/2 cup milk

4 egg yolks

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 beaten egg whites

1 cup walnuts

Cream butter and sugar together, add cocoa and potatoes, stir until blended. Sift flour, salt and baking powder. Combine egg yolks and milk. Add dry ingredients and egg mix to creamed mixture, alternating between the two, stirring after each addition. Add vanilla and stir again. Fold egg whites and walnuts into batter. Makes three large layers. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

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