Monday, January 31, 2011

52 Weeks - You Are What You Eat? Junk Soup and Blintzes!

What my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, below) cooked wouldn't have made Auguste Escoffier happy...but she had a few notable dishes.

One was junk soup, so-called because anything she found in the fridge was fair game. She started with chuck steak, cut it up into chunks, browned it with a bit of onion, and then into the giant stock pot it went, along with potatoes, celery, carrots, and whatever was available. My sister remembers cans of mixed vegetables were usually part of the recipe because Mom knew we'd eat those (mostly--NOT lima beans for me). Hours later, with the addition of alphabet pasta to give her three girls a smile, junk soup was ready (and in such quantities that it made welcome encore appearances later in the week).

Another of Mom's specialties was cheese blintzes. Her filling recipe called for a mixture of pot cheese and farmers' cheese, two cheeses that weren't watery, plus an egg, a little sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon. The crepe "leaves" were made from eggs, milk, flour, sugar/salt. After making the leaves one by one, and covering the stack with a dish towel to keep them from drying out, she'd assemble the blintzes with a tablespoon or so of cheese mixture in the center, roll up each blintz, and lightly saute it in butter. Certainly Mom learned to make these from her mother, Hermina Farkas Schwartz, whose apple strudel and home-made chicken soup (with home-made egg noodles, made and cut and dried at home) were legendary in the family.

And then there's chopped liver, another of Mom's specialties. The wooden bowl and shaped chopper, like the set above, were needed to hand-chop the chicken livers to the right consistency, after they were sauted with onion and mixed with hard-boiled eggs, plus (I assume, in the early days) schmaltz. Add a little salt and pepper and you're on your way to cholesterol city, but a happy journey it is.

She wasn't a happy baker. In fact, she never baked until her daughters begged her to make us cookies (and let us help in the prep). Then she confessed that the oven didn't work right and getting the landlord to make repairs was a long process. Eventually she succeeded and surprised us when we came home from school one day with some kind of fruit bar she baked from a mix. We loved them! At least I did until I unfortunately glanced at the box and saw I was eating fig bars. Ugh! Never touched them again, but now we were on our way to brownies and other easy-to-bake goodies.

My father, Harold Burk, rarely cooked but in his 60s, he became interested in baking apple pies and every fall, he'd experiment with crust and filling to get the highest pie (sky-high pie, he would say) with the flakiest pastry. If his pie fell in after baking, he'd say something like "next year." I'd enjoy eating Dad's apple pie no matter what it looked like.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts in 2011 to encourage us to record memories and insights.


  1. Your description of the cheese blintzes (one of my favorites) leaves my mouth watering!

  2. Hi Greta, Thanks for reading...those blintzes were WAY better than today's frozen commercial versions. Take care,