Friday, December 01, 2006


My SP9 hostess, Patty, has posed yet another great challenge for us. We're supposed to talk about our favorite recipe....but I'd have such a hard time picking just one, so I'm kind of cheating.

For my 16th birthday, my mom contacted many of our relatives, friends, and other influential people in my life - she mailed them several blank recipe cards and a letter explaining that my 16th birthday was approaching and I loved to cook. I had learned to bake when I was about five - I had learned from our next door neighbor, who was very patient and sweet. She had no children of her own, and seemed to enjoy having me around. We made cakes and cookies, and I discovered at that very early age the joy of sharing love by way of calories. (And thus the battle begins....) I used to make my very famous peanut butter cookies for auction at the Environmental Studies Center's annual fair - one year they went for about fifty dollars, I think! (Thank you, Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook!) As I grew older, I loved to cook all sorts of dishes, although I skipped a lot of meat dishes since I went vegetarian at 12. Mom noted that I was a vegetarian, but encouraged everyone to send a few of their very favorite recipes, regardless of the ingredients.

Because of that wonderful act, I have some of the best dishes my loved ones had to offer. I have wonderful vegetarian recipes from my vocal coach, spicy dishes from a childhood neighbor from Louisiana, my dad's awesome blue cheese dressing, that fantastic dish that our home's previous owners had brought us as a housewarming gift...but even more importantly, I have handwritten tried-and-true recipes from some of my dearest relatives who are no longer with us. My grandmother passed years ago, but I still have her carefully typewritten recipes for Monkey Bread and Mocha Ice Cream Cake. And my grandma, my father's mother, shared some of her candy recipes. (She's absolutely revered for her Christmas candies - a few years back I included my own batch of her "Baby Ruth" bars and butter toffee with their Christmas package, and I got a thumbs-up!) And my great-aunt, one of the most wonderful women I've ever been privileged to know, passed along a stack of her best recipes, many also handwritten. She's of that generation, all meals were wholesome and well-rounded and homemade, right down to the desserts. And credit is always given where credit is due - if the recipe actually came from Mavis down at the Bridge Club, that's duly noted.

I have every intention of doing this for my children someday, and I'd put it out there as the best possible gift for a young adult. That little box (Mom passed along my great-aunt's recipe box as well) is one of my most prized possessions.

But I gotta say, this one was my favorite, at least in terms of exposition. This carefully-typed card came from a lawyer back in Fort Worth for whom my mother worked, also a family friend. This is word-for-word.

Pork Spareribs, from John L. ******

5 lbs. or more slab of lean pork ribs, depending on grill size (avoid single cut country style ribs)

Jar of barbeque sauce (prefer Heinz, Hunt, Kraft or homemade sauce of choice).

Ignite relatively small amount of charcoal centered in pit, bringing to glow, and immediately before placing meat on grill, place six to eight sticks or pieces of pecan wood or branches of other species of hickory or mesquite, no more than one inch in diameter directly on coals. Place ribs on grill after marinating with sauce, keeping ribs away from direct heat, cutting into several pieces if necessary. Marinate with sauce three to four times during approximately four hours, keeping fire and smoke source stoked. Cook ribs with boneside down until done. Can, during cooking, apply garlic powder or lemon-pepper powder if desired.

Now, John had a sense of humor, so my mom and I laughed and laughed, especially over that whole very particular bit about the wood. Mom called John to thank him for his recipes and that we found the one for ribs very funny, and John, in all seriousness, asked, "Why?" It takes a Texan lawyer to take a slab of ribs THAT seriously.