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 rolls3 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.
I want you to know I’ve been fighting off the song “Lavender Blue” since reading this earlier today. You know, that chorus with phrases like “You’ll be my queen, dilly-dilly…” Can you imagine what fun it is to try to write a new blog with that going through your head?
I’m going to try both of these. We’re not huge dill fans, but I do have a cheddar-dill quick bread that’s great, and there’s nothing like this variation on a grilled cheese:
Mix mayonnaise, horseradish and dill to taste. Spread on Jewish rye bread. Put some slices of ham and good swiss cheese, butter the outside and grill.
That’s it! They’re just great.
I happened to pull down grandma’s food grinder today – that’s what we used to use for ham salad, sausage, cranberry relish and such. I believe I might make use of it for that ham salad. I could eat some of that right now. 😉
Oh – I hate you, re: the decorating done. But then, if I hadn’t spent all day at the computer I could have some done, too. You can’t say I haven’t decorated at all, though. I took away Dixie Roses’ white tissue paper playtoy and gave her red and green. Merry Christmas 😉
I like the sounds of your simple sandwich recipe — I look forward to giving it a try. But I don’t think I mind saying that I’ve never heard a single note of the hard-to-get-out-of your mind song, “Lavender Blue.” And though I love lavender as well as the color blue, sometimes it’s okay not to put one and one together.
Oh… don’t hate me. Decorating for Christmas is always a struggle — sometimes more internal than external. Mother has been gone three years now — yesterday was the anniversary of her death — and I was just telling Sis a few minutes ago that I had gotten through the day with nary a thought of her dying. It was only today that the memory came — so perhaps healing has begun.
But all weekend I’ve been remembering Mother alive that last Christmas she was with us, helping dress my house for the Mesta Park Holiday Home Tour. Both Mom and Sis have the decorating gene — and four years ago they came to sprinkle fairy dust (which looked an awful lot like glitter) all over my house. The transformation from everyday to winter wonderland was amazing.
While Sis tackled the rest of the house, Mom spent most of her time dressing the stairwell with fine artificial garland. She shaped and twisted it just so — and every so often, she’d look up over her half-granny glasses to Sis and I and ask, “What-do-ya-think?” “Looks good,” I said. But really I short-changed her in compliments — she outdid herself — after she was done, the stairwell was stunning.
Funny thing about that decorated stairwell — no matter how many decorations are up through the house — and there are plenty to put out in every downstairs room — the house doesn’t look ready for Christmas until the stairwell garland is in place. And I always put it off — most everything else was done a week ago — in part because that four-year-old memory of her dressing the stairwell still makes me sad — and in part because I feel like I’m wrestling with garland that has a mind of its own — to lay this way rather than that.
But miraculously, this year the garland went up lickety-split. And I wondered later whether the internal struggle was payment for the external one. But now as I put one and one together, I wonder if both forgetting mother’s death anniversary and the easy hanging of the green added up to healing. And if so, how good it feels to write this — recalling that three years ago — on the shadowy edge of Mom’s death — I couldn’t face decorating the house at all. So I didn’t.
So, dear friend, make no apologies for decorating only Dixie Rose. Spend your days however you wish — decorate for Christmas on Christmas — what a novel idea! Decorate as you wish — not as you ought. Maybe you don’t, but during my life, I have lived too many of my days by ought rather than wish.
But my Christmas prayer is that we might all live everyday life by fulfilling more wishes and hopes than oughts. And since this reply has turned into the size of a post, I might as well add this song to the mix! Merry Christmas, dear friend!