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Nostalgic recipes going back to the ’50s

John HartGarlicky mashed potatoes
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

No one calls here much anymore. That could be because I’m notorious for keeping the phone ringer off. Why if it weren’t for e-mail, I’d rarely chat with anyone.

Not long ago, telephones were a black one-to-a-family item. I even remember the days when Aggie the operator would ask, “Number please?” every time I picked up the heavy handset to make a call.

You may call me a wet noodle, but I simmer at thoughts of cell phones, call-waiting, and conference calls. My daughters gripe because all our phones have cords.



I’ve agreed to use a message machine, but you’ll never hear quotes-of-the-day or Peruvian flute cantatas before my beep.

Please understand that I’m not totally negative: I support busy signals. Even at the pinnacle of my daughters’ teenage gabbing years, we never added another line. Recently, we did get a second number for my Internet service, but consider that number unlisted. We only use it for family emergencies, so its ringer is always on. My kids call when their checking accounts are low, Jeff calls when he forgets the shopping list, and MCI generally calls during dinner.




So while I may not call, I do summon you with recipes reminiscent of the old black-telephone days.

Fruited Carrot Soup

How many times were you told to eat your carrots? If I’d known about this soup earlier, my mother would never have had to plead with me.

2 cups onions, chopped

2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cups veggie bouillon

1 cup orange juice

Salt and pepper

Get out grandmother’s cast iron pot and saute the onions until limp. Add the carrots and veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are very tender.

Puree the onions and carrots with a little stock until smooth, and return the mixture to the pot. Stir in the orange juice, salt and pepper, and serve. This rings my bell when topped with a yogurt dollop and a mint leaf. (Serves 4-6)

Garlicky Mashed

Potatoes

Since I was little, mashed potatoes have been a favored comfort food. Please note: no butter!

6 cups potatoes; peeling is optional, cubing essential

10 cloves garlic, pressed

1 12-ounce can low-fat evaporated milk (you may not need it all)

Salt and pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring them to a boil, simmer until tender, and drain. Mash the potatoes, adding the milk a little at a time to get the consistency you like. Stir in the salt, pepper, and garlic and pass the bowl to me first. (Serves 6)

Mushroom Gravy

I remember rich gravies that we poured on just about everything. Here’s an easy, low-fat version that’s superlative spooned over mashed potatoes and burgers, or sopped up with a crusty baguette.

1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon garlic, pressed

1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons cooking sherry

1/4 cup white flour

2 cups vegetable bouillon

Salt and pepper

Saute the onions until translucent, then stir in the garlic and mushrooms and cover and cook for 10 minutes over a medium flame. Add the sherry and simmer covered for another 10 minutes.

While everything cooks, heat the veggie broth and whisk in the flour until absolutely smooth. Then stir the broth into the mushrooms, add the seasonings and simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes. Serve piping hot. (About 3 cups)

Hip Waldorf Salad

I never got this at home, so whenever I slept at my friend Nancy’s house, her mother would make the 1950’s version for me.

3 crunchy red delicious apples, cut in chunks

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted

1/3 cup blue cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

3/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt

To keep the apples looking beautiful, toss them with the lemon juice and set aside. Stir together the celery, raisins, walnuts, and blue cheese, then add the apples with the juice. Whisk the mayonnaise and the yogurt together until smooth and combine with the other ingredients. This is a colorful and ambrosial accompaniment to a simple sandwich supper. (4-6 servings)

Onion Dip

Here’s my healthy version of an old favorite.

1 cup onion, minced

11/2 tablespoons vegetable soup powder

2 cups low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon chives, minced

Saute the onion until brown and limp, then turn off the flame and stir in the veggie powder. When this concoction cools, mix it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Sharpen your knife and slice up an assortment of raw veggies to dip. (3 cups)

I have to go check the message machine now. Maybe someone’s trying some new recipes and wants to invite me for dinner.

Ronnie Paul is a cookbook reviewer, freelance writer, vegetarian chef and teacher at Wild Mountain Yoga Center. She can be reached at


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