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HOLLENBECK: Kitchenoli - a dish that was born and died on the same day

March 26, 2012

Not too long ago, I wrote a column in which I noted that I didn't recall eating blueberries in my earlier years, yet they're something we particularly enjoy nowadays.
We ate every other kind of berry I can think of, just not blueberries. Call me weird, but in Eastern Arkansas, I just didn't see the blue ones.
Something else that came to me recently is that I don't remember eating what we now know as "pasta." I don't even remember the word from my earlier years, unless it was used when we were mimicking some Italian movie star and might throw it in for effect. Like in such utterances as "Luigi, Pasquale, Sophia, Pasta Mia," all delivered with great flair but exceedingly poor accents.
In our part of the world, we ate spaghetti, macaroni and noodles and they still taste good to me with those names.
I do remember our health and home ec teachers talking about the Basic 7 food groups. We were told we had to eat something from each group every day. If we didn't, we were destined to get rickets, scurvy or some other terrible malady, the teachers warned.
In recent times, when the Basic 7 has come up in conversation, people in the individual groups remember the seven differently, which probably says something about our powers of recall, but that's another story. However, I consulted with a former home economics teacher, who claims the seven originally were:
•Green leafy and yellow vegetables.
•Whole grain or enriched breads or cereals.
•Milk or milk products.
•Meat, poultry or fish (or meat substitutes).
•Citrus fruits, tomatoes or cabbage.
•Potatoes or other starchy fruits or vegetables.
•Butter or fortified margarine.
At some point nutritionists decided these were all wrong and revamped the alleged necessities of life. A more contemporary "food guide pyramid" includes:
— Fats, oils and sweets (followed by the notation to "use sparingly.")
— Milk, yogurt and cheese group.
— Vegetable group.
— Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group.
— Fruit group.
— Bread, cereal, rice and pasta group. (I know that last one wasn't in the list I got as a kid.)
But, truth be told, it doesn't matter how many groups someone wants to come up with in this day and age. For years mine have been Frozen, Canned, Packaged, Microwavable and — the most important of all — Fast.
And, thank you very much, I'm sticking with them.
I've told it before, but I still enjoy remembering the evaluation of my cooking/food style that was done by Jack Harrison, a former editor of this newspaper.
This was his take: "Lynda's recipe book is a road map. You start with Kentucky Fried Chicken, then work your way up to ...," and he proceeded to name the restaurants I frequented along the way.
In my later years, I've been trying to convince myself that cooking is enjoyable. It's "cool" to cook now, whereas many years ago it was relegated to the domestic chore category.
I haven't succeeded with this goal. Try as I might, I can think of a half-dozen things I'd rather be doing at any given moment than cooking.
Gail Nickerson, our Grits & Grace writer, frequently confounds me with the accounts of local cooks who claim to find extreme joy in meal preparation.
I'll just have to take their word for it. I've experienced much joy in my life, but not from cooking. Sometimes I can turn out something that I enjoy eating, but the preparation didn't give me any thrills.
One notable dish I turned out a number of years ago was served to relatives at my mother's home in Cotton Plant. This was during the last year that Mamma lived there and I would go over every weekend to give a break to the regular caretakers we had engaged to stay with her during the week.
During that period, I had to cook if we were going to eat because Cotton Plant isn't dotted with rows of eateries like we have here.
For one Sunday lunch, I couldn't find the right ingredients for anything I knew how to make, so I just started pulling stuff out of the cabinet and mixing them together.
There was a spaghetti base — pardon me, a PASTA base — but I just kept going. When I got through with it, I didn't know what I had made, but it actually was pretty tasty.
After my three cousins, Mamma and I had sat down to eat, the conversation was flowing. (I come from a family of talkers.) Cousin Sissy, who weighs maybe 90 pounds and eats like a lumberjack, said, "Oh, Lynda Lou! This is so good, but I don't know what it is. What is it?"
Remember, this was something I had just made up on the spot, so I had to think fast.
From the recesses of my mind came "kitchenoli."
"It's just delicious," Sissy said, "but I've never heard of it."
"Nor has anyone else," I confessed and told her what I had done.
"I just started grabbing things out of the kitchen and mixed them together. Voila! Kitchenoli!"
Since I didn't know what I had done to make it, it's never been duplicated. It was a moment in time never to come again.
I might have been great.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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