Friday, November 30, 2007

Slumgullion -It's What's for Dinner

Sluhm-guhl-lee-yuhn- noun. 1.Irish slang for a thin watery stew. Leftovers. 2. California Gold Rush fare. 3. Great Grandmother Cottle's ironic term of endearment for leftovers.

o we've pretty much got our cook book
recipes gathered from folks in the community and our craft mafia. Now the real fun begins! I'm knee deep in Christmas party invite design right now, but the cook book is on the back-burner so to speak until I find a few extra hours to make it into a real book! But I promise to have this ready by early next year, famiglia honor.

As a teaser recipe, I'm submitting a fun version of a recipe that my great-grandmother Kathrin Cottle, summed or should I say "slummed" up as "Slumgullion."

Kathrin Cottle, aka KaKa (pronounced KayKay), my mother's maternal grandmother, was quite a go-getter. She originally came from the Sacramento area, and her father was a very prominent attorney for the rich folks of the great Sacramento valley.

Kathrin and her sister Helen, lost their own mother to cancer when she was still a young girl. Kathrin was the most profound and prolific seamstress you'd ever want to meet. She could sew anything and everything. Wedding gowns, complicated Vogue ensembles from the jacket, hat and the matching bag. Her attention to detail was incredible.

I have several of Kathrin's outfits, such as the red silk mandarin collared pantsuit that actually fits me, even though it's a bit short on me as Kathrin was quite petite as you can see by her photo. The other photo of the adorable bride is her daughter, my great aunt Ginny. Ginny worked on the San Jose Mercury for several years. Ginny was an Irish pistol! Isn't she gorgeous? And unlike her mother Kathrin, a major gourmet cook. But more about Ginny another time. This is about Kathrin.

She was an enviable creative who could make anything. Including that wedding dress she made for her daughter that you see in the photos. Two summers ago now, I toured the house in Loomis that she and Warren built in 1933. It was up for sale for the first time in almost 70 years, and the second owner knew my grandparents whom they bought the house from quite well.
The house was amazing, sort of tudor castle meets rustic craftsman. The outside decking was all built around trees. River rock and high beams, dark wood everywhere made up the house. Goth rustic.

During the depression that hit everyone so hard, Kathrin and Warren were forced to sell off a good bit of the land they owned in Granite Bay and Loomis. Quite a bit! Money was tight for everyone, but they made it through the darkness that left some people destitute and penniless. Touring the Loomis house, my cousin Pat, who often stayed with Kathrin and Warren pointed out the gorgeous and delicate amber colored lights along the dark corridor.

"KaKa made those, they ran out of money so she pretty much made every thing herself." said Pat. And Lord, those lamps were gorgeous.

The house, which was custom built my grandparents, had been sold only once to some family friends who were doctors. It was then passed down to the woman who was the daughter and currently selling it on the market. It was such a pleasure touring the old house that KaKa and Warnie had lovingly built as a young couple, in love, troubled times and with three spirited and gorgeous daughters.

And those lights KaKa had made ...were still there after over seventy years. That's how beautiful they were.

The house needed about 2 million dollars worth of work to put it back into it's original condition again. I would have loved to have bought it. Not in my budget.

The wonderful woman who owned it, told us that as family we were welcome to take whatever we wanted in the house before it was sold. I wanted those lights, but I felt they really belonged to the amazing house. I hope the new owners kept them up.

My mother's mother Patricia, Ginny's eldest sister died, when my mother was just seven years of age. My mother would sometimes stay with her grandmother Kathrin, not at the Loomis house, but at the house in Santa Clara, which was a large old Victorian. My mother could hear the upstairs floor creaking in the old house because Kathrin had a habit of getting-up at 6 a.m. and doing her round of calisthenics every morning. She would then gussie up and head down the stairs to cook a proper breakfast.

They were a well-known family in Santa Clara and very busy socially. So, while Kathrin cooked well enough; i.e., efficient, she was no gourmand. She was a tiny thing, as you can see by her photo. Warnie, my great-grandfather, used to call her "My little China Doll."

Though I remember G-Grandmother Kathrin best for her always making my sister and I mint-chip ice cream cones when we made trips down to the bay area of Santa Clara. I'm told that Kathrin occasionally made a dish she jokingly referred to as Slumgullion.

Slumgullion was her reference to whatever was left over. Kathrin was Irish, Dutch and French, and the French believe and have a knack for using what you have to make something delicious. Sort of creative recycling in the kitchen so to speak. I like this concept. I'm sure my great-grandmother KaKa's creative verions of Slumgullion helped my grandparents through the Depression years.

So I'm sharing my version of Slumgullion with you. Hopefully we will never have to experience another depression such as this country has before. Kathrin used whatever was in her larder or fridge. I find myself doing the same and didn't realize this Slumgullion tradition of mine was a family trait. I guess we like 'slumming' it in my family! ;-)

Kathrin Cottle's 'Slumgullion'

Open fridge take a peek,Dark and cavernous is it?

Use any combo of leftovers that your mind can dream up.

Ground beef?
Can of corn or frozen green beans?
Can of some kind of condensed soup?

Great! Now get to work and serve it all piping hot over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Garnish with grated parmigiano cheese.

Bon apetit!

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