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Deviltry at the Thomas House
Written November 27, 2008


We're influenced by our upbringing when it comes to food.  The way we like it is almost always the way Mom made it.

There are exceptions.  One dish that my mother cooked was the sauce known as Welsh rarebit.  She slowly melted a hunk of  Longhorn cheese, mixed in some milk, and served the sauce to us over a plate covered with saltine crackers.  We sprinkled ground cayenne pepper on top.

I enjoyed Mother's rarebit, but now that she's gone I buy the Stouffer's version in the frozen foods section, and I like it better because it's thicker and contains Worcestershire sauce to make it darker and more flavorful.  I still spoon it over saltines.  The cayenne on top is Tabasco.

I don't have any of her old recipes, except one for beef stew, but I do have some pleasant memories.

Often our meals were rather simple.  My father could be happy just to make little sandwiches from crackers and sliced onions.

My mother found a Kraft recipe using the spicy French salad dressing that they call Catalina.  She mixed it with pickle relish and heated it with wieners in a pan.  We enjoyed it.  But once my Uncle Jim joined us for supper and was disappointed to be served mere hot dogs, and without the buns at that.

We often ate canned salmon, combined (I think) with cracker crumbs and egg yolks and molded into patties.  At our house, these salmon cakes were always accompanied by Spanish rice.

Mother's beef was well done to the point where it simply fell apart.  That sort of pot roast is still fine with me, but I also like roast beef that can be sliced.

Although my Kentucky grandmother overcooked green beans to the point where they fell apart, resulting in a bowlful of little brown beans and fragments of limp green pods, my mother didn't do that.  Her green beans were intact.  At our house, we generally made them less bland by topping them with chopped onions or sliced green onions.

And we often made a meal of those green beans with deviled eggs.  Again I don't have the recipe, but I think that after Mother scooped the yolks out of the hardboiled egg halves, she mixed the yolks with mustard, black pepper, and vinegar.  That's all.

Without the mayonnaise that all other cooks use, the volume of the mixture was not much greater than the volume of the hollows from which the yolks had come.  Therefore, when returned to those hollows, the mixture formed only a slightly convex protuberance.

Mother's filling was not light and fluffy; there were no fancy bright-yellow peaks and swirls atop her deviled eggs, no splatterings of paprika.  There was just a firm, tart, dark-yellow center, flecked with black pepper.

Other people's deviled eggs, like those on the left, are an appetizer or an hors d'oeuvre or a garnish.  They look almost like candy.  Mother's, like the simulated picture on the right, were a serious entrée.

And we loved those eggs.  Pass the green beans, would you?  And could I please have some more onion?



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