What’s in Your Cupboard

What’s in your cupboard? Last week I wrote that my mother canned Pickle Lily. Ann sent an e-mail: “What’s Pickle Lily?” I went to the Internet to double-check the recipe by entering “Pickle Lily” and turned up only three recipes. “You take the buds of lily blossoms and . . . “ What?
I looked in Joy of Cooking. Nothing! I went to Meta Givens’ two volumes that are my go-to books for the best standard American cookery that my mother gave me when I graduated from college. Eureka!! The problem was that I had been spelling it the way Mother pronounced it. Actually, it’s spelled “piccalilli.”
Piccalilli is a concoction of chopped green tomatoes, cabbage, onions, green peppers, celery, sweet red peppers, mustard seed, vinegar and sugar that’s heated and canned. The English imported the recipe from India. In the southern U.S., rather than piccalilli, they eat chow-chow which is similar but also contains cauliflower and pickling spice.
When I used my friend’s recipe for mincemeat it took hours to peel the hard green tomatoes. Duh! Too late I learned that it isn’t necessary to peel the tomatoes. Bill used to make delicious omelettes that had fried green tomatoes in them.
As well as piccalilli, Mother canned corn relish, and there were two Fireside Restaurants in Indianapolis — Fireside North and Fireside South — that served it. Corn relish is made with fresh corn, green and red peppers, a cucumber, diced celery, chopped onions, ripe tomatoes, and various spices. I haven’t eaten it for many years.
Those relishes harken back to the days when this was an agrarian country, and people used up the vegetables that they planted. American cuisine has changed drastically since I was a girl. After my generation is gone, I’ll bet that piccalilli, chow-chow and corn relish will go the way of some of the foods that are in my great-grandmother Black’s cookbook that was passed down by Granny. I did see on the Internet that Krogers sells corn relish and shall buy some.
Food has become internationalized. Would you believe that I didn’t have pizza until I went to college in 1955? Homemade pizza made from Pillsbury hot roll mix became the rage. Nowadays when you don’t know what to cook or are too tired or too busy, you order in a pizza or take one out of the freezer.
The only pasta in my mother’s cabinet was spaghetti and macaroni. I am a pastaholic and could eat pasta every day. In addition to spaghetti and macaroni, Bill’s and my cupboard often contains lasagna noodles, vermicelli, linguine, penne, bowtie, pipe rigate, and fusilli. Last night I cooked risotto a la Milanese made with arborrio rice and fresh mushrooms. Arborrio rice and fresh mushrooms weren’t available when I was a child. We make spaghetti with pesto, using fresh basil that Bill grows in a pot in the greenhouse window and pignoli (pine nuts) of which our mothers never heard.
The only olive oil in Knightstown stores was small, dusty bottles of Pompeiian oil. Olive oil is “in.” Foodies can buy imported extra virgin olive oil and flavored oil. Bill ordered a case of olive oil from Tuscany. In the old days restaurants, didn’t serve saucers of olive oil in which to dunk your bread. I even like to put extra Virgin olive oil on toast.   Parmesan cheese came only in cans, whereas these days one can buy fresh parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. My mother had only apple cider vinegar and white vinegar. Bill and I also use red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar which our mothers never heard of and which has become a fad with foodies.
Mexican food was tamales in a glass jar and Spanish rice. No tacos, fajitas, chimichangas, or quesadillas for which we even have an electric appliance. Chinese food meant chop suey or chow mein.
One thing is certain: Roasting ears will not disappear from the Indiana menu! We’ve been feasting on some that Bill bought at a roadside stand. I boil them for exactly three minutes. wclarke@comcast.net