I was going through my mother’s recipe files for the first time since her death a number of years ago. They were in the same order in which she left them when her health failed after suffering a stroke.
Some of my older siblings had been wondering if the recipes for some of the meals they had eaten were in those files. So I looked for them when I made my first foray into the past. The following is one that I think matches one of their food memories:
Hamburger Chop Suey
- 1 lb. hamburger
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 tsp salt
- Dash pepper
- 2 c celery, thinly sliced
- 1 can mixed Chinese vegetables
- 2 T cornstarch
- 1 T soy sauce
- Hot cooked rice
Cook hamburger and onion in skillet until hamburger loses its red color. Add salt, pepper, celery, and 1 1/2 c hot water. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add drained Chinese vegetables and heat. Blend cornstarch with 2 T of cold water, and stir into hot mixture. Cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Add soy sauce. Serve with hot cooked rice. 4 to 6 servings.
The younger half of the family ate Chicken Chop Suey, and it is what I fed my family (with some minor increases in vegetables and decreases in fat and sodium). It is probably one of the recipes my kids will be looking for among my many recipe card files when I am no longer on the planet.
Chicken Chop Suey
- 4 oz. of mushrooms, sliced
- 1 t oil
- 1 c celery, sliced
- 1 c onion, chopped
- 1/2 c green pepper, chopped
- 2 T cornstarch
- 3 T lite soy sauce
- 8 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups chicken breast, chopped
- 1 can bean sprouts, drained
- 1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Heat oil in a large skillet and add celery, onion, and green pepper. Saute until tender crisp. Combine cornstarch, soy sauce, and chicken broth and add to skillet. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add chicken, bean sprouts, and water chestnuts and heat through. Serve with hot rice and crispy oriental noodles. Serves 5.
Memories are funny things. We all latch onto different details of a situation–retaining some and forgetting others. If the family was big enough, older children will have eaten different foods than their younger brothers and sisters, either because of lean financial times or there being less processed food available. You could almost divide the family into pre- and post-Hamburger Helper!
The kinds of foods we ate changed with location as well. When the younger half of the family moved to the country and planted the first garden, our diets changed with the influx of fresh vegetables. Most of the vegetables in my pre-back-to-the-land life came in metal cans (often dented and/or without labels and from the bargain cart at the back of the Green Street store–which is now a runway of O’Hare Airport). Once we started harvesting our first successful garden, we had plenty of green beans, kohlrabi, cabbage, tomatoes, green peppers, spinach, parsley, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, and potatoes–it was wonderful.
The 1970s also saw the introduction of things like roasted soy beans, granola, and tacos! Do any of you remember when tacos were considered exotic, foreign food? Do you remember when the only granola bars were Nature Valley–and then only the dry crumbly kind? Yeah, I’m old. Begonia