What are the requirements before a tradition becomes legally binding? I certainly didn’t start mumbling to myself, “I’ll be doing this for the next 45-50 years.” I swear one day I was young and dumb, eager to try something new and the next nanosecond, 5 decades have zipped by and I can’t reason why I’m doing the same thing over and over. Yet I’m a creature of habit and detest change in my life. Guess I should have seen this coming in many aspects of my life.
Mom gave me a cookbook when she got over the initial shock her youngest had eloped and nothing she could say/bribe/cajole was gonna change that fact of life. Determined, she kept trying, but only for the rest of her life. Anyway, the cookbook was a good idea because mom had failed to teach me how to cook. She was a good cook but never wanted me in the kitchen with her, even when I was little.
The cookbook was from a rival school of Rock Valley Community where I attended. Many kids from our small town hopped on a bus every morning and rode 9 miles to another small Dutch town called Hull to attend Western Christian School when they should/could have been our classmates. But mom had been using this cookbook for several years and thought maybe it was time for me to learn something. The cookbook was a hoot. The first chapter was dedicated to authentic Dutch recipes, some even listed ingredients in Dutch. (Well that was something I’d never attempt without an interpreter).
Ha! After a few years of mistakes and blunders I would see the advantage of trying some new things, and many recipes were found in this book. Next to Betty Crocker, Family Favorites has always been my most used cookbook. And I did try (and succeed) with a couple recipes in the Dutch chapter too. Ollie Bollen, St. Nickolaas Koekjes, Balken Brei (not to my liking but the Hubs loves it) and my favorite, Saucijzbroodjes (pigs in the blanket).
I still like trying new recipes. After 50 years of cooking I get tired of making the same suppers sometimes. Not all new meals I attempt prove worthy of a recipe card (which definitely means I’m making it again-maybe with a bit of Neese-tweaking), but several in recent years have found a home in my meal rotation.
When perusing a cookbook or recipes in the newspaper there are a couple of ‘tells’ when my eyes glaze over and I’m thinking, oh, hell no. Number one on my instant, ‘umm, this looks good and doable,’ or ‘are they out of their ever loving minds,’ is a very long list of ingredients, many of which are not in my house right now. I’m a cook. I make supper 6 or 7 nights a week. I have a lot of meat, red, white, the other white, seafood, fresh, frozen and ready to go. Plus all kinds of canned goods, tomatoes, diced or sauce, cream soups, red and white potatoes, wild rice and not-so-crazy-white, every shaped noodle there is, barley and spices up the wazoo. So if I see 6 things I need to buy before I make this dish, it’s probably not gonna happen.
Another Neese drawback are recipes with enough steps to make it to the promised land. While I enjoy walking and try to get in 9,000 steps a day, if a recipe has more than 3 or 4 ‘steps’ my mind is wandering back to ok, I just realize how hungry I am for meatloaf tonight.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the labor intensive work that comes with certain entrees/desserts. While I love how appealing a lattice topped pie looks, there’s no way I’m gonna fart around trying to weave pastry strips when I’m making a dozen apple pies. I’m just not. Those braided loaves of frosted, fruit filled delicacies look amazing but not on my list of ‘must learn to do this.’ One of my favorite cookies are frosted cutouts for most holidays. It’s important to me that they taste good and look appealing. Appealing to me is a half inch layer of tinted buttercream frosting. I’m not spending an afternoon adding ‘decorations’ to my tree shaped cookies. Too much kanooey. Guess I’m really not into a lot of kanooey.
Webster’s definition. Kanooey: kah-new-eeeeeee. Fart around on a project (food or craft) endlessly/needlessly to make end product more visually appealing. Usually a complete waste of time. Don’t you have better things to do? Try studying me for a change and up your vocabulary a word or 2 for your readers. And stop saying very. Really. Just stop. (Does this explanation appear rather snotty and directed only at me)? And you say actually way too often. Stop that.
Except for Pecan Tassies. There’s no way I would have ever attempted to make these little buggars. They are so much work
just the thought makes me wanna scream, yet I’ve been making them for 45 years. Why? Why? (Well, because they are the best, richest most delicious little morsel of a dessert ever, so there’s that). Blame Mag, my mother-in-law.
Ever since I was 15 and started spending Christmas Eve at my future in-law’s house, Tassies were part of the package. A big part. Mag went all out for Christmas. I think she liked to kanooey while baking. She made frozen fruit slush, chocolate covered cherries, divinity, fudge, peanut brittle and several varieties of cookies and bars every year. She was a terrific baker.
A Pecan Tassie tastes a lot like a miniature piece of pecan pie (2 or 3 bites). Only better. Best served with a fresh cup of coffee. I wanna say it’s the pastry part because it’s quite different from traditional pie crust dough. Tassie dough is made with cream cheese, flour and butter or margarine. That’s it. It’s very yellow, flaky and browns nicely. And while pecan pie filling consists of eggs, corn syrup, butter, salt, vanilla and white sugar, Tassie filling is made without syrup and calls for light brown sugar instead of white.
You with me so far? Well here’s the zinger. There’s a lot of kanooey work involved in making these tiny tidbits. I’m sure you’ve seen the specialty pans in kitchen stores. Looks like a cupcake pan except the cupcake openings are half the size. Each is about the size of a large unshelled walnut. Oh for Pete’s sake, how did I ever get snookered into making them the first time? Yup, I was young and dumb.
Well Mag took me on as a cooking student once her youngest and I eloped. She already knew we both liked to eat so someone had to step up and start learning to make meals. I was eager to please and she was patient, and I desperately wanted to learn how to make Tassies. The recipe is
actually in my Family Favorites Cookbook but the very first time I read it, I feinted from the number of steps. (Good ole Webster is taking a tough love approach with me on this one).
So Mag gave me an in-person, visual lesson in the art of Tassie making. She made it look easy. The following is how much kanooey work this
1. Using chilled dough, pinch off small amount, roll around in the palm of your hand and toss in bottom of Tassie pan. Do this 2,000 times.
2. Trim fingernails. Using index finger of dominate hand, gently press dough all the way up the sides so goopy filling does not spill over, making it impossible to remove. Repeat 2,000 times.
3. Add 3 or 4 pieces of pecans to each bottom. 2,000 times.
4. Make filling. Beat eggs, add cool, melted margarine, brown sugar, dash salt, vanilla, and enough expensive chopped pecans to equal one house payment.
5. Spend 20 minutes trying to find the appropriate tool (no, not him). Add filling without spilling (hey I rhymed) a drop. There is no spoon, baster or scoop that works. This item does not exist. You’re gonna spill and make a terrible mess. Face it Sista. Own it.
6. Add filling. Carefully, between 1/2 and 2/3 full. Otherwise you will be scrubbing these pans till hell freezes over. (Not anymore, I bought non stick pans a few years ago. The Lord saw my struggle).
7. Bake 17 minutes @ 350.
8. Turn oven down to 250 and bake 20 minutes longer.
9. Remove from pans. 2,000 times. Burn every finger. On both hands. Coarse language allowed.
10. Let pans soak until next November when needed.
11. Hide Tassies.
12. Hire 24/7 guards
just through the holidays.
13. Make fresh pot of coffee.
14. Raid Tassie stash.
See nothing to it. And here you thought I was adverse to kanooey work…