December 2014
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Bad-Day Reminder

Christy Kirk remembers her Grandma Helen Smith, far left, very fondly, especially at holidays.  

BOOMPH! It was dark and traffic was heavy as I drove Rolley Len and Cason home from school. Honestly, at the time a "boomph" sounded much better to me than some of the alternative sounds: crunch, crash, shatter or splat. I looked into the side mirror. "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." Yes, they were.

It was one of those moments where you can do nothing but stop in your tracks. On this busy evening, we were headed to pick up a rare, but much desired, pizza and then take it with us to church for my women’s Bible study. Traffic was bad, and it seemed as if it took forever to get the 7 miles around Shug Jordan. I had driven from their school and waited at the curve linking Shug Jordan to S. College. And then, BOOMPH!

All of the things you have to do or want to do gets put on hold. Although the damage might appear minimal in the dark, you never know. So, instead of hurrying off to our next destination, we pulled over and waited for the police to arrive. Rolley Len and Cason were curious about what would happen next. I realized this time spent on the side of the road didn’t have to be a waste. They had lots of questions: Who bumped us? What are they driving? Can I see the damage? Where are the policemen?

Both Rolley Len and Cason have always been inquisitive, especially while in the car, but I saw that, although this experience was very frustrating for me, it was new and extremely interesting to them. As a parent and a teacher, I have had to learn how to turn down my own tension level so it doesn’t affect everyone else in my vicinity. My bad day or bad luck may be an opportunity for me or someone else to have a "slow down moment."

Getting bumped on the road and seeing the now familiar phrase "objects in mirror are closer than they appear" made me think of my mom’s mother Helen Smith. I believe it was in the late 1970s when this warning phrase began being printed on all passenger-side convex car mirrors. I remember riding in my Grandma Helen’s new, big, black car, and we saw the printed words on the right-side mirror.

Back then Jenny and I both sat in the front seat, me in the middle because I was younger and, of course, without seatbelts. As children, Jenny and I looked into the convex mirror and laughed at how ridiculously obvious the words seemed. Now I can’t imagine not having Rolley Len and Cason in their booster seats with seatbelts secured. But I think about riding in the car with Grandma Helen and I remember feeling safe and special. Safe because I was in the middle between her and my sister, and special because we were not relegated to the backseat.

As the Christmas season gets closer, I feel lucky to have been reminded of my Grandma Helen in such a seemingly random way. I already make my Grandma Rhodes’ dressing for Thanksgiving, so this year I am going to make some of Grandma Helen’s recipes at Christmas. I want to share some of her favorite appetizers, sides and desserts with you with the hope that my bad-day reminder will help make your next meal feel special. I hope for every frustrating slow-down moment you may experience during the holidays that your joyful moments are multiplied. Merry Christmas!

Creamed Corn

Shuck fresh corn. Boil it for about 10 minutes. Reserve the juices. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Add corn to the reserved juice. Add flour and stir. Add bacon grease for flavor. Cook until thickened and add salt, pepper and butter to taste.

Fruitcake Cookies

1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
2 Tablespoons vanilla
3½ cups self-rising flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
7 cups pecans, chopped
6 slices candied red, green and yellow pineapple, chopped
½ pound red and green candied cherries, chopped
2 cups dates, chopped
2 cups sweetened golden raisins

Cream margarine and brown sugar in mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Beat well. Sift flour, baking soda and cinnamon together. Add to batter and mix well. Stir in pecans, pineapple, cherries, dates and raisins. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 300° for 20-30 minutes or until edges are brown. Cool for several minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes around 120 cookies.

Grandma Helen-Style Cheese Ball

16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened 

1 (8 ounce) container chive and onion cream cheese

1 teaspoon paprika, plus more for coating ball

½ teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until blended. Cover and chill 4 hours or until mixture is firm enough to be shaped. Shape mixture into a ball. Smooth surface with a frosting spatula or table knife. Roll the cheese ball in a plate of paprika until the entire outer ball is covered. Wrap cheese ball in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator up to 2 days.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.