My Mother's Cookbook
Dad's Favorites: Tongue, Meatloaf, Broiled Cheese Sandwiches and Sweetbreads
Wanting to know what’s for dinner is a routine question of men who like to eat. Although my father was away from home frequently on business, he was more often present at the head of the family table for both lunch and dinner.
The fact that Dad liked to eat was evident in a girth similar to the round belly of Santa Claus. I can’t imagine him ever donning a costume to play that role. His was not a “ho, ho, ho” kind of personality. But he had a giving heart and often surprised me, his only daughter, with gifts he’d bought while away from home.
One I did not fully appreciate was a bicycle he ordered while in Chicago for the 1948 Republican National Convention. Our country was recovering from World War II and his law practice prospering. He must have relished being able to buy the latest post-war bike style for me. Dad had inherent good taste, and I’m sure he splurged on the purchase.
I remember standing with him on the front lawn, watching as he ripped away the wooden slats of the crate in which the bicycle had been shipped. This was my first grown-up bicycle, and my whole body jittered with excitement. But soon the feelings associated with receiving a gift that disappoints overcame me as my eyes caught sight of the bike’s front wheel.
Dad had described the bicycle to me ahead of time and told me the frame was nickel plated. I didn’t really understand why that mattered, except that the handlebars gleamed smartly in the sunshine. What did matter to me was the inch-wide tire I saw in that shipping crate. I thought it looked just like the thin-wheeled “victory bikes” produced during the war to conserve rubber.
This stream-lined bicycle would have pleased a more knowledgeable biker, but not the eleven-year-old girl I was that summer. I thought only of what my peers would say about my pathetic victory bike. Eventually I adjusted to the idea of having a skinny-wheeled bicycle, despite some mild teasing from kids who didn’t know the treasure I had, both in bicycle and father.
The bicycle incident wasn’t the only generational taste difference between Dad and me. I didn’t like some of his food preferences either. Every fall a wooden barrel full of salt mackerel that he had ordered from the Northeast coast would arrive. Mom fixed this smelly delicacy for his breakfast on cold Saturday mornings.
Dad loved to come home for a hearty lunch of beef liver sautéed with bacon and onions. The smell of bacon and onions in the frying pan was better than mackerel, but I never could get used to the taste of liver. I do like liverwurst though, one of those inexplicable quirks of taste perception.
I remember seeing calf’s brain simmering in a pan on the stove or a whole beef tongue roasting in the oven. I wouldn’t even hazard a taste of those scary foods, but that didn’t stop my parents from savoring them.
When considering the merits of variety meats or offal, as they are more commonly called in Europe, it helps to remember that no part of an animal was wasted by frontier families that butchered their own animals. In those days, people used the food they felt fortunate to have, and none was tossed into the garbage or down the disposal as unused food is sometimes treated now.
Lean and meaty tongue can be served hot or cold and is prized for its many uses. This basic recipe appears in my mother’s cookbook.
1 large tongue
1 small onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, chopped
Wash tongue and cook in salted water with onion and celery. It will be tender in 2 to 2 ½ hours. Remove, cool, and discard broth.
Remove outer covering and trim any fat and gristle. Slice and serve warm or cold. Makes wonderful sandwiches!
I had an easier time accepting Dad’s favorite meat loaf. Probably as many variations of meat loaf exist as cooks who make this comforting dish. My father preferred one similar to the meat loaf his mother made when he was growing up in the early 1900s. That recipe appears in an earlier chapter of this series.
Gradually my parents altered the recipe to suit their own taste and times. They substituted pre-packaged and seasoned sausage for bulk sausage and added commercially prepared catsup.
Dad’s Favorite Meat Loaf
½ tube sausage
1 pound ground beef
½ cup bread crumbs
1 cup milk
½ cup grated onion
2 tablespoons catsup
1 teaspoon salt
Use seasoned tube sausage. If not seasoned, add ½ teaspoon each of sage and thyme and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix all the ingredients well. Bake in a loaf pan for one hour at 350 degrees. Serves four.
Mom’s note: I like a moist meat loaf so add more milk and put the loaf pan in a larger pan with an inch of water to bake.
My Mother's Cookbook: Dad's Favorites continues on Page 2>>