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Friday, May 6, 2011

A Mother's Day Tribute

This is me! Gotta love the bangs!
This is me at eight (I think)

I grew up in a medium size city in southern Indiana.  It was located on the Ohio River, a bridge away from the Kentucky line. My family lived out in the country about 7 miles from town where the houses were far and few.  I had 6 brothers and 2 sisters.  Back in the day (1950) big families were the rage as were pink and black colored push button DeSotos with big fins in the back, black and white TV's, and scratchy sofas with black with silver threads running through it.
The house I grew up in.

We were lucky because we lived next door to our great grandparents, George and Anna (Annie) for short and just about 20 steps from the house our grandparents built, lived our grandparents, Willard and Margaret (or Maggie as grandpa use to call her...she hated that nickname) even though we didn't see many people we always saw our great grandparents and grandparents almost on a daily basis.  Because there were so many of us, I saw my grandma nearly everyday...coming in to help my mom with all of us.  The first five of us were approximately 1 year or less apart so you can imagine all the diapers, and feedings going on.  I don't recall a time when I saw my mom without a "bun in the oven" HA HA
Guess which one is me?

We were a rowdy bunch always running around barefoot in the summer with grass stained feet and shirtless (you could do that back in the day).  Everyday was an adventure from a treehouse located in the middle of a small grove of green apple trees (which we got sick on and where my brother blew his first smoke rings from a cigarette taken from my mom) to stolen moments of play in the neighbor's hayloft in the barn across the street (which we weren't allowed to play in).  Yes, I would have to say, "All for one and one for all" applied to us MOST of the time.  We never told on each other except when we thought we could get something we wanted from the one who was going to be in trouble, like say, a really cool steely marble, or their portion of candy or dessert.  It was just something kids do, you know.

Back then, we didn't have watches to tell us the time, our stomach's told us when it was time to eat and rarely were they ever wrong!  We always had a large garden in the summer which my grandpa over looked for us and I don't remember a time when he wasn't pulling weeds and keeping everything watered and taken care of. We always had tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce.  With that said, I also have to mention the countless hours my mom and grandma would spend sterilizing and canning the fruits of the garden for the winter months.  We didn't have air conditioning back then and I remember going into the kitchen and watching my mom and grandma up to their elbows in scalding tomatoes, bushel baskets of green beans and canning jars with sweat pouring off of them.  I can remember always having garden canned tomatoes for soups and spaghetti in the coldest part of the winter and never tasting anything so good.

Imagine if you will, 9 children living in a three bedroom house with one bathroom. It would not have been possible if not for the creation of bunk beds (how great was that)!  In our room, we had two sets and with the three of us we had an extra bunk for a guest.  In my brothers room, there was also two sets of bunk beds and a baby's bed in Mom and Dad's room for the new addition.  The worst part was trying to get into the bathroom and have a bit of privacy.  Because there weren't any keys to lock the doors, you had to always be in a hurry because someone was always having to use the bathroom.  It was like a swinging door, someone always opening it and someone ready and begging you to hurry.  Maybe that is why I to this day don't spend much time in the bathroom. HA

There was never a time when something dramatic didn't happen from knocking out the glass of windows from playing baseball (and it seemed that there was always a broken glass somewhere), to someone having to have stitches, or shattering the base of a lamp playing marbles in our living room.  I remember having to go to the Dr. to get our immunizations to start school.  At that time there was only 5 of us and usually one would start elbowing one and then the "move over, I don't have any room" would ensue but on this occasion, we all sat quietly because we knew we would be getting shots.  After we had gotten out of the car, my oldest brother decided he did not want to get his shots and locked the doors in the car.  Every time my dad would take the key and unlock the door my brother would push the lock down before my dad could pull the door handle open.  This continued until my dad threatened to spank my brother if he did not open the door which he finally did because when my dad said you were going to get a spanking he kept his word.

What I remember best about growing up in this large family is the smell of the lilac bush outside our bathroom window in the spring and the sweet smell of the honeysuckle vines in the summer.  I remember eating watermelon and spitting seeds and eating homemade vanilla soft serve ice-cream in a cone.  I remember the Clark candy bars my grandpa would bring out to each of us and spending the warm summer nights with our door unlocked sleeping on our front porch.  I remember the sun shining on the water of the nearby creek making it sparkle and  playing tag, and hide and seek in the late summer evening hours when the fireflies were out.  I remember and making necklaces out of clover and swimming in the Ohio River on a sandbar with my tennis shoes on.  But most importantly, I remember all the kisses and hugs my grandma gave me and the love and care that my mom put into everything she did for me from making our Easter dresses to fixing us a big breakfast on Saturday morning of eggs, bacon and toast.
My Mom (far right) with Grandma (next to Mom) and Sister-In-Law and friend.

My mom and grandma are no longer here now but none of this would have been possible had I not had the both of them in my life.  This tribute is for you.  Happy Mother's Day girls!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rotir du Poulet

I'm always looking for a good recipe and I found one for rotir du poulet (roast chicken).  It is from the book Joie De Vivre by Robert Arbor.  This recipe uses the fresh bounty of vegetables growing during the summer months but can be made anytime and is an easy recipe to follow.

I tried to find a good image of the book but alas I could not find one that wasn't blurry.


Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
1 fresh free range chicken about 3 pounds (I used a roasting chicken)
4 cloves of garlic or to taste
Pinch of herbes de Provence (thyme, bay, rosemary, oregano)
1 slice of stale bread
Olive oil, butter, or duck fat (I used olive oil)
1 bunch of carrots with greens intact to insure flavor
2 Roma tomatoes
2 medium onions
1 glass of white wine (optional)
I also added a couple stalks of celery for flavor

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place salt, pepper, and paprika inside the chicken cavity.  Add one or two cloves of garlic and herbes de Provence.  Replace liver, heart, and gizzards in cavity if you eat them (I did not. It just didn't sound very appetizing to me)  Rub the stale bread with one clove of garlic and stuff it in the cavity.

Don't bother to tie or truss the chicken.  Simply push the chicken back into shape and tuck wing tips under the bird.

Rub the skin of the chicken with the fat of your choice...olive oil, butter or duck fat.  Season the outside with the same herbs you stuffed the chicken with if you wish.

In a low-sided pan that has been lightly rubbed with oil, place the following:  the seasoned chicken; the carrots (greens removed, peeled but whole); the onions (cut in half then into 4 wedges, and then cut across into 1/8 strips); the tomatoes (cored and cut into 4 wedges); one clove of garlic.

Cook for at least 1 hour and until juice from a pricked thigh runs clear.  It is not bad to cook this chicken a little longer than necessary, but it is awful to undercook chicken.  You do not need to baste.

When done, remove the chicken to a serving platter.  Remove the vegetables and place them around the chicken.

Bring the remaining juice in the pan to a boil. Add salt and pepper and deglaze with a glass of water (or white wine).  When the liquid boils and reduces a bit, pour it into a sauceboat and serve with the chicken and vegetables.  (I forgot to do this as everyone in my family was starving by the time the chicken was finished so we decided to forgo this step) HA

Ready to go into the oven.

VOILA!  Rotir du poulet.  Apprecier le repas  (enjoy the meal)

That's it for today on french cooking 101.  I hope you will try this as it was "delicious" cooked only the way the French can cook it.

Also, don't forget to leave a comment under the Mother's Day Giveaway (the post beneath this one) for a chance to win a lovely gift!
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