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There are many subjects I could write on this cold December night where temperatures are dropping to twenty-something — but it’s these two dill-flavored recipes that rise to the top like cream.

The reason is simple.  After an entire day of keeping house, and putting up the last of the Christmas decorations, I still find myself in the cleaning and “putting-in-order” mode — and as my recipe file has been cluttering the top of my kitchen counter since Tuesday, when I mixed up our most recent installment of ham salad, it’s time to put it up.

We had ham with our Thanksgiving turkey — and come to find out, so did Aunt Carol and the rest of my Utah family.  According to Aunt Carol, my Greek grandfather never served one without the other — as a restaurant chef for most of his life, Papa was adamant that pork always be served with turkey — he believed doing so would ward off a cold that eating turkey alone would surely deliver.

I never put much stock in Papa’s sayings.  They went in one ear, out the other — for, even as a child, I had a barometer for truth.  I had discerned at an early age that Papa was good at sandwiching truth between lies.  And one of Papa’s favorites was  how he had come to America sailing on the Titanic!

Amazingly, I heard a version of this tall tale from a cousin of a cousin just last Monday.  Ninety year-old cousin Rose (who’s not my cousin) sounded a little disappointed to hear the boring truth; it made me wonder how many miles this Titanic story had traveled over the years.

But here’s the gospel truth that I ran across last summer:  An old ship manifest of the S.S. Athinai, lists my grandfather, great-great-grandmother Kaleroy and great-great Aunt Mary as passengers from Tripoli, Greece, arriving in America on June 11, 1911.   But fifty years ago, all we knew for sure was that Papa had immigrated to the U.S. from Tripoli, Greece.  We thought he had traveled alone.  And no one knew when.  Like most of Papa’s activities, no one had specifics.   Papa had told so many lies over the years, even he had forgotten the truth.

But today I’m thinking a little more like Pilate, when he looked Jesus in the eye and said without blinking, “What is truth?”   These days I wish I had listened.  I wish I had written down Papa’s sayings because they were pretty darn cute, especially when spoken in his broken English.  Aunt Carol reminded me of this one recently — “Hurry up. Your SOUP’s getTUN’ cold!” — which he’d yell to other drivers who passed him like a speeding bullet, while he slowly made his way through the world in his 1955 “spring special” Chrysler Windsor like Mr. Magoo.

Neither of tonight’s recipes are Papa’s though they would combine nice with a bowl of soup.  The ham salad is a variation on a recipe I pulled from the internet seven or eight years ago.  And the spoon rolls  come from a nice church lady from Lake Jackson who would have a hard time telling a lie.

Before this evening, I’ve never thought of serving the ham salad on the spoon rolls —  but how good they would go together!  With or without soup.  “And that’s the truth.”

Dilly Ham Salad

Serve with crackers or enough for 4 sandwiches

In a bowl, mix together:

2 cups finely chopped honey-smoked ham (I use a food processor)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1 Tbsp chopped green onion

In a small bowl, mix together dressing ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. sugar

Combine together and chill until serving.

Dilly Spoon Rolls

Makes 18 rolls

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. dry dill weed
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. yeast
1 1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 egg

Grease 18 muffin tins.

Combine 1 1/2 cup flour with sugar, dill, salt and yeast.  Blend well and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat milk and butter (120 to 130 degrees F.)  Add to flour mixture with egg.  Blend, then beat 3 minutes.  Gradually add remaining flour to form a stiff batter.  Cover with tea towel and let rise 45 minutes.  Stir down and spoon into greased muffin tins.  Let rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Turn out on cooling rack and serve warm with butter.