Saturday, January 8, 2011

Microwaveless Cooking for Six

As I was blissfully rhapsodizing over the joys of the microwaveless lifestyle, and how I can get door to table in under 20 minutes, someone pointed out that they have a family of 6. 

Wow, feeding 6 people without a microwave sounds a lot scarier than feeding 2 people without one. But then, feeding 6 people sounds a lot scarier than feeding 2, no matter how you slice it. 

Make a salad, and you're washing an awful lot of lettuce. Toast? Even if you've got a fancy, new-fangled 4-slice toaster, feeding your family breakfast could easily take until noon.

So, can feeding 6 without a microwave be done?

Treading dangerous territory here, since I've never had kids (outside of a classroom).  I'd be an idiot to say I've got it all figured out and let me tell you how to live your life even though I have absolutely no experience with that life.

There was a reasonably famous fundamentalist/evangelical guru back in the '70's who did that. My husband and I still bear the scars. Luckily, that story has nothing to do with food.

So, back to food and feeding big families without a microwave...

Yup, I'd be an idiot to say I know how to feed larger groups of people without a microwave. I do it when we have company, or when it's my turn for breakfast at work. But, not on a day-to-day basis.

Now, my mom? She knew something about this. She died at the ripe old age of 44.5 without ever having owned a microwave.

Mom came from a family of 7 kids, and as the oldest, she had to do a lot of the cooking. On a wood stove, even.  She never quite outgrew the cooking for 9 (plus drop-in guests) mentality, even when our family had dwindled down to 3 people, one of whom only ate bologna sandwiches.

A big stock pot was the most indispensible item in her kitchen. She was the queen of stovetop casseroles.
Some of the things she used to make:
Soup beans and cornbread.  When you grow up in the Great Depression way back in the hills of Kentucky, and dad works in the mines and you are feeding nine people, most of whom are over 6 feet tall, you eat a lot of beans and cornbread.  I didn't care much for the way mom made cornbread, but her beans were superb.  Pintos, usually mixed with some type of white bean.  A ham hock (I don't even know what a ham hock is, or where you'd get one.  I just know she used them, and they were gooood.)  I can't remember what-all else. Did she use onions and celery?  I don't know. I do know that you can feed a lot of people for a long time on soup beans and cornbread.
Burgoo.  This probably means "hamburger goulash." Only, it wasn't really a Hungarian goulash. It was hamburger, macaroni, and tomatoes cooked with onion, garlic, and other seasonings. Almost certainly celery seed, oregano, bay leaves, paprika.  Think spaghetti, but all in one pot.
Spaghetti. Think burgoo, just made with spaghetti instead of macaroni.
Hamburger and cabbage casserole. Sort of like unrolled cabbage rolls. Hamburger, tomato, onion, herbs and spices, a little rice, and lots of sliced cabbage.  Yeah, the house might smell a little cabbagey, but it also smelled of all that other good stuff.  Mom's hamburger and cabbage casserole would make a cabbage-eater out of even the snobbiest of cabbage-disdainers.
Chili. Oh, my. Mom's chili. Yeah, that was definitely one-pot good eatin'. Sometimes she'd add a little macaroni as it was nearing completion. Slightly overdone pasta added to a rather nice mix of textures.
Hamburger soup.  Start with a quart or two of canned tomatoes, add chopped onion, celery, bay leaf, herbs and spices, and all that. After it gets to boiling, crumble the raw hamburger in and add the potatoes and carrots.  Add any other vegetables.  I always liked green beans, corn, zucchini. Cauliflower was OK. Broccoli just didn't belong, in my opinion.
Turkey feather soup.  After a holiday meal, mom would boil up the turkey carcass, and instead of straining it to make a clear stock like people do nowadays, she'd just pick the meat off the bones after they'd boiled a while, throw in some additional leftover turkey meat, add potatoes, vegs, and seasonings, and there you have it: Dinner.  One time my ex-step-father once came in when mom was making the soup and grumbled that she'd find a way to cook the feathers from the turkey if she could. So, from then on, we called it turkey feather soup.
She also sometimes did split pea soup or corn chowder, plus the usual (and sometimes unusual) assortment of oven casseroles and multi-pot meals. But, the above one-pot wonders were Mom's convenience food staples of choice, and she could feed an army of 6 or 16 with them.

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