Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Piggly Wiggly Daily Health Menu" - American Chop Suey

Date I made this recipe: February 26, 2012

Piggly Wiggly Daily Health Menus by Arthur Leslie Wyman, M.C.A.
Published by: Wyman Food Service
© 1927
Recipe: American Chop Suey – p. 373

The last few weeks have been all about competitions, from movies to singing to grocery bagging - yup, grocery bagging.

I was all set to torture myself trying to find something to make for the Academy Awards when James Lileks, columnist for the StarTribune, (Minneapolis newspaper) found it for me. What a guy!

Lileks, also the author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food, writes a hilarious column in the “Strib,” and on February 17, he reported that we have a new national (grocery) bagging champion, one Stephanie Teteak from a Piggly Wiggly in Appleton, WI. (Congratulations, Stephanie!)

Before I go any further, let me say this about that: my husband remains proud of his teen-year’s service as a grocery bagger at a local grocery store. Late-night host,David Letterman, also a proud grocery bagger, annually features the winner of this prestigious contest. This honor is not to be scoffed at; bagging is hard work! (And not to brag but meet me sometime at the Rainbow Grocery store at Midway where I will impress you with my own bagging skills – self taught!)

Sure, in this year’s Oscar race, you had Meryl Streep v. Viola Davis and George Clooney v. Jean Dujardin (The Artist) but these are rank amateurs compared to grocery baggers, am I right, or am I right?

So when James did me the favor of talking about grocery baggers, I promptly threw all other Oscar night recipe hopefuls aside and went straight for my Piggly Wiggly cookbook. I am nothing if not prepared for these occasions.

You wouldn’t think it by looking at this book but it is huge in terms of the number of recipes listed. The author provides a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu for each day of the year and on average lists seven recipes for each day. That’s a lot of cooking, folks!

As you might imagine, it took me a while to go through this book to find something to serve. And to my surprise, I found that while many recipes seemed sorely lacking in spices, there was almost an overload of recipes featuring curry. Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t think curry was used much in 1927 cooking. I learn something new every day.

Speaking of learning, and before I get to more about the Piggly Wiggly cookbook, this past Saturday, a friend and I went to a Show Choir Competition – my first one ever – and boy did I learn a lot! (Why we went to a show choir competition is neither here nor there and is a story best told over cocktails!) This thing was nothing like the glee club competitions I was in while in high school; we were sorely lacking in costumes, dancing (and prancing), elaborate sets and men! I realize that times have changed but even the TV show, Glee, did not prepare me for what I observed, and that is that costumes have gotten pretty skimpy over the years. In fact, I almost had a retina-burning moment when some Catholic school girls dressed in an outfit that I can only describe as “Project Runway – Street Walker’s Edition.” I mean, Holy Mother of God – bright red, plastic (made to look like leather), skimpy and form-fitting? Across America, nuns are turning over in their graves!

At any rate, the competition was…enlightening…and I want to shout out to my favorite school group of the day – Southside Sensation – from South St. Paul High School in South St. Paul, MN. Although they didn’t place in the competition, they were the first group that made me sit up and take notice. And as an aside, ladies of Southside Sensation, may I just thank you profusely for NOT curling your hair? I’d had quite enough of the “Irish” hair experience by the end of the day, thank you very much.

Okay, back to Piggly Wiggly and James Lileks and grocery bagging competitions and recipes…after hours of serious review and contemplation, I selected the American Chop Suey recipe featured today. I warned my husband that this may be a letdown because the ingredients were skimpy and hardly anything to write home to mother about—pork, onion, celery, soy sauce and molasses. But you know what? This turned out to be pretty tasty and provided me with a nostalgic moment of ordering something similar to this dish when I first started getting Chinese take-out. Maybe Grauman’s Chinese Theatre-style take out (to tie it in with the Oscars, don’t you know)?

By the way, to bring the entire theme full circle, I just read an article in a local business magazine about Minnesota’s own, Jeno Paulucci, who made a fortune from selling brand-name foods such as Jeno’s Pizza Rolls and, wait for it, Chun King Chinese food. Coincidence? I think not! (Okay, one other factoid and then I’m done – one of the teams competing in the show choir competition was Totino-Grace High School. This school was named, in part, after Jim and Rose Tortino who owned Totino’s frozen pizza, a favorite in these parts.)

Okay, who wants some grocery-bagging American Chop Suey?!

American Chop Suey – serving size not listed
2 pounds lean pork cut in a dice (these days, grocery stores feature “chop suey” meat that is all chopped and ready to go)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups thinly sliced white celery (I used green seeing as how I’ve never heard of white celery)
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons soyu (soy) sauce
One cup hot meat stock or water
2 tablespoons molasses
Dried mushrooms soaked in water or one small can mushrooms (optional)

For the chop suey place in a saucepan two pounds of lean pork cut in dice and two tablespoons of butter; stir over a hot fire until the meat is browned; add two cups of thinly sliced white celery and one cup of chopped onions, stir and cook three minutes.

Add four tablespoons soyu sauce and one cup of hot meat stock or water; mix well, stir in two tablespoons of molasses and simmer slowly for one hour.

Just before removing from the fire add two cups of cooked noodles, heat and serve in a border of steamed rice. Dried mushrooms soaked in warm water and added at the time the meat stock is added are a nice addition.

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