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Sharing the cooking heritage

By Staff | Dec 2, 2010

Edna Mae Phillips explains to her granddaughter, Jordyn Fredericks, the proper way to cut chicken fillets. Fredericks said her favorite grandma-made meal is homemade chicken and noodles.

IDA GROVE – Edna Mae Phillips loves to teach her grandchildren how to cook. Buying ingredients and following recipes, as well as prepping, making, and serving dishes is something she’s refined since the late 1940s.

Thankfully, this means she has lots of material to choose from while teaching a great many grandchildren a great many “lessons.”

Phillips grew up the middle child of a family of 11 children. A family this size counts on children helping with chores and Edna Mae’s help came in the form of cooking. She’s been a farm cook since she was just 12 years old and a 4-H member – a 4-H’er with many ribbons and state fair entries.

“I was always shy,” Phillips said. “I wasn’t any good at sewing, but I did like to cook and I still do. My kids and grandkids still like my homemade noodles, baked bread and pizza crust.”

She remembers a time on the farm when four meals a day were made and she would cook the afternoon lunch.

Edna Mae Phillips teaches one of her 40 grandchildren, Jordyn Fredericks, how to make and use certain spices to enhance the flavor of her fried chicken.

“When I was younger, the tractors didn’t have any cabs, so hot homemade cinnamon rolls and a thermos full of coffee was welcomed.”

Edna Mae married Tom Phillips in 1955. She preferred a farm setting and a large family which made her feel more at home. They would leave their quaint Holstein home in 1964 for a farm that would better accommodate a growing brood.

In the course of 22 years, the couple expanded its family to 14 children.

Through the years, Phillips learned to create family meals by the grocery store specials and by managing the family’s garden produce with the older children.

“We made our own ketchup and barbeque sauce as well as jellies,” she explained. “We were meat and potatoes kind of people also.

“You have to be when you keep chickens, ducks, cows and hogs.”

It was her green thumb that helped Phillips land a job at the local grocer as produce manager.

With her experience of cooking for a large family, she was eventually asked to become the store’s deli manager.

“It really wasn’t that large of a change from cooking for our family and farm help to cooking for 100 lunch customers in a deli setting,” she said matter-of-factly.

Phillips has been retired for several years and her children have been on their own for 15 years

“My greatest challenge has been to learn to cook for two,” she said. Luckily, with their children, spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – which total seventy-one people – there are usually a couple times a year that a large group arrives for holidays keeping her skills sharp.

Just this past week, Edna cooked for 26 family members for the family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

It’s an important note that out of all the relatives, just about 40 are grandchildren – which means that Edna Mae is going to have to “get cookin'” if she hopes to teach everything she knows about her craft to each and every one of them.

Fried chicken

1 cut up chicken – rinsed and drained

1 cup flour

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon thyme

In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add milk and enough flour to make a thin batter. Dip chicken in batter and drain on a cutting board.

Mix seasonings in a small dish and with fingers, sprinkle over top of chicken (or use shaker). Do both sides.

Put 1 cup flour in a plastic bag and shake chicken 1 or 2 pieces at a time. Brown chicken pieces in a fry pan with a bit of olive oil.

Watch carefully as it burns easily. Remove from fry pan and place single layer in a baking pan or dish. Do not cover. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Add a bit of water to fry pan and bring to a boil to loosen browned drippings. Add along with extra chicken broth to baking pan after removing chicken.

Thicken with corn starch. This makes yummy gravy.

Hoosier-style green beans and potatoes

(This recipe, a favorite of Tom Phillips, comes from his Indiana relatives.)

3 cups fresh cut green beans

4 medium size potatoes, peeled and halved

1 strip bacon, uncooked

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place green beans in a saucepan and cover with water. Add sugar, salt, pepper and lay the bacon strip on top. Boil 15 minutes, then add potatoes and continue simmering until they’re tender.

Serve in separate bowls. The potatoes are good with butter on them when served.

Lettuce and fruit salad

(“This s a family stand-by,” said Edna Mae Phillips.)

1/2 head iceberg or green or red leaf lettuce

1 Red Delicious apple, unpeeled and chopped bite size.

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

1 banana, sliced

2 heaping tablespoons salad dressing

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 cup milk

Mix salad dressing, sugar and vinegar. Blend in milk. Add apples, grapes, and lettuce. Toss in bananas just before serving.

Golden crown ring

(Best when served with chili)

2 packages dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup milk, scalded

1/2 cup oleo, melted

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

4 1/2 cups flour, sifted

Soften yeast in warm water; sprinkle in 1 teaspoon sugar. Combine milk, sugar, oleo and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

Add yeast mixture and beaten eggs. Add flour, knead and let rise until double. Shape into walnut-sized balls.

Roll first in melted butter, then in cinnamon-sugar mixture (3/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon).

Arrange in a greased 9-inch tube pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Let rise until double.

Bake about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Invert on serving plate immediately. Eat while warm.

“I had to make two of these when my whole family was still home,” Phillips said.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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