Thursday, January 26, 2017

"The Mondale Family Cookbook" by Joan Mondale (Walter F. "Fritz" Mondale was Jimmy Carter's Vice President) - Inauguration Day 2017

Date I made this recipe:  January 20, 2017 – Inauguration Day     

The Mondale Family Cookbook by Joan Mondale (Minnesotans Walter "Fritz" Mondale and the late Joan Mondale were Vice President and Second Lady under President Jimmy Carter, 1980-1984)
Published by the 1984 Mondale for President Committee, Inc.
© 1984
Recipe:  Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole – p. 44

Although I have been known to pull a cookbook off my shelves to observe an event – a food holiday, a national holiday, or a "holiday" holiday - this time around, I hadn't planned to make anything for Friday's inauguration and yes, I know – shocking.  I just had a lot going on and just wasn't in the frame of mind to go on a search and destroy mission through vast cookbook list to find just the "right" one.

And then fate intervened.  This Christmas, I acquired several books and so I finally carved out a few minutes to update my cookbook data base (read:  Excel spreadsheet – so fancy!).  One of the books I acquired was The Mondale Family Cookbook and I was all set to put it on the shelf when it dawned on me I could make something for Friday's Inauguration and so I did. 

Was that incredible timing, or what? 

Because during an inauguration, like the one we had today, a President and a Vice President are sworn into office, and 40 years ago on January 20, 1977, Minnesotan Walter "Fritz" Mondale (of the "cookbook" Mondales!) was sworn in as President Jimmy Carter's Vice President. 

Since I was in college during this election and eligible to vote for the first time, I remember well the Carter/Mondale administration.  But with the exception of some sweet little adorable five year old who can name every President and Vice President, and who appears on talk shows to show off her prowess, most of us cannot normally recall Presidents, much less their second in commands.  And so let's test ourselves on how well we remember these dynamic duos, okay? (Hint:  You're looking for the names of 45 Presidents and 48 Vice Presidents.)

"All right then - pencils up, eyes front and...GO!" [Minutes, days, hours later] "And....time's up, pencils down."

How'd you do?  I'm guessing fair to middling.  Will it help if I show my work? 

Since I know for sure that my knowledge of our earliest Presidents and Veeps is fuzzy, I decided to test my knowledge starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), our 32nd President.   Why FDR?  Several reasons: 1) most of my history classes focused on the Great Depression and WWII which was when FDR was in office; 2) my dad grew up during the Depression and was a Marine in WWII, and 3) I have a better chance on my own history test if I start with what I know and that's the start of what I know!

Well, almost.  FDR served three terms (1933-1945) in office (bonus points if you knew this and also knew that he was the only president to serve three terms) but I have no recollection of Vice Presidents One and Two so I cheated and Googled and they are John Nance Garner (1933-1941) and Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945).  Please make a note of this.

When it comes to FDR's third Vice President though, I have this on lock and load:  Harry S. Truman.  My dad loved Harry S. Truman and his whole "The buck stops here" approach.  My dad was also a Marine during WWII and credits Truman with seeing to it that he came home from the Pacific theater so there's that.  (Bonus points if you knew that FDR oversaw V-E Day (Victory-Europe Day), but died before he could see the end of the war in Japan known as V-J Day (Victory Japan Day).  Harry S. Truman brought an end to the war in Japan after stepping into the Presidential seat held by FDR.

After finishing out the rest of FDR's third term, Truman ran for election, won, and became the 33rd President.  (Bonus points if you recall the surprise outcome to the election and another bonus point if the word "Dewey" rings a bell.)

Okay then, so Harry S. Truman was President and his Vice President was....give me a second...and...nope.  The guy's name was Alben W. Barkley.  For some reason, I had [the name] Adlai Stevenson rolling around my head but dear heavens, Adlai Stevenson was Grover Cleveland's Vice President and they served from 1893-1897.  Please note that I was only off by 48 years.  I think I'll award myself a half point for remembering the name even if I couldn't place him with the correct President!

After Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower became President (I knew that so point for me!) and Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  Not that I recall Nixon being his Vice President so that's a deduction. (But I get points for knowing that Nixon became President eventually, and I also get points for knowing – because I watched it firsthand – all about Watergate.)

After Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson served in office (2 points for me), and after Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson became President and Minnesotan Hubert H. Humphrey was his Vice President, and people, I am on a point roll! (By the way, I was not living in Minnesota at this time nor when Carter and Mondale were in the White House.)

Unfortunately, Johnson's Presidency was a rocky one (bonus points if you know about the Chicago Democratic convention and the Vietnam War), and so he decided not to seek reelection ("I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President."  Major bonus points awarded if you not only knew he said this but came up also with the exact quote; I came so close but didn't nail it).  This left the field open for Democrats Hubert H. Humphrey and the late Bobby Kennedy (among others) to run, but it was Republican Richard Nixon who won the day.

Richard Nixon's first Vice President was Spiro Agnew and then after Spiro stepped down, it was Gerald R. Ford who was from my home state of Michigan.  And I cannot pass up the opportunity to tell you a small story about Spiro Agnew.

While in law school, I took a Corporations Law class and during one class session, we reviewed a court case involving Spiro Agnew.  Since I attended law school later in life, the only people in this class who were not 26"ish" (the average age) were me, my friend, Melissa, and our professor who was only a few years older than the two of us.  In fact, the professor attended Kent State University during the famous Kent State Massacre, so award yourself bonus points if you know about that tragic event. 

Anyway, so the professor started the case review by asking if anyone in the class knew who Spiro Agnew was.  And Melissa and I were all "Oh, oh, Mr. Kotter!  Mr. Kotter!" (I reference the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter from the 70's – starring John Travolta) because of course we knew who he was, we lived through that era.  But nobody else in the class did.  Nobody.

"Oh people...people....[sigh]. Nobody knows?" I have never seen a professor so dejected.  Can I just say though, that for once, I felt pretty chuffed that I was old enough to know this information instead of feeling like a mom/den mother?

Moving on.  After Nixon resigned, Gerald R. Ford became President and his Vice President was....I know I know this and....nope.  Answer: Nelson Rockefeller.  Right about now is when I started to feel like I was on the TV show, Jeopardy, in that I knew Nelson Rockefeller's name had to be in the "Vice Presidents" (for 10) category someplace but I just couldn't figure out where!  My initial thought was Ronald Reagan which as you will see, is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Still, I rallied and now things started looking up because  after Ford, Jimmy Carter was elected President and our aforementioned Walter F. (Fritz) Mondale his Vice President

After Carter, Ronald Regan was elected President and his Vice President was George H. W. Bush.  Then Bush (senior) became President and Dan Quayle was his Vice President.  Bush (senior) was followed by Bill Clinton whose Vice President was Al Gore. 

After Clinton came George "W" Bush and his Vice President was Dick Cheney, and after that Barack Obama and his Vice President, Joe Biden, and today Donald Trump and his Veep, Mike Pence were sworn in.  Whew, right?

And before I get to the reason we are really here – The Mondale  Family Cookbook, let me just share a few other facts that I uncovered in my research:

*11 out of 48 Vice Presidents were from New York State including Aaron Burr, famous for engaging in a [gun] duel with Alexander Hamilton (he of the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton – An American Musical).  And four out of the 11 New Yorker's later became President:  Martin Van Buren; Millard Fillmore; Chester A. Arthur, and Theodore Roosevelt.

*To my surprise, six of the 48 Vice Presidents hailed from Indiana, including the recently sworn-in Mike Pence.  I guess I wasn't expecting Indiana to yield so many.  On the other hand, 13 states produced one and only one Vice President including the 13th Vice President, William R. King who hailed from Alabama

And with that, we conclude today's – Inauguration Day 2017 – history review and test.  Please tally up your scores, (keep it honest folks,) pass your papers in, and to those of you who scored low, you know what you need to do!

So onto the book we go! In 1984, Mondale decided to run for President and so the 1984 Mondale  for President Committee, Inc. published this cookbook, The Mondale Family Cookbook, likely as a fundraiser or thank you gift for donors. The book contains family and friend photos, a Mondale family tree (loved that!), and recipes from the family and their friends, as well as recipes and menus from the Vice President's House.  And it was from one of those menus that I selected today's casserole recipe.

But first, I must mention – must – the "recipe" that cracked me up the most when I saw it:  "Hot Dogs and Tab (the soft drink)" from family friend, James A. Johnson. To make this recipe, you heat the hot dogs in a pot on the stove and then pour yourself a Tab and ta da, instant dinner! 

As tempting as that recipe was though, it wasn't exactly Inauguration-worthy and so I had to pass, settling instead on the Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole that was served to former First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson, widow of President Lyndon B. Johnson, when she visited the Vice President's House, January 10, 1979. 

Still folks.  Still.  I cannot say that I've ever associated a Minnesota casserole with a Vice Presidential dinner and that is because casseroles are usually reserved for:

a) a Lutheran church basement funeral repast
b) a neighborhood pot-luck
c) a bridal or baby shower
d) all of the above

But this was 1979 and "fancy" casseroles were making the rounds of many a dinner party and those with wild rice, like the Mondale casserole, are fancier still.  You should know that wild rice is not rice at all but rather a grass/grain and has the distinction of being the official Minnesota State Grain. Perhaps this is why it ended up on the dinner table? (Dress to impress, cook to impress?)

That said, as any Minnesotan (or transplant like me) knows, a bona fide, true blue, all-American, specifically-Minnesotan casserole (or, as the natives say, "hot dish") contains at least one can of Cream of "X" soup, where "X" equals Mushroom, Chicken, or Celery.  There are no exceptions to this rule, and in fact, if this requirement has not been codified, i.e. made into law, it should be. 

Other popular casserole ingredients (although not necessarily mandatory) are Tater Tots and Velveeta cheese.  And it is ingredients like these that have people diving at the pot-luck table time and time again.

In fact, so popular are casseroles to these parts, that United States Senator Al Franken (D-MN) hosts an annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hot Dish Off (like a Bake Off, only not) every year and let me tell you, last year's results were interesting.

Last year's results were interesting because Representative Tim Walz's (D-MN-1st District) winning recipe, Turkey Taco Tot Hot Dish contained not a single can of Cream of "X" soup.  Not one. And he wasn't alone as five – FIVE! – out of 10 submissions did not use soup.  Well, that's downright...un-Minnesotan!  How did it come to pass that we elected these people?

I am speechless.  Really.  How is this even possible? No soup (for you)?

And so a shout out to the following people who followed the rules (and possibly state statutes) and used at least one can of soup:  Senator Al Franken; Representative Collin Peterson (who made his casserole using rabbit.  Hmmmm.  Interesting choice, that.); Representative Betty McCollum; Representative Keith Ellison, and Representative Erik Paulsen who used three cans of soup, one of which was Cream of Mushroom, cream of Mushroom being the "official" casserole go-to around here, "don't ya know."

So that's impressive and the rest of you have your work cut out for you!

Now then, so used am I to seeing Cream of "X" soup, that I thought that was what the Mondale's Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole called for but folks, it did not and now I have further proof that I need to get my eyes checked.

The Mondale's recipe, as served to Lady Bird Johnson, called for 1 can of Mushroom Soup (not a "Cream of" in sight) and ½ cup consommé.  Technically, that's a violation and I'm sorry former Vice President Mondale, I'm going to have to "ding" you for that.

Frankly, I'm a little confused by these two ingredients as it's basically beef on beef.  Campbell's makes a can of "Beefy Mushroom" soup that I imagine is somewhat gravy-like, and then to that you add more beef broth in the form of consommé?  Well it puzzles is what it does but who am I to argue with a former Veep?

Still, because of my misread, I used Cream of Mushroom and the consommé, and all was well with the world and the dish was really tasty.  Very tasty.  But brown people, very brown.

And I only mention the color because it's in sharp contrast to the usual and customary white food of which many Minnesotans of Scandinavian descent are quite fond.  In fact, it is usual  and customary to see a holiday dinner of boiled potatoes (white), white fish (or actual Whitefish, a Lake Superior delicacy), pickled herring (ew – but white), lefse, a white crepe of sorts made with potatoes, and the ever-famous but never-popular, lutefisk which is white fished soaked in lye and then dried, I kid you not.  Never, ever will I eat that – never, and herring is out, but I can deal with the rest of it so long as I can add a splash of color known as Lingonberry jam!

Similarly, the Mondale's feast was a mixture of brown and white as follows:  Oysters Casino (oysters are white/gray); Roast Duckling with Kumquats (duck is brown); Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole (totally brown); Baked Cucumbers (sans the skin, cucumbers are white); Small Croissants (white/golden); Poached Pears (white) with Sabayon Sauce (sabayon sauce contains eggs – white and gold), and then in a complete about-face, they added a Bibb Lettuce and Watercress Salad with Slices Avocado – green, green, totally green and the dinner party was saved! I am kidding, of course, as it all sounds lovely and delicious and the very brown Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole was mighty tasty even though I defaulted to the Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Old cooking habits are hard to break!

So that's the story of my accidental inauguration dinner, a look at Presidents and Vice Presidents through history, and a further peek into the crazy casserole times of native Minnesotans.  And by the way, lest you think my history lesson was all for naught, everybody should have a few interesting anecdotes tucked away as nobody likes a boring dinner party guest.  In fact, when I took a class on [Geoffrey] Chaucer in college, my professor insisted that all of us learn to recite the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in the original Olde English, for the express purpose of impressing party guests. (I can still recall the first eight lines and then after that I'm a bit lost, sort of like my Vice President recollection!)

And so when you get that call and subsequent party invitation from the Vice President's office? You're welcome!

And now to end our little historic look-back at the office of the President and Vice President, I wanted to let you know that Walter and Joan Mondale returned eventually to Minneapolis where he still resides; Joan passed away in 2014.  Joan was a well-known artist (pottery) and I completely forgot until I read her bio on Wikipedia that she was nicknamed Joan of "Art."  She compiled all the recipes in this book.

Walter continued on in law and politics and in 2013, was keynote speaker and honoree at a Law and Inequality Symposium titled Civil Rights & Civil Justice: 50 Years Later, at his law alma mater, the University of Minnesota Law School.   I was in that audience then (I'm a fellow attorney) and marveled the entire time how up close and personal I was to a former Vice President of the United States

Would that I had known about the Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole though.  Would that I had known.

Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole – six servings
¾ cup long-grained rice
¼ cup wild rice
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 can (10 ½ ounces) mushroom soup (Ann's Note:  Not CREAM of Mushroom Soup.  Mushroom soup.)
½ cup consommé
½ pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
¼ cup slivered almonds

In separate pots cook the long-grained rice and the wild rice according to directions on packages.  While they are cooking, sauté the vegetables in the butter.  Add the ground beef and brown.  Stir in the mushroom soup, consommé, mushrooms, and almonds.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  In a casserole, combine the rices with the vegetable-beef mixture and keep warm in a 250 oven until served.

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