Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"The Walton Family Cookbook" - Cousin Carole's Split Pea Soup

Date I made this recipe: January 8, 2012

The Walton Family Cookbook by Sylvia Resnick
Published by: Bantam Books
© 1975
Recipe: Cousin Carole’s Split Pea Soup – p. 36

“I want to be a writer, daddy.” John-Boy Walton on the TV show, The Waltons
“I want to be a writer, daddy.” Ann Verme, circa 1971, channeling John-Boy Walton!

When I first moved to Minneapolis after college, my friends teased me that I was emulating the fictional Mary Richards, played by actress Mary Tyler Moore from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Not so. I actually wanted to be John Boy Walton—well, not really since that would have involved a sex change but you know what I mean.

For those of you who don’t know, The Waltons started out as a 1971 TV movie titled The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. In it, actress Patricia Neal played Olivia Walton before actress Michael Learned took over the role on TV. (Most of the kids in this movie though, moved over to play the same roles in the TV series.)

Anyway, I don’t remember much about the movie but I do remember that Olivia was thrilled to get a bird’s nest from her children for Christmas, even if it did have (in her words) bird poop on it.

Is that not the stuff that just warms your heart, or what? At any rate, this movie set the stage for John-Boy Walton (as played by actor Richard Thomas) to tell his father that he wanted to be a writer (make that “a writer, daddy.”)

Well, as an aspiring writer myself, this had a huge impact on me. And so for as long as the TV series ran, I walked around imitating John-Boy by telling everyone “I want to be a writer, daddy.” Mind you, by the time the series ended in 1981, I was two years out of college with a degree in what ended up being “English Literature” and living in Minneapolis.

My first job though, was as a writer but not quite in the way either John-Boy or I envisioned. I was hired as a Savings Correspondent for a local savings and loan association (remember them?!). Not only was I charged with cleaning up their standard letter file (“Dear Customer, Thank you for opening your account with us”), but I also had to write the not-so-standard letters, many of which said something like: “Dear Customer. We are sorry to inform you that we have temporarily misplaced your $10,000 deposit, but rest assured we are doing everything in our power to locate that money…”

You might think that writing something so mundane was not challenging, but it was. And I was good at it. I got lots of compliments from some of the people for whom I scribed a letter telling me what a good job I did.

And so at that point, I was thinking that maybe in a few months I could go out and find myself a real writing job. Instead, I got promoted to a New Account Representative, and started down a path that had absolutely nothing to do with writing and everything to opening up certificates of deposit for people. Believe it or not, I was rather irritated that I was promoted as I really liked my job; my employer was momentarily stymied as to why I would look a gift horse in the mouth. I know, I know—but there was John-Boy out there writing and if he could write, so could I.

Thirty-plus years later, this is what I have to show for myself: a few articles here and there in various company newsletters, the best (I’m told) thank you notes ever, a spectacular holiday letter that puts all others to shame, and this blog. Oh, and I am friends with a few journalists so there’s that.

By the way, The Waltons was loosely based on writer Earl Hamner, Jr.’s child memories of growing up in Virginia during the Depression. And this is important because while the show’s story lines stayed pretty true to that time period, this cookbook, written in the 70’s, does not. I am pretty sure that Earl’s family (and therefore the Waltons) did not munch on the following: Mexicali Bean Dip; Antipasto Special; Meatballs Ole; Nippy Hamburger in a Dish (featuring a jar of melted cheese spread) or anything closing resembling the majority of dishes found in this book. And so finding something that the Waltons would have actually eaten was a challenge.

Toward that end, I narrowed it down to Bean Soup, Beef and Vegetable Stew (“Stew a la Waltons”) and this recipe for Pea Soup. My husband nixed the idea of the bean soup, the vegetable stew sounded good but had a lot of ingredients so that left the pea soup for which I had only to buy a ham shank and barley.

Now I like barley and I like split pea soup but I can’t say as the two combined rocked my world. I would have much preferred adding potatoes but the recipe didn’t call for it so I didn’t use them.

I also am not a fan of salt and yet this recipe called for three tablespoons – whoa! So I added a tablespoon after the soup had been simmering a while, and that wasn’t enough, so I added another, and then it still wasn’t quite right so I added a little bit more (not a full tablespoon) and suddenly the recipe teetered on the edge of being too salty. I hate it when that happens so my warning to you is to taste and re-taste as you add the salt and then stop immediately when you’ve hit the jackpot!

The recipe also said to discard the onion (which, although it didn’t say, you put in whole) but I like onion and so I chopped it up and added it back to the soup.

Unlike the TV show, I am not a fan of this soup—it’s okay, but it’s not great. But you can make it for yourself and then decide – just like John-Boy and I decided we wanted to be writers, daddy!

(PS—I almost forgot to mention the Baldwin Sisters, famous on Walton’s Mountain for “the recipe”…for moonshine! But remember, it was always consumed “for medicinal purposes.” Those two ladies cracked me up to no end and made me want to be a moonshiner…but only after I became a writer, daddy, of course!)

Cousin Carole’s Split Pea Soup – serves 6

1 8-ounce package split peas
1 4-ounce package fine barley
1 onion (whole)
3 small carrots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons alt (or to taste – no kidding!)
A meaty ham bone, 1 pound short ribs or 1 pound shank meat
3 1/3 quarts cold water

Add all the ingredients to the water in heavy soup kettle, partially cover and cook over a high flame for 20 minutes. Remove cover and skim off excess fat from water with wooden spoon.

Again partially cover (allow lid to sit lopsided so pot is not completely covered) and cook over a medium flame for 45 minutes. Stir ingredients through now and then to prevent sticking. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 hour. Remove and discard the onion.

Author’s note: This soup tastes best if allowed to stand and thicken for at least an hour before serving. Stir through and reheat on a very low flame. If desired, other vegetables such as cauliflower or okra may be added during last hour of cooking.


Anonymous said...

your comment about the recipes not being what the family would have eaten in their day is totally inappropriate.And insulting.
The book, as indicated, contains recipes from cast members and they are authentic as each cast member
gave them to me.

As to the pea soup, it is actually one of the most delicious I have ever tasted. Could it be that you didn't follow the recipe entirely?
Being snippy and trying to be cute on your blog may seem okay to you, but to me it is just another way to put someone down so you feel up.
get a grip.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ann,

goodness, your first commenter certainly got her knickers in a twist! I have read many comments on other sites about the Walton cookbook not containing many authentic depression era recipes - a disappointment to me as well.

There are cookbooks listed for sale on the Walton's Mountain website - perhaps one of those would fit the bill a bit better.

Best wishes in your search for Walton family dishes!

Mary B.

Anonymous said...

Try Mary Ellen's Cookbook for more authentic recipes.


Good luck!

Mary B.

Anonymous said...

OLIVIA'S APPLESAUCE CAKEl cup of butter1 cup of sugar2 cups applesauce2 cups light raisins1 cup chopped walnuts1 teaspoon baking soda3-1/2 cups flour (sifted)2 eggs1 teaspoon cinnamon2 teaspoons ground cloves2 teaspoons nutmegPinch of saltSift together: Flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Take 1/2 cup of flour mixture and stir into the nuts and raisins. Set both aside. Cream butter until whipped soft. Add sugar a little at a time until mixture is smooth. Beat in eggs vigorously. Alternately, stir in flour mixture and applesauce. When all mixed together add nuts and raisins and mix well. Pour batter into a well-greased cake mold. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool ten minutes, then turn out on cake rack. Frost with Whiskey Frosting when cake is cool.
JANE'S WHISKEY FROSTING1/4 cup butter1 tablespoon cream2 cups powdered sugar2 tablespoons whiskey (bourbon)Pinch of saltCream butter, add sugar and salt, then cream and whiskey. Whip until smooth. Frost cake. Decorate with a sprig of holly.I hope everyone who tries it enjoys it - I certainly can see the Waltons having this holiday cake.

,AnnetteKAREN'S COMMENT: Thanks for the recipe Annette. If anyone is interested in the cookbook that JF mentioned, it is only $14 and also includes recipes from Earl and Jane Hamner, and Marion Hamner Hawkes. Please email the museum for further information. They have several other cookbooks available too, including one by Marion Hamner Hawkes, called Mary Ellen's Recipes at $10 and another by Ronnie Claire Edwards called Sugar and Grease at $19.50. They'd make great Christmas presents so perhaps you could leave the information out for your loved ones to see!

Hope this helps! Mary B.