Today had me thinking of corned beef and cabbage. My mother made it for us on occasion, not necessarily St. Patrick's Day. She loved to try new recipes, and there were some other not-so-Greek items on the menu at 2445 Gardena Avenue. Sauteed pork chops and Rice-a-Roni (cooked with chicken broth), for example, were a popular staple -- but always with a green salad of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and finished with oregano, Greek olive oil and Barengo Red Wine Vinegar. Hold the feta.
Clam chowder, Manhattan-style (red, not white), was a specialty in keeping with a
tradition stemming from my Papou George Sarris. He was a cook in his
early years in Crockett and then at the Palace Candy Store. It was the Kron's of Stockton -- hand-made chocolates, my Yiayia Sarris worked on those -- with a diner-like restaurant, located next to the old Fox Theater on Main Street and owned by
his sister Sophia and her husband Bill Demakopoulos. I have fond, if
somewhat grainy, memories visiting my Papou back in the kitchen and then sitting
in one of the padded booths with my Mom to eat turkey w/mashed potatoes and
gravy -- very cool!
In his later years, Papou made the clam chowder every Friday night at the house on Alpine Street, where we would congregate along with
the Nick Demas Family. The recipe for that soup can be found on
page 50 of the recently-published St. Basil's Church "International
Cookbook." And, yes, the soup will not be right if you rush it.
And what about Mom's Jello Salad -- normally made with green jello, cottage cheese or cool whip, and crushed pineapple? She often brought that
to family Thanksgivings and wherever else it was requested. I love that
jello and should make it more often.
Looking through my Mom's collection of hand-written recipes, I see a few more not-so-Greek ones, like "Lee's Crab Mix." That would be her pal Lee Howard -- and it
was a crab salad with 4 cracked crabs, mayonnaise, garlic,
lemon juice, and sherry. My mother loved crab, and from her I learned to eat the
stuff in the carcass as well as the legs. In the good old days, we used to shop for crabs at
the Busalacchi Fish Market on Channel Street that had sawdust on the floor
(and was unfortunately torn down in 1963). We also got beautiful
halibut steaks there that she baked with oil, lemon juice, and the ubiquitous
oregano most probably grown by my Papou on his front porch.
It didn't matter what kind of food we were served -- as long as it was cooked by Mom or Yiayia or Papou. You know what I mean!