The Kitchen

Following is an excerpt from Lucie's Kitchen, a collection of stories and recipes from Lucie Olmstead's life coming out soon.

Clyde was home on leave from the Navy. He wasn't sure when he would be home again, so he and Helen planned their wedding on a Friday, August 12, 1955. Her sister Alice's wedding was the next day, but that was OK. Helen's wedding was a happy party, a casual gathering of friends and family glad to see the young couple get their start. Nothing extravagant.

Helen and Clyde would go on to live and raise four children in their hometown, together for close to 60 years-- and counting.

Helen-Clyde-wedding-party
Newlyweds Helen & Clyde Jenkins (center), with matron of honor Sally McDermid and best man, friend of Clyde.

When asked for a favorite recipe from Aunt Helen's daughter Tricia, this main dish was her pick. But like Edna's Scalloped Corn and Lucie's pies, Helen's Beef Tips and Noodles weren't tied to a hard and fast recipe. "Oh, I just use some leftover roast beef, add some gravy, and boil some noodles." reported Helen. "Homemade noodles though." she added. That's the key: her kids loved this dish, but the noodles are essential. "They're just egg and flour," Helen said "but the kids ate those first."

That's the truth, isn't it? Sometimes the most practical, uncomplicated things are what we crave the most.

Beef Tips and Noodles

by Helen Jenkins

Ingredients
Cooked roast beef
Gravy
Noodles

Cut the roast beef into chunks and brown over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Make gravy separately and add to the pan. Stir in cooked noodles.

Noodles

by Lucie Olmstead

Ingredients
1 egg
salt
1 T cream, milk, or water (or 1 tsp butter)
Flour

Mix the egg, salt, and cream together in a bowl. Add enough flour to form a soft ball.

Roll on a well-floured area to the desired thickness. From one end, roll the sheet up into a log. Cut the rolled dough into 1" wide sliced, then uncurl each noodle. Allow to dry for 1-2 hours. Drop noodles one at a time into boiling water or soup (after everything else in the soup is cooked). Cook in boiling water for 5-7 minutes.

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Hard FoughtOne day in November, the final canning session for the season was over. Ten quarts of applesauce would have to do, stretching themselves through the winter months for our family of 5. It’s not what I’d hoped for, but it was the best I could do given the circumstances.

The jars watched me from their perch on the kitchen racks, waiting for me to finish the last chore: carrying them down to the basement pantry. I finally relented to their stares, grabbing a random armful of jars on my trips to the laundry room.

As I opened the old slatwood cupboard doors that shield the pantry shelves, I expected to see an empty space. With the start of a full time job this year followed by a midsummer move, this wasn’t my most productive canning season. I had, in fact, been hosting a bit of a pity party about everything I didn’t accomplish this year: jam, tomatoes, pickles (thankfully I was a little overzealous with my Picklepalooza last year), let alone time for trips to the beach and the zoo with my kids, knitting, gardening, my plans for sheep…. sometimes I wonder if my “want to” list will ever live up to my expectations.

But as I reached up to place the jars on the top shelf, I was surprised to see that the cupboard was almost full. Relish, salsa verde, and a surprising amount of peaches. When did that happen?

I scanned the shelves in front of me and the answer came: every jar was hard fought this year.

There were no lazy days meandering the farmers market or afternoons driving to u-pick berry farms on a whim. Rather, I power shopped at the farmers market on my half-hour lunch and hogged the work refrigerator until it was time to go home.

It wasn’t easy. Canning this year made me yearn for the slower days when I had lots of time and little money, when I savored every bite of my day. This year I straddled the fence between the fast lane and the homemaker, gripping tight to the handful of hours in-between to preserve my ideal. Sometimes I thought it would be better to give in, to just buy the damn food and stop trying so hard.

But then what?

But then I would have missed the joy: the memory of pecking our way around the back roads to find the peach farm on our way home from a weekend up north, and later, the warmth of my husband and kids pitching in to help can the fuzzy orbs in the evenings.

Absent would be the pride at the dinner table whenever a jar of jam or salsa was popped open, or the relief on those days when I hadn’t made it to the grocery store yet and could send applesauce to school.

I would have missed out, too, on meeting new farm friends at the farmer’s market, and entertaining co-workers with my armfuls of produce. “What did you buy today, Becky?” was something I looked forward to every Wednesday, as well as passing out the spare cucumber or apple.

I didn’t get to everything on my list this year, but it was more than nothing.

This year was hard. Not bad, just a whole lot of work that hasn’t produced fruit yet. It will, I’m confident, but sometimes when you are in the middle of pursuing a dream, when it’s all work and little reward, it’s easy to lose sight of joy. It pays to take a step back, scan your progress so far, and recognize your progress instead of your missed goals.

You might be surprised at what you see.

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The moment I got my hands on a copy of Remedy Quarterly I fell in love with the storytelling around food and community that is loaded into every issue. Plus, the artwork and photography are gorgeous. It's a short story collection that makes you want to curl up with and savor every word.

And today I'm head-over-heels excited because, as you may have read in an earlier post, I'm honored to be included as a contributing writer in the latest Issue 16: Change. To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy (a $14.50 value) to my readers as a thank you for all of your encouragement. Your comments always buoy me, and hearing that you've tried cooking up something in the kitchen is even better. Love you all!

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You may enter every day, so don't forget to come back tomorrow! Contest ends on November 26 at midnight.

If you aren't a lucky winner (or if you want to, you know, buy several copies), you can purchase your very own Remedy Quarterly here.

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