I never know what will trigger a memory. They just occur…a benefit from age? Great, I’m glad there is one benefit from age…wisdom certainly isn’t.
Recently it was an unlikely trigger…Dr. Oz of daytime tv fame. I walked in to find him prancing from my tv screen discussing how to make hamburgers moist despite overcooking…as in cooking to well done. Well done and then some…something my grandmother would have done to hamburger or steak. The young man being interviewed was using a “panade.” Being as country as a fresh cow patty I looked the word up. Suddenly I was back in a small kitchen watching her making her most special, well done, yet moist hamburgers.
My grandmother grew up in a time when meat was slaughtered and processed on the farm…in not the most sterile conditions. There was a disease, trichinosis, caused by a roundworm that could be transferred from undercooked meat to humans. This led me to believe that all steaks were…well…cracker like…dry and tending to make snapping sounds when cut…like a potato chip.
Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. We weren’t eating premium cuts of meat either. We were the ones who made “eating high on the hog” or in this case, cow, possible. Generally, we ate variations of round steak, cubed and then turned into a cracker, may be covered in a milk gravy or covered in a beading and then turned into a cracker before being covered in a milk gravy. Yes, she overcooked them and taught my mother to overcook them as well.
I didn’t know any better until I went off to college. I didn’t know steak came anyway other than chip like…and cubed. A young lady I was dating suggested that I might want to try my filet mignon cooked less than well done. During those days if a young lady I was dating had suggested I might try a dead cow’s hoof raw, I probably would have eaten it with a smile on my face. The things you might do for love I guess…or lust. Despite thinking it was just heated past raw, I found it to be moist, tender, quite tasty and not the least bit cracker-like. I also didn’t pronounce it correctly either, “fill-it-mig-non.”
As bad as Nannie’s steaks were, her hamburgers were heavenly…despite having every bit of pink cooked right out of them. They were moist because she added her own version of a “panade.” A French word, it is a paste made from stale bread and milk or a word that means, “A state or experience of misery or poverty.” I know my grandmother and grandfather experienced poverty, even before the Great Depression. Just not sure about the misery but I doubt it. Gee, the things you learn if you just pay attention.
She didn’t use bread as I remember, she used oatmeal or crushed up crackers. Nannie also added sautéed onions and used a spice list I’ve never been able to recreate. I’ve tried, repeatedly with different variations, and have only created my own version of a fried meatloaf…not bad, but not the same at all. Boo, hoo, hoo.
My grandmother was a good cook, but it usually involved chicken, fried or in a pot pie. Maybe wildlife like cooter soup or squirrel dumplings and for clarification, in those days a cooter was a turtle. I know today’s word usage might cast some shade on that dish, but turtle soup was quite tasty…much tastier than her steak chips.
Thank you, Dr. Oz. You have reinvigorated my efforts and brought back memories of the sound of beef patties landing in a greased, hot cast iron pan, moist and tasty hamburgers on white bread, a small kitchen and the woman who toiled there. Ummmm, ummmm…wait, you mean I’ll probably use ground turkey instead of beef? Roasted not fried? No lard? Oh well, thanks for the memories anyway.
Don Miller’s writer’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM